When random British people (that you’ve only just met) tell you what is wrong with America

yahooavatar15Imagine meeting a British person for the first time. Imagine introducing yourself, answering all the questions that you get asked as a foreigner– like having to tell your “America to England” story for the zillionth time. Now, imagine randomly saying to this British person that you have only just met that people in Britain have  bad teeth. Real, real, bad teeth.That you have never been to a country where people have such bad teeth. That you saw this one 15 year old kid on the train and you COULDN”T believe he had such BAD TEETH. Now I am sure you are horrified about doing that, right? No, that would be so rude!  Plus could you imagine the wrath? It is hard enough making female friends in Britain!

Well, for whatever reason, some British people love to point out America’s flaws to me during our first meeting. Like today–a 6o-ish woman from Harrogate decided to tell me that she had NEVER SEEN so much obesity in her life as when she went to America. That she was on this train where she saw this 15 year old kid and he was SO FAT! That she couldn’t believe how many obese people were in America. That she couldn’t imagine how unhealthy THOSE FAT PEOPLE OVER IN AMERICA are.

Running through my head as Mrs. Harrogate ranted at me: Hello? have you seen all the white muffin tops pouring out of jeans in Leeds City Centre  lately, honey? There are fat people here too, and it seems its getting worse according to obesity reports!”

I wish I were brave enough to say that!  But instead, while smiling politely I said “It is just a different lifestyle there, isn’t it? You must excuse me while I go get some milk for my tea…”

Now then, lovely readers! Why would someone decide to tell me this to me, an American? Am I responsible for America’s obesity? Do I even LIVE IN AMERICA anymore? How would I be an expert about America’s weight issues? (I have enough of my own!). Sometimes I think that I have to defend America all the time, and I am so tired of it. Please tell me that you have to take the ‘blame bullet’ too?

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P.S.  I don’t really think that all British people have bad teeth. That was used for example purposes only, and is used to represent a silly stereotype that people have of other countries.

P.S.S. I forgot to say that the afore mentioned lady from Harrogate had only visited Florida. And that was it!

P.S.S.S. On a ‘let’s blame America!’ related topic: Why are dinner parties with your British friends so much nicer now that Obama is in the White house? Click here

Shamerican: Because ‘expat’ is SO 2008

yankeebeanJust a short post to announce one of the finest new terms I’ve heard to describe us expats in all of our feisty, out-spoken glory.

Sha-mer-i-can [shuh-mare-ih-caan] (noun)

An American that is not currently living in America.  “Yankeebean move to the UK in 2004 and she’s been shamerican every since!”

Thanks goes out to Peacefulyorkshire’s dude, Mr Chill for coining this term!  I did ask him where he got his inspiration and he said something like, “It just describes you both perfectly.  You’re not American – you’ve left America – you’re shamerican”

Hahaha!  Classic.  I prefer it over ‘expat’ any ol’ day – bring it on!

Oh, and what happens when an English person no longer lives in England?

They’re shenglish.

The pondering of the word and makings of  Shamerican? Click here

American boobs remain in the sun on European beaches

yahooavatar15As an American in Britain, no doubt you will have gone away (or will go!) on holiday to a European beach at some point. The question as you spread out your beach towel, lather on the spf 105  sunscreen is then, will you go topless a la monokini like your European sistahs??

If so well, oh, dear me, you might be one of the few if you are in France! It seems that French women these days consider themselves too “prudesque” to be baring their breasts on the beach these days. According to a recent Time Magazine article, the numbers of French women going topless on the beach have fallen significantly, with 88% of French women surveying calling themselves “priggish or modest”. So who does that leave to be baring boobs on those European beaches? Why, apparently its the American ladies on holiday, of course! From the article:

The contrast with U.S. practices is hard not to notice. American women visiting France these days have few qualms about going topless. And plenty of young American women are only too happy to playfully flash their wares in exchange for a few beads. In some ways, the puritanical swimsuit now seems to be on the other torso — a new French squeamishness that will doubtless leave some Americans, well, titillated.

