Here to stay: When you realise you’re not moving back to America. Ever.

There was a time in my life when I thought I’d move back to America one day. It affected me in little ways, for example, I only bought cheap IKEA temporary-seeming stuff and I never bought any region 2 DVDs…

There was always this belief in the back of my mind that one day I’d buy a one-way plane ticket and head home for good.

But being happy here kinda crept on me when I wasn’t looking.  I met my dude here, I got married here, this weekend I bought a dog here.  These are root-making things and my roots keep digging further and further down while I’m getting on with the admin of every day life.

I can almost pin-point the time when I realised that I might actually live in England forever.  It happened after living here for 3 or 4 years.  It wasn’t a single instant of realisation – it was more like I was on the beach of Blissful Ignorance and gradually growing waves of Realisation started rolling towards me.  I didn’t notice anything, but all of a sudden I seemed to be neck deep in the stuff.

Hand on heart (and at half mast) – I MOURNED for my country.  Oooooohhhhhh, did I cry.

I know I know I know, it sounds ridiculous and overly dramatic, right?  I’m sure you’re SHOCKED to hear that I’ve ever done ANYTHING OVER DRAMATIC, RIGHT?  (If I wasn’t typing, I’d be flailing my hands around right now)

And it’s not like I never cry – oh no – I LOVE to cry!  Crying is awesome!  Movies, TV commercials, old episodes of Extreme Makeover Home Edition – just hand me anything and I’ll cry on it.  But this particular crying episode was more of an extended edition, special-2-disc-set-with-commentary sort of situation.  It was epic Gandalf-you-shall-not-pass kind of emotion.

I wasn’t even miserable living in the UK at the time – I was happy!  What in the flippin’ heck sense does that make??  I was already playing for the UK team a lot of time and the terms ‘we’ and ‘us’ were creeping into conversation when I talked about English people.

But the realisation that I might never live a 20 minute drive from my Mom and Dad again was too much to handle.  Back then, the mere thought would send me fleeing from the room in search of tissues and Joni Mitchell songs.

I guess whenever you’re busy embracing something new, you’re also busy letting something go.

When I visit home-number-1 (America) now, it’s a really common question that people ask.  ”Do you think you’ll ever move back to America?”.  I always answer, “Who knows?  Only time will tell,” because I can’t know for sure that I’ll never move back.  I gotta confess – I LOVE that fact.  I guess there’s still a small part of me basking on that beach and ignoring the waves.

Are there any other lifers out there that know what I mean?

How do you connect with your English man’s friends? VERY SLOWLY.

I read an email from one of our fab-oo-luss readers and it’s definitely worth sharing.  I’ve been through this, and I know from past comments and emails that some of our readers have, too.

The question is:

How do you connect with your English man’s friends?

Here’s the email in it’s entirety:

Dear Yankeebean and all you lovely ladies from SNFY,

I’m having a slight problem with English culture I was hoping you might help me with over a blog post.

I’m an American doing my MA in London, and met a really great English guy shortly after I arrived. We’ve been dating 9 months now. He’s from London and doing his MA here as well, although at a different uni. My question for you is how to connect with his English friends. I’ll tell you more back-story so you can better understand my predicament.

My boyfriend’s close friends are mainly from his undergrad time, and although they all live in London, they don’t see each other very often, but when they do, they all get together for a huge gathering of about 15 people. They are all really close and more than half of them are actually dating each other. I’ve come along to about four of these gatherings now, and I’m having a hard time getting to know them, as they don’t make much effort to get to know me, and I’m quite shy as it is. Usually what happens is that they arrive, ask me the obligatory ‘How are you? How’s uni?” questions and then all talk together in a group about English topics I know nothing about, or reminisce about old university times. Other significant others who come along don’t seem to have this problem, as they aren’t afraid to chime in on the topics about England, whereas I have no idea what they are talking about. Even when I’ve spoken to a few of them one-on-one, which is usually easier, I’m the one doing all the effort, asking them all the questions about themselves (Although I must say, this is usually more true for my conversations with the women than with the men.) I guess my question is, is there some sort of unspoken English rule about how to actually converse in large groups in England? Any advice on how to get past the “How are you?” stage? I realize that it’s always hard being the newcomer at a gathering of old friends, but I thought that by the fourth time meeting them and 9 months into dating him, his friends would be making more of an effort to get to know the girl he’s crazy about. It wasn’t even until last time that one thought to ask where I’m from in the States!

