Praying for Boston

Our heart goes out to everyone in Boston and all victims and families that are involved.

If you live near Boston and can donate blood, please do:

If you have information about someone that was involved, or if you’re looking for someone that was involved, both the American Red Cross and Google have set up information services.  Visit these sites to register that your safe, or search for information about loved ones:

Boston is in our prayers and it’s going to stay there.

Thank you to the official Pray for Boston Facebook page for use of the image

Do we tip bartenders here?

SO!  My brother (Leonard) and his wife (Ella) flew into London from Chicago (they get in to Bristol this afternoon!) and this means one thing.  Seeing the UK a-fresh through Yankee eyes!

I can already tell that hanging out with them in England is going to:

a)  Be amazing

b)  Give me major flashbacks about what life was like when I first moved to the UK

For example, I got a text from Len last night – all is said was:

Do we tip bartenders here?

I texted back a quick ‘Nope!’.  But that one text opened the flood gates and I remembered my days of uk-mystery-tipping.  I had no idea who to tip, so I tipped everyone – an extra quid every time I bought a drink, 2 or 3 quid for taxi drivers, a tenner for my hair dresser (TEN QUID!  I can’t believe I did that – no wonder she cried when I moved away!).  Oh, the memories!

Does this happen to you guys?  Someone comes to visit and every time they marvel at a Zebra Crossing, you’re hurtled though a quantum wormhole back to your early days in the UK?

Makes me smile. :)

Oh no… here come more broad sweeping generalisation from people who I thought were my friends…

Every time America is in the news, I find myself unfriending someone else from  Facebook.  I’m starting to see a pattern here…

As we all now know, Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan – it’s big big big news.  Some people are celebrating, some are anxious about the possible retaliation that we have to prepare for and pretty much everyone I know is talking about it on Facebook.

Comments on my Facebook page are all fairly similar.  People are talking about Obama’s speech and several people have mentioned that they think this will cinch his re-election.  Anyway, it’s obvious that Bin Laden won’t be missed…

But there was also this:

Alright – place your bets. Who’s going to be the next bete noire for the USA? There must always be a figurehead to strike fear into the witless populace and make them willingly give up their freedom.

WHY do people think it’s ok to make broad sweeping generalisations about Americans??  If something like this was said about someone’s race, gender or sexuality it would be completely unacceptable.  But not the Americans… we’re open game to anyone with a chip on their shoulder.

The truth is, I expect to hear stupid comments like this sometimes – it’s all part of the joys of being an expat no matter where you live or where you’re from. The thing that throws me is when someone that I like(d) says crap like this…

Sigh…

Osama Bin Laden is dead and Barack Obama warns expats of ‘anti American violence’

US President Barack Obama announced yesterday that Osama Bin Laden was killed in a fire fight by US forces.

I know I don’t exactly live on the front line, but it’s not worth risking it…  the U.S. State Department are warning Americans travelling or living outside of America of  ”enhanced potential for anti-American violence”.

I’m lucky enough to live in a country that largely sides with America in these issues.  The majority of Brits will be glad he’s gone, too.

All the same, please be aware, my lovely expats.  Be safe and be well!

She said in a whispered hush ‘Do Americans really only get two weeks holiday?’

yankeebean

That’s the question I was asked this holiday season.

When she asked, the boisterous chatting around the full table stopped and everyone turned to look at me.

I thought I could hear a cricket chirping in the distance….

A tumble weed made up of Twiglets and Quality Street wrappers rolled by…

I paused (you’ve got to revel in these moments.  Information is power yada yada…)

‘Yup’, I said, ‘Two weeks is standard in the States.’

Everyone started talking at once, outraged on my behalf even though I don’t live there any more :) .  People were genuinely flabbergasted…  Everyone threw in their opinions on why that’s rubbish and that 4 weeks holiday is only JUST enough to feel rested in a year.

Then I threw in the information about the major lack of bank holidays and that REALLY got ‘em going…

All the standard follow-up questions were close behind, but I’m not sure I had all the right answers – maybe you guys can help?

The primary questions were:

  1. Is it possible to earn more holiday (To which I answered ‘yes)
  2. How? (To which I said, by working somewhere for a long time or some higher positions come ‘built in’ with more holiday as a perk)
  3. How long do you have to work somewhere to earn more holiday (To which I said, ‘I have no idea’)

The truth is, my work in the USA was mostly small-time retail jobs so I was able to have time off whenever.  Now I’m self employed, so as long as it doesn’t put me out of business, I can have time off whenevs.  I know some of your gorgeous ladies are Brits that have moved to the States – how do you cope??  I have a table full of friends that are dying to know… :)

A Guide to Getting Your Man into America

Welcome to guest blogger – Wandering Seattleite!  Visit her blog seattleiteimagery

Wandering Seattleite

Wandering Seattleite

Two weeks ago my British husband and I flew into LAX. He handed the immigration officer his sealed manilla envelope, waited in a sterile lounge for an hour, and came out a legal resident of the United States of America.