Although I wonder where did Time Magazine get this information that it is the Americans that remain topless. What, did they go around asking each woman what nationality they are from? As if!!

And to you readers, were you topless this summer on European beaches? I can fully report that unlike France, going topless in Spain is thriving on the beaches, just for the record—

To see the BBC’s  take on the issue (with no mention of American boobs taking over) click here

Moving back to America after living in England (a little advice)

yahooavatar15Tell our readers a little bit about yourself:

I think I’ll call myself BigApplePie :)

How long did you live in England and what brought you to the UK in the first place ?

I lived in North East England for approximately 4 and 1/2 years.  I moved for love and married a ‘Geordie’.  Unfortunately, our marriage did not work out and we were divorced 2 1/2 years after I had arrived in this strange country that I came to love.

What were the reasons you decided to move back to America?

This was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made.  Being a musician, I worked very diligently to create a name and work for myself to support living on my own.  However, I was thousands of miles away from my own family and felt a little lonely.  In the Spring of 2008 I was offered a job that was located near where I grew up in America and I battled over making a decision to move or not.  On one hand I would be working in a similar field, but on the other hand it was back to working 5 days a week.  Saying ‘yes’ would meant that I was going to leave a career that I had built to return to my family and have a wonderful support system and spend holidays with them. Saying ‘no’ meant I would continue my career but would spend birthdays and special holidays away from my family.  Also, during my decision making time, an intruder broke into my cottage and I had to turn to local friends for help.  It made me a little scared to come home late at night when I was all alone.

I truly battled over this decision and with the economic downturn, I decided that if I ever wanted to try and move back to the states that this was the time to try.  Moving with a job, was a better segue than just moving blindly back without the promise of work.

So after 6 months, I said ‘yes’.

How long did the process take to move back ‘home’?

Moving back was very straight forward. I decided to move in August and by October I was living and working in the US.  My personal items arrived a bit later.  I used Pickfords, the most amazing moving company in the UK, their US equivalent is called Allied.  I arranged for sea freight and they packed up everything and started the move one month before I actually left the UK.  I also went through the paperwork of moving with my large breed dog.  This has been made very easy through a programme called PETS.  However, it requires rabies injections and clearances 6 months prior to moving, so be prepared.

Now that you have moved back what do you miss about the UK, if anything?

The grass is always greener.  I never thought that moving back to the USA would feel like moving to a new country, but I was learning things that I had forgotten and it wasn’t as easy as I thought.  I actually hadn’t lived in the US for over 5 years because of my transition. Very quickly after moving, I started regretting leaving the UK.  Even though my parents had been so helpful with arrangements, I just missed the independence I had created in the UK.  The move did end up costing a lot more than expected and with the economy down the tubes, the exchange rate was NO longer in my favour… bummer.

I love that the UK has such wonderful customs and traditions.  It always amazed me to arrive at a gig and find that I was performing in one of the oldest castles or an incredible stately home.  The society is very ‘real’ and this reality is very touching.  Meeting new people, whether rich or living on very little, there was an appreciation for life and music too which was a bonus.

Also, the UK’s national health system is amazing and SOOO easy.

What changes do you notice about yourself since you last lived in America?

I am a more polite driver and I am not as ‘fast-paced’ as other people my age.  I realized that I had forgotten a lot of Americanisms, because I had changed some of my words and speech to ‘fit in’ in England… now I was being criticized in America, so I am learning how to speak all over again.  No more boot of the car, right-hand drive cars (which I occasionally get in the car and sit there hoping that no one saw me get in on the wrong side!! LOL), pants/trousers, etc…

Anything you have noticed now that you didn’t notice before about America/Americans?

I see that the states is extremely competitive in work and life.  There are fewer holidays and people are very ‘work-driven’.  It is almost sad.  Also, there seems to be this horrible threat of being ‘sued’.  I don’t understand this at all.

The other thing is that I find Americans are very wasteful.  With the focus on becoming ‘green’ a few more Americans are starting to conserve but as a nation it is very disheartening to see the waste going on.

Any advice to other Americans in the UK that are thinking about moving back home?