Since I’m a student in London, most of the people I’ve met are actually foreigners as well, so I really haven’t had much experience with English social norms. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now whenever I miss home, and always laugh at your insight into English behaviour. I’ve even just bought “Watching the English” on your recommendation. I was hoping it would arrive in time for me to prepare for the last get together (it was yesterday), but it didn’t :( I did start reading it today, though, and already found that I’ve been going about talking about the weather all wrong this whole time! :)

Thanks again for the great blog. Love it!

Cheers,
NotLongInLondon

And here it is again – that age old question, “How the FLIPPING HECK am I supposed to talk to new English acquaintances??”.  I feel for you, NotLongInLondon, I really do.  I’ve been there.  In fact, I’m tempted to buy property there since I visit so often…

There’s a post by one of our guest authors, Redilocks, about just this topic – How to Make Friends and Influence People (English Style).  It’s a step-by-step guide about how to meet English people without scaring the shite out of them with your natural American-ness.  In fact, it was after I read this post that I started complimenting English women when I first met them.  IT TOTALLY WORKS.  I still get the odd alien laser death glare, but they’re much less common these days…

But if you want proof that you’re already doing a grand job of working your way in to your boyfee’s UK crowd, read this comment from a past post.  One of our readers, Michelle, remains the victim of the rudest and most unbelievable encounter that I’ve ever heard of between an American and an English woman.  After you read Michelle’s experience, I know you’ll feel better about your attempts, because it sounds like it’s actually going pretty well for you.

My final word of advice, and my own person attack in situations where I can’t seem to turn the tide in my favour is this.  Channel your inner  ninja, sit, and listen.  Don’t worry about talking or chiming in, just sit back and observe what’s going on.  If you have something to say, go for it, but don’t stress about it.  I think the ultimate key to hanging out with an already-established group of Brits is time, time, and more time.  Just keep going back, be patient, and you’ll wear ‘em down soon enough.  :)

British TV: Penises. Penises everywhere. And balls.

I have just witnessed a well-spoken doctor squeezing a man’s ball sack on English TV.  They were chatting easily as she casually dug around down there.  There was chirpy music playing in the background.  Xylophone, I think.

Before that I watched a woman take a dump while getting an X-Ray.

And again!  Another scrotum!  This ones being injected with something.  I won’t go into detail.

I’m talking about the TV Show, Embarrassing Bodies on that classiest of English TV channels – Channel 4.  People come on this show to talk through their most embarrassing medical conditions and then they’re filmed while they’re being treated.  Let’s ignore the fact that this is a crazy idea for a TV show (and, naturally, let’s ignore the fact that I’m admitting to watching it :-D ).  Instead, let’s focus on the deeply rooted confusion I’m feeling.  Did I fall asleep and wake up in America?  Through the haze, I think I can see something… HBO?  Is that you?

These lovely English people go on TELEVISION to talk about these things. They drop trou, women casually whip out their boobs, men present their penises. And while all their flesh flashes in super-close-up, they’re chatting away like they’re having a fully-clothed-cuppa in the local caf.

Are these the same people who are uncomfortable when I ask what they’re name is too early in a conversation?? The very same Brits that think it’s hilariously inappropriate that Americans swap medical histories with strangers they meet on the bus?  I MUST be missing something.

I know Americans have a built-in personal freedom when it comes to discussing their lives. Medical problems, money, relationship issues – it’s ALLLLLL open season in America, baby. The other day, someone in my family posted an update on Facebook that said, ‘Hi ho, hi ho, off to my colonoscopy I go’.

But she didn’t film it and put it on YouTube.

Don’t get me wrong, I friggin’ love that this show exists. It shows that Brits can have a stiff upper lip even when they’re bare-arse to the breeze.  A lot of them don’t seem even remotely nervous, either.  I don’t get it.  SERIOUSLY.

But I’m not 100% shocked because it’s not the first time I’ve had a run in with genitalia on prime time British TV.  And I know it isn’t the last…

Anyone else seen this show?  Will anyone else admit to it? :-D

SNFY on Facebook

We finally bit the bullet and set up a Facebook page! I freaking love Facebook and I honestly don’t know what took us so long.

Head on over to ‘Like’ us keep in touch - https://www.facebook.com/ShesNotFromYorkshire.

How to combat homesickness in 5 simple steps

Unless you’re one of those lesser-known robot-expats, you battle with home sickness just like the rest of us.  Here are the 5 simple steps that will help to ease your homesickness (well, they help me, anyway…)

1 – Cry

The first step to curing your homesickness is to let it ALLLLLLL hang out.  Cry.