When I married Dan almost five years ago I had some idea how big a role immigration officers would play in our relational logistics, but this past year it hit home. Every day for 6 months the Green Card was on our minds: How long’s it going to take? What if Dan doesn’t get in?! Moving across the world is stressful enough without all the legalities.

Now that my alien spouse has finally made it into the country, the whole immigration process seems far away. But I’ve had lots of people back in England ask me for tips for getting their aliens into the States. So, whether you’re in the throes of the Green Card application process, or just thinking about what it will look like in the future, here are a few helpful tips.

1 – Have a meticulous husband

I can’t recommend this highly enough. Honestly, my husband’s detail orientation came into it’s own here as I watched him fill out the overwhelming and tedious paperwork I’d have placed in my “to do” pile(s) for months. Don’t worry if your spouse is less than organized though – set aside a few evenings and force yourselves to fill out the boring papers/ locate documents, etc. It feels like a lot of work, but it’s not that hard, so just get on with it. Then reward yourself with a bottle of wine and dreams of Mexican food and Trader Joes shopping sprees.

2 – Do your taxes & get your police checks

It’s easy to forget about your US taxes while in the UK. Very easy. But proof of filing those bad boys is one of the things the immigration office is going to want from you in order to let your sweetheart in. If you’re a bit behind, this guide will sort your out – http://britishexpats.com/wiki/Taxes_filing_with_the_US_IRS_in_London. Another potential hold-up could be waiting for the police checks from every country your alien spouse has lived for a year since age 16. It took about 6 weeks to get the Japanese police check through, so if your spouse is at all nomadic I’d get on it straightaway.

3 – Keep calm and carry on, damn it!

When we were going through the process, waiting for dates, biting our nails, trying to plan our lives, etc., those red WWII posters were everywhere. They were my daily reminders not to freak out, to channel my inner Brit and just keep calm and carry on. This mantra honestly helped. Thousands of people apply for Green Cards and are accepted every year, often without a high school education or grasp of the English language. If they can do it, so can you. It feels overwhelming, but keep it in perspective and stop worrying. You will get there.

4 – Don’t be afraid of Plan Q

Before we applied we had it all figured out. We’d get the Green Card within three months, find jobs from the UK and move seamlessly to Los Angeles to start our lives. Well, Plan A became Plan B became Plan Q. The Green Card took 6 months, we spent the winter in New Zealand with my in-laws (highly recommended) and now we’re living at my parents house on an inflatable mattress in Seattle looking for jobs. Not Plan A, but not the end of the world either. My advice is to reassess where you’re at every week or so with the process and create a variety of plans depending on how long things take. Flexibility is very helpful!

5 – Interview prep

When Dan went for his interview he got all suited and booted and said no one else in the waiting room made an effort. I’m not saying my man’s appearance got him in, but I don’t think it hurts to dress like you’re taking this whole thing seriously either. The interview took just over an hour and was basically a final check of all the paperwork he’d so diligently rustled up. The one odd thing was when he handed the officer a letter proving my London employment, the lady said I needed proof of American employment! This seemed like a Catch-22  – how could I get a job in America until I knew we could both move over legally? Anyway, for some reason they let him in despite my lack of dual employment (because he was so well dressed?), and we didn’t need to worry about it. I’m not sure how other people have got around this though.

This list isn’t comprehensive, but it includes some of the things I found helpful going through the joys of getting a Green Card for my alien spouse. Have you gone through the same thing or are you planning to? I’d love to swap immigration stories.

SPACE. Where no one can hear you scream… that you wish you had more of it

During this post,  I want you to imagine the soundtrack from 2001 A Space Odyssey in your mind.  Here, this should help (music starts around the :20 mark).

yankeebean

As the music starts to build, I’m walking up the stairs in our self-catering holiday home in Canada…

As it continues to swell, I’m opening the door to our bedroom…

As it reaches it’s climax, I’m OPENING THE DOOR TO OUR WALK IN CLOSET!

I swear, I almost fall to my knees – the joy is so pure and true.

SPACE.  LOTS of it.  It’s everywhere.

Two living rooms, a dining room, a kitchen you could ball room dance in, three bedrooms, three bathrooms – FOUR DECKS.  FOUR.  Even I know that might be a bit excessive…

After living in England for almost 6 years, I forget how amazing it is to have space – until I have it again.  To have places to put things, to have more than one closet, to have a shower cubicle that doesn’t keep cold-tile-goose-ing you because it’s too small.

Don’t get me wrong, I love England (which you must know by now).  But when it comes to space, I only make do with what it has to offer.  As soon as I set foot back in North America, I feel like flippin’ Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music.  I find myself flinging my arms out and spinning around in the middle of kitchen just because I can.