Be sure of what you really want in tens years from now… make a choice based on your life, not your surroundings.  There are things that I miss about both sides of the pond and I am still unsure about my choice but everyone is different.  But make sure you visit ‘back home’ before you take the plunge… things might have changed and your views might have changed too.

Any chance you will return?

This is something I am still seriously considering.  Stay tuned…

What have you noticed about American men in comparison to the UK guys (I asked this because  we get asked that a lot)

I am probably the worst person to answer this… but generally there are good, respectful men and the opposite in both countries.  Always remember to look at their family values… how did they grow up and how do they treat their mothers!!

Thanks so much!

(Thinking of making the move back to America yourself? You might also like this post)

13 little reasons to love America

yahooavatar15

  • Bath and Body Works (Jo Malone, the Body Shop, and Boots are just not the same).
  • Butter Rum Life Savers.
  • Wet and Wild cosmetics (always thought that name was a bit dodgy, even at age12!).
  • Crazy fitness trends like ‘Singles Yoga’ classes and ‘The Shred’ that you can sample.
  • Unashamed self-help shows like Oprah and Dr. Phil.
  • Ordering huge healthy salads at restaurants that are meant to be the main course to offset the next item
  • Girl Scout cookies, especially those Samoas. Thin Mints!
  • Men in baseball caps. I never thought I would write that one!
  • Drive-thru everything (prescriptions, donuts, Starbucks, dry cleaning, banking, wedding chapels…)
  • Beyonce and her bootylicious dancing, and Sasha Fierce persona.
  • American top 40 (shame about Casey Kasem retiring though).
  • American feminism including publications like  Bust, Ms. and Bitch.
  • Tar-jay designer gear at normal human being prices.

We must be getting pretty English 'cos nobody blogged about the 4th of July

yankeebeanIt’s the 7th of July…

Nobody blogged about the 4th…

Weird.

We must be getting pretty English…

This year I generally conquered home-sickness because it was one of my sis-in-laws birthday and my other sis-in-law’s engagement party on the 4th.  Nothing like distraction to keep the homesickness wolf at bay!

But there are standard things that I try to make-happen every 4th of July that I spend in the UK:

  1. Get everyone in the room to stand up while I sing the American national anthem
  2. Get people I know to walk up and down the street in a line while I stand on the sidewalk, watch and clap.
  3. Get people I know to wear bright red coats while I hide behind a rock and take pot-shots at ‘em.

So far I’ve had a pretty bad success rate… the only thing I’ve managed is to make Mr. Nice Guy listen to me sing the national anthem and that’s only because we were driving to the store so he couldn’t get away :)

One thing that has happened 3 out of the 4 years is that we’ve had pizza (usually Pizza Hut) and watched an American movie… not too shabby.

How did you guys spend the 4th this year?

This American Expat in the UK ponders new jargon from across the pond

yahooavatar15In my imagination, the USA is still the way I left it almost 5 years ago (sigh).  Shrek 2 and Meet the Fockers was still on the big screen,  those pointy-toed witch shoes with tiny heels were all the rage and Matt Lauer was sans hair-plugs.

Living in the UK and approaching 30 has done it to me. I am just another American expat who is outta the loop with what’s hip and cool in America. In this country, I debate Cath Kidston over Boden, Jamie Oliver over Gordon, or Netto to Tesco’s… and I am slowly leaving behind my knowledge of current American culture.  I am loving the new culture… but I have recently heard these current USA phrases and they left me mystified and reaching for Google:

  • Fourth meal– The meal between dinner and breakfast, coined by Taco Bell.
  • Emo Kid– a teenage kid with hair over their eyes that wears skinny jeans, and skinny black ties. It sounds more complicated then that though judging by the amount online written by teens trying to define it!
  • Cougar– Thanks to Expat mum for this  new word,  which was shouted at her recently. With “Cougar” goes “Cougar Hunting” as well.  I guarantee a pissed off man invented this terminology.
  • Just Push the Easy Button-- someone told me that Office Max coined that one on television ads. I can’t confirm that one though.