And don’t just cry, UGLY cry.  Homesickness ain’t pretty and your homesickness doesn’t have to be either.  Line up the tissues and let ‘er rip.  Formally invite yourself to your own pity party and gush until you start to feel better.  You will feel better, I promise.

2 – Call home

A lot of the time my homesickness is triggered when I haven’t talked to my family recently enough.  Picking up the phone or, better yet, hopping on Skype is a quick and easy way to lighten the emotional load.

Sometimes the time difference would mean waking your Mom and Dad up in the middle of the night and scaring them because middle-of-the-night calls are rarely good news.  If it’s too late/early in the States when you’re homesickin’, write them a big ‘ol email instead and suggest a chat time later on.

3 – Eat lunch at Subway and then have coffee at Starbucks

Sometimes I just want to be back in America – even half an hour would do.  I feel like I need to be temporarily surrounded by loud-talkers and positive attitudes and then I can get on with my UK plans.  On those days I take myself out for lunch at Subway and coffee at Starbucks.

I can attest that both of these places are similar enough that it’s almost like being transported back to the States for my lunch hour.  I consider Starbucks a kind of American-Embassy-with-coffee.  I always play spot-the-Americans and try to count how many other expats or tourists have come to take refuge.

4 – Hang out with other expats

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t hang out with locals, far from it!  But it’s SO INSANELY useful to be able to have a guilt-free bitch session with a fellow expat when homesickness comes a-knockin’.  Venting to a local is dangerous – you’ll almost certainly offend them (at least if you’re doing your bitching right).  But venting to a fellow expat is luxurious – is verbal vicks vapor rub – its pure relief.

5 – Write about it

Since 2008, I have come back and back and back to this blog as a way to combat my homesickness.  Can you guess why I’m writing this post?  I’ll give you a hint – I just got back from Subway and Starbucks.  I’m beginning to think that I’ll never stop blogging because I’m not sure what I’d do without it.

Blogging about the differences between the US and the UK, and the hi jinx of moving from America to England is the bomb-diggity because it adds perspective.  It helps me to see the funny side of the, shall we say, ‘colo(u)rful’ experiences that arise when you move to another country.  It also gives me the glorious relief of proving that I’m not alone.  Every time one of our lovely commenters commiserates, it soothes my mind.

I am not the only expat.  I am not the only homesick American.  You’re all here with me and you’re all living it, too.  Go us!

If you have any tips about combating home-sickness, please please please let me know.  I’m always looking for new ways to beat this sucker…

10 things that still annoy me about England after living here for 8 years

I dearly love the UK and I feel more and more English with every passing year.  But there are a few things about living in England that still rub me the wrong way.


1 – Parking

I walk and ride my bike as much as I possibly can, but sometimes you have to go grocery shopping, or pick up something bulky from Argos, or go to the Bristol Cider Shop ( I just got back from there and parking was a bit of an adventure – and so this post is born).

Every time I get in my car, before I even start the engine, I’m worried about parking.  Will there be any?  If there IS, will it be full?  If it ISN’T, will the spaces actually be big enough for me to fit my car in?  If they ARE, will I have to pay to park?  If I DO, do I have any change to pay with?  If I DON’T, will I be able to pay with my phone/debit card?  If I CAN’T, them I’m scuppered and I should just bloody stay home.

By this point in my thought process, I’m always tempted to either check bus schedules, or order whatever I was going to pick up online.

Part of me longs for the days when I could just get in the car and drive to Target.  A) They have EVERYTHING there and B) you could land a plane in the average Target parking lot – and they wouldn’t even charge you for it.

2 – Customer Service (or lack of)

Sometimes I need help when I’m in a shop.  Sometimes I’d like to ask about a product or service.  Sometimes I need help finding something.  Sometimes I’d just like a second opinion.

But I NEVER-TIMES want a shop assistant to act like I’m asking them to climb Everest in their undies when all I’m asking them to do is THEIR JOB.  I don’t want to be ignored.  I don’t want to wait while they finish writing a text message.  I don’t want them to cop an attitude if I ask a simple question.

Iota, a fellow Expat blogger that I’ve followed for a long-arse time, puts it perfectly in her post called Further Woes of a Returning Brit.  Check it out and know that you’re not alone when you despair about English customer service.