I can tell that Mr. Nice Guy is thinking it, too.  Even though he’s the most English man I’ve ever met, I can tell he’s soaking up the wide-open spaces like a gold fish growing to fill his bowl.  ”One day”, we beam to each other silently, “When we make our millions – we’ll have a house in America, too.  A BIG ONE.”

Healthcare Reform from an expat’s point of view

yankeebean

Well, this week history was made (again!) by Barack Obama.  On 22nd March the Healthcare Reform Bill was passed in the Us of A…

I’ve seen it on the news again and again.  I’ve seen the ‘discussions’ (fights/soapbox speeches/propaganda) on Facebook and Twitter.  I’ve developed my own opinions and arguments about what I think is right.  But I’m not gong to talk about any of that now…

You’ve probably noticed by now that this isn’t a political blog :)

But I’ve just spent the past 2 hours up to my neck in White House reports, news articles and blogs about the Healthcare Reform Bill.  It was high-time I got myself an edu-ma-cation about this matter that’s happening thousands of miles away in a country that I don’t live in anymore – but where I still cast my vote.

Being in the UK means that friends and family in America often ask questions when things like this happen, and I feel like I should be much better informed.  Some people seem to think that the NHS causes more problems than it solves, others appear to believe that it means Brits to never worry about getting ill, or never having to spend hours looking at an income protection website in order to be sure they’ll cope if someone is unable to work. Those of us living here have probably found neither to be entirely true.

It’s straight-up weird to not live there when something big happens.  Or something big is happening.  It’s weird to not know how American people are experiencing these changes.  How they’re talking about it at coffee break… or fighting about it out back (depending on how they communicate) ;)

I’m experiencing it from a British point of view, but I’m not British (and I’m guessing a lot of you are in the same boat).  It effects me because my parents, my brother, his wife, and the rest of my family are going to live these changes.

It’s strange to be so close and so far from something at the same time.  Another part of the expat process?

The differences between America and England

yankeebean

yankeebean

My grandma is English – she’s a British war bride that fell for a strapping American soldier.  She moved to America back in the day and knew that it was going to be forever – basically she had metaphorical cojones…

I asked her once how long it took her to feel like she was American rather than English…

“Ten years,” she said.

And back in 2004, when I took to the skies, that seemed like a freakin’ LOOOOOONG time – BAD long, y’know?  Impossible long.  But now, five years in, it doesn’t seem so bad any more.

I think a big part of that is because I don’t compare America to England as much.  Aside from a small number of niche cravings (Chicago pizza, automatic transmissions, yadayadayada), America is America and England is England – bada bing bada boom (I feel like I’m in the mob whenever I use that phrase, my kingdom for a Brooklyn accent!)

I don’t crave tea as much when I’m in America, I hop in the car without inner-moaning about how nothing is walkable, I LOVE STARBUCKS and unabashedly go there for a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious skinny latte without feeling guilty.

When I’m in England I make all my coffee at home and love it, I walk to the store and merrily (well, not exactly merrily) haul my groceries back to the flat up a big hill and then up 4 flights of stairs, I hang my washing out to dry without lamenting about our lack-o-tumble-dryer.

According to my awesome-Gram’s calculations, I’m half-way to feeling British.  I wonder if I’m on schedule…

I definitely feel like something has clicked in my head that helps me deal with being an expat shamerican.  My progress can be summed up by the quote of a wise sage, “Where ever you are, there you are.”

American in Britain AND Brit in America

yankeebean

yankeebean

Part of being an American woman, and dating or marrying an English man is that one of you will always be living in a land in which you weren’t made.  Or, of course, you’ll opt to jump ship from both your native lands to even the score…

Normally I’m the American in Britain and I’ve gone through all of the exciting, sometimes brain-squeezing adjustments involved.  Whether I like it or not, being an ‘American in Britain’ is a big part of who I am – and how other people see me.  It’s often the way I’m introduced, “This is Yankeebean – she’s American”

But Mr. Nice Guy and I just got back from a 2 week stint in the lovely USA, where he became the Brit in America.  It really brings me back to when I was the new expat in town – I almost couldn’t believe some of the stuff people said to him (especially since, 5 years in, I’m partially Brit-in-America now, too).

A lot of it was about the accent – and many many many of my lady friends in the USA went on and on, right to his face, about how gorgeous he was :D  And I’m not the jealous type so I just kept thinking ‘score one for me!’…

Another common thing is that people would ask him where he’s from, and they would then describe one of their past holidays to London because, to many Americans, London IS England.  Mr. Nice Guy was a good sport about it – even though I could tell he was embarrassed from the top of his spiky hair to the bottom of his man-Sketchers when my friends were fawning over him.  Classic:)

And so it goes!  Either I’m the American in Britain or Mr. Nice Guy is the Brit in America – it’s just the way things are now and, actually, I think we’re getting good at it (finally!  High fiiiiiiiive!!)