How about you, lovely readers, any words you weren’t in the know about either?? Do dish.

Hollywood dream or gun crime crazy?

avt_kapyork_large115In a comment for Peaceful’s recent post about feminism, I wrote about my future mother-in-law’s impressions of America prior to her first visit.

She had a manicure before her visit and had the most beautiful fake nails applied. She had never had fake nails before but she got them for her trip because she thought all American women would have them. At first I thought that was odd. Didn’t she know we are relaxed and casual and all “hang loose” etc… I mean the Pacific NW is known for being a hippie haven.  Her nails were gorgeous but no one would have thought any different of her if she didn’t have them.  Nor does one have to have perfectly white and perfectly straight teeth.  Nor does one have to wear perfect designer labels or even think about whether they must wear shoes rather than trainers for a night out.  I don’t even iron… pretty much ever. 

People often have this impression of America though - of a perfect hollywood life with perfect big houses, cars, and huge refrigerators – it just happened to be my M-I-L who first brought it to my attention. 

OR people completely have the opposite reaction.  “Oh you are American?  Have you ever seen anyone get shot?”  What??? Are you serious?  OH – you think America is a massive gang land. 

I spend a lot of time telling people that my American life was actually really similar to my British life.  Even the weather in my home town is almost identical to Yorkshire weather.  No really!

"I hate eating turkey" says English boyfriend to American girlfriend on Thanksgiving

yahooavatar15Yawning, Stretching, and wishing the alarm wasn’t so early, 200,000 Americans will wake up in Britain today. (Gosh, can you believe there are so many of us here?)

Today, we will have one thing in common, because its Thanksgiving back home!

An interview:

“What is Thanksgiving again?” says Mr. Chill, my loved-up Northerner.

“Is it a festival of  Thanks or something? I remember seeing it in John Candy films. It sounds like a sneaky marketing opportunity. Am I going to be quoted on your blog about this?”

“Oh honey”, I say, “We’ve had this conversation last year– its where people celebrate what they are thankful for, remember?”

“Well, I hate eating turkey”, he says. “Its one of the ugliest creatures on the planet. Its so ugly it makes me sick to think of eating it. Its head is too small for its body and it has a bingo wing for a chin. If someone has said that all turkeys on this planet were going to be extinct, I wouldn’t be sad, I would even rather see rattlesnakes survive. Actually this is not a bad idea. Who were the pilgrims again? Is it a celebration about when they landed or something?”

So thus I start to explain why us Americans celebrate thanksgiving.

“When the pilgrims first landed upon our shores they encountered the first native people, who shared with them their harvest so … wait, look, here is a picture from google images!”

first-thanksgiving

“Hang on” he says, “What went wrong? I thought the pilgrims shot them all and became your gun-crazy Americans?”

“Never mind…”, I say, and give up trying to explain the logic of it.

This will be the first conversation of many that I will have trying to explain our Thanksgiving celebrations today.

Am I responsible for this?

pacific birdOver the weekend, we went out to eat with some friends.  I have no idea how we ended up talking about this, but the subject of Where’s Wally came up.  One of the friends around the dinner table has been to the US and feels like he knows a lot about it.  He knows enough to have noticed some of the differences and he has a tendency to ask me about these things.  I think the first time I met him he asked me to explain why The World Series is so named even though it isn’t a global competition.  I just said something about Canadian teams (I don’t even know if that is true) and changed the subject.  I don’t know why it bothers me that he does this.  I think it is the way he singles me out with this childish grin on his face like “I win” because he has discovered American arrogance and is the first person ever to be clever enough to ask me about it.

So, back to Where’s Wally.  He turned to me and said “I’ve heard in America you call it something else, like changed the name.”  I said “Yeah, it’s Waldo.” “Waldo?  Why Waldo?  Why did they do that?”  (insert grin)  All I could say in return was “Well, why Wally?”  My point was, why is anything called what it is called, how was I to know?  What I wish I said now was “I must have been sick the day we had that meeting.”

The whole thing was silly, and it is silly that I care.  But these things bug me….