3 – Negativity (or as the Brits call it ‘Realism’)

To give you an example, let’s pretend a team of Americans and a team of English people were both asked to build a really tall tower out of straws and scotch tape / sello tape.

The Americans would approach the project with excitement.  They would intrinsically believe that they are super-capable, that they’re ready for this challenge, and probably (absolutely) that they’re going to win.

The Brits would start off by discussing why it’s impossible to build a really tall tower out of only straws and sello tape.  There aren’t enough straws, the straws are the wrong size, the sello tape is old and fragile, there’s not enough time, they also need toothpicks and Blu-tak but they haven’t got any, etc.  But after the we-can’t-possibly-and-this-is-pointless-let’s-just-go-to-pub barrage of negativity / realism – they would knuckle down and do it.  And they’d do it well.

The thing that REALLY bugs me about the instant negative / realist English reaction is that NOW I DO IT, TOO.  DESPAIR!  I want my built-in, sometimes foolish optimism back!

4 – No free refills

I can’t think of a single time in England when I’ve bought a drink that comes with free refills.  I always get my Hope on if I go to an American-diner-style café in the UK.  In the back of mind I’m thinking, “Maybe they’ve done more than embrace 1950′s greasy spoon interior decor.  Maybe they’ve embraced the beverage ethos of my nation.

I’ve yet to see it happen, but I remain hopeful.  It seems like more Americans are showing up in the UK every day – here’s hoping we’re wearing ‘em down. :)

5 – Roundabouts with traffic lights in them

I love roundabouts and I think they work like a freakin’ charm.  Once I figured out how to not-die while using one, I was instantly on board.

But some roundabouts are so huge, that there are traffic lights IN THEM – embedded in as you’re driving AROUND them.  I rarely end up in the right lane on these massive road-swines.  I shake my fist!

6 – ‘Proper coffee’ means ‘instant coffee’

Just as many Americans can’t make a good cuppa tea, many many (dear God, TOO MANY) English people refer to instant coffee as ‘proper coffee’.  I’ve also heard it said, “I’d like a strong coffee – 3 scoops”.  *shudder*

Every time someone says it out loud, I inwardly vom a little and somewhere, in a land far far away, a fair trade, single-estate, organic coffee farmer dies.

7 – ‘OH!  The Windy City…’

My accent hasn’t deserted me – YAY!  I don’t sound completely English (although I don’t always sound American either) so I always get asked that famous question, “Where abouts are you from, then?”.  I say, “Chicago” to which, 98% of the time they reply, “OH!  The Windy City!”

I know I know, they’re being nice – they mean well.  It’s just something that I’ve heard so many times it’s like the spoken equivalent of a scratchy bra that’s rubbing your side-boob raw.

8 – Talking about football

I don’t want to talk about it.

9 – The cost of going out to dinner

I freaking love going out to dinner and it doesn’t have to be fancy.  Give me my local pizza place and a pint of my favourite beer any day.    But it seems like going out to dinner in the States can be done for a LOT less and a LOT more easily.  There are plenty of cheap, one-off, local restaurants in the States that serve awesome food for teeny tiny (or at least reasonable) prices.

There are some outstanding restaurants here, but it always feels expensive compared to my Native Land.

10 – ‘Mexican food’

I put ‘Mexican’ in quotes because what most Brits call Mexican food would cause Mex-enthusiasts to weep uncontrollably into their guacamole.  I have been to many a UK Mexican restaurant in hopes of finding a tasty burrito, but I’m always met with tasteless beans, from-a-tin-and-processed avocado and lack-lustre salsa.  I PINE for good Mexican food – but I have to make it myself.

Having said that – anyone that lives in or near York should check out Fiesta Mehicana because it’s the only place I’ve been that even comes close.


In summary, I love love love living in the UK and there are many things about this cracking country that I wouldn’t trade for a fist-full of Benjamins.  But I guess there’s always going to be things about it that rub me the wrong way and get me itching for my American days.

Come on, expats – have I forgotten anything?

Especially the parking.  MY GOD, THE PARKING.

What America and England do best, courtesy of Virginia A Smith

I came across a blog post today and the first line had me laughing out loud.  I have to repost it because it’s such a concise, brutally honest take on what America and England do best.

A few of my personal favourites are:

  • America does best -> Innovate  ::  England does best -> Muddle through
  • America does best -> Loose lips  ::  England does best -> Stiff upper lip
  • America does best -> Mega churches  ::  England does best -> Empty churches

Check out the full post here - https://theyearoflivingenglishly.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/us-vs-uk-what-each-does-best/

It’s not to be missed – I’m still chortling.  :D

English candy bars – a quick translation

With Halloween upon us, there’s fancy-dress, ghosts and candy everywhere.  Maybe it’s just me, but I find myself having familiar conversations about what candy is like in the US verse the UK.  Questions like, “Do you have _________ in America?”, “Is __________ the same in America?”, “What’s your favo(u)rite American candy?  And your favo(u)rite English candy?”

So let’s take some time to look at English candy because ALL HELL can break loose if you’re an American living in England and you don’t know what you’re doing.  Some candies look similar, but underneath that layer of familiarity lurks a world of confusion.  Some candy bars have the same name, but don’t have the same sweet shenanigans inside.

So here’s a list of some of the candy that drops into my expat conversations the most often:

Smarties

Closest US equivalent:

M&M’s (although they have M&M’s in the UK, too)

How are they different?:

They’re brighter colours, each colour is a different flavour (they’re different flavours for realsies, though – I know some of you M&M enthusiasts insist that all M&M’s don’t  taste the same, but I refuse to believe it) .  Also, they’re colouring is all-natural and doesn’t contain any of those frisky E-numbers – and they come in a cardboard tube (which I think is awesome).

The verdict:

I come down hard in favour of M&M’s because I don’t actually like the flavours that Smarties use. It’s a shame though, cos I love that they don’t use E-nums.


Milky Way (UK)

Closest US Equivalent:

Three Musketeers

How are they different?

The UK Milky Way is teeny tiny (about a third of the size of an American 3 Musketeers) and it has a thinner layer of milk chocolate than the 3 Musketeers does.

Everybody stay calm – there’s a candy bar called Milky Way in the States and it has nougat, CARAMEL and milk chocolate. So don’t lose your rag if you buy a Milky Way over here and it seems suspicious.  They’re not discriminating against you because you’re American by shrinking your choccy bar and witholding your caramel.

The verdict:

My Lord, I LOVE the UK Milky Way. It’s the right size, the right amount of sweetness, and it’s a bit lower calorie than your average candy bar which can never hurt. My loyalties lie with the UK version.


Mars (UK)

Closest US Equivalent:

Milky Way  (I know, I know – I’m confused, too)

How are they different?

These are super super similar – I crave them interchangeably.

The verdict:

The US version of the Milky Way was a major fave when I was a kid, so I’d vote for it just for ol’ times sake.

Horrifying yet amazing fact:

They deep fry Mars bars in Scottish chip shops.


Bounty

Closest US Equivalent:

Mounds

How are they different?

Bounty has coconut in the middle and MILK CHOCOLATE on the outside.  Mounds has the same type of coconut, but DARK CHOCOLATE on the outside.

The verdict:

Since coconut was invented by God to be paired with dark chocolate – I’ve gotta go Mounds on this one.


This post is starting to make me feel like all I do is eat chocolate.  Or maybe it’s making me WISH that all I do is eat chocolate.

Actually, as I’m typing this there’s a Halloween candy bowl in front of me filled with mini UK Milky Ways and Mars bars.

YES!

English people want to buy their first house when they’re foetuses

I was 18 and so was my English man.

We’re sitting in the 6th-Form Common Room talking about the future in a casual ‘we’re going to be famous rockstars’ kind of way.

All of a sudden, he drops the H-bomb.

HOUSE.

When you’re 18 and your man starts talking about buying a house, it’s easy to see it as a ‘planning for our forever together’ type of situation.  But keep in mind that it could also be an ‘I’ve wanted to buy a house since I was in the womb’ type of situation.

Once you’ve started your own expat adventure, it will take you 1.6 seconds to see that it’s true.  The English want – no MUST – own a house as soon as humanly possible.  They emerge from adolescence yearning not for fame or fortune, but a MORTGAGE.  They watch prime-time property porn like Location Location Location, House Doctor, and Grand Designs.

My frothing-at-the-house man and I did go on to get married (and, yes, buy a house) – but I don’t think he was imagining walking me down the aisle when he casually talking about mortgaging-up all those years ago.  He was just being the lovely Brit that he is.

But expats BEWARE!  Fear not the house-owning-desires of your English man!  Fear the DIY that follows.

Ain’t nobody got time for that – Except you MUST have time for this

I love this lady!  She brings a big ol’ smile to my face :)  This video has nothing to do with being an American living in England aside from the fact that it makes me home sick for awesome American people…