The enemy has broken through my defences. My husband is making mince pies IN OUR HOUSE.

Even now he’s cutting out treacherous little pastry circles and putting them in a tin.

The mince meat is mixed and ready to be scooped into it’s new buttery home.

The stench of candied peel is hanging in the air.

Soon they’ll go in the oven and the WHOLE HOUSE will reek of mince-pies-of-doom!

Help!  Anyone!  SAVE ME!

Emotional Americans in England look no further…

 

Yeah, we know us 3 gals don’t always keep a steady stream of posts, and we will raise our SURE underarms to be the first to know we’ve been sporadic lately. But, our goal of SNFY even after 2 years  is still the same– we’re always trying to connect and help and  our fellow Americans living in England. We joyously came across this letter to us the other day in our in-box. So, if you are an expat yourself and are interested in meetin’ a lurvely sounding  American laydeh in Sheffield, do get in touch and we will forward her your email.

Hi! After the the most frustrating Christmas ever wherein my husband, new baby, and I ended up without anywhere to go for Christmas dinner because my Yorkshire in-laws didn’t want to “impose” by offering an invitation, I Googled “emotional Americans in England” to see if anyone else could validate my bafflement. I was taken to your blog! Hurrah! Anyway, I am a 38 year old American woman married to a Yorkshireman and living in Sheffield. I’ve just had a baby here in Sheffield. Anyway, are there any American women living in Sheffield who want to go for a drink? I am dying for American company! I don’t know anybody here and whenever I am frustrated by English culture, my husband looks at me as though I am insane. I am starting to believe him. I need some American commiseration in a major way. By the way, before I became imprisoned in Yorkshire, I was an international teacher. I have lived in several other countries and never have I felt so “foreign.”

English people speak softly, so when they speak loudly it freaks me out

yankeebean

yankeebean

Gravy – such a simple thing.

So unassuming… so salty… so peaceful.  Delivering flavour to dinners since… forever.

And yet gravy is at the centre of this particular conflict.

There we all were, Christmas Day, everyone except my lovely in-laws already parked around the table staring at the steaming stuffing like it was true love.  We were chatting merrily and enjoying the prospect of eating until we were sick – I’d say the overall mood in the room was somewhere between “just listened to the Jurassic Park soundtrack” and “just won a pub quiz”.

All of a sudden, an almighty ruckus arose from the kitchen…

no no No NO NO NO NO!!!  I’ve just boiled the kettle!!!  Thekettlehadjustboiled!  Whydidyoudothat!?!  The food is all on the table GOING COLD!!

I won’t go into too much detail about the content of the ruckus, but suffice to say that it went on for about a minute and there was shouting and general shenanigans (and the unmade gravy was the primary point of conflict).

Mr Nice Guy was just grinning and shaking his head at this point – we do know that kitchen stress is all a part of the process with his family.  He shot me a cheeky grin as I struggled to remain calm.

But English people yelling really freaks me out – it just seems SO out of character.  My in-laws are always so chilled and quiet – no ripples on the pond, no glitches in the Matrix.  So as soon as volume levels rise, I tense up like a human cramp.

If Americans yell, I just assume they’re asking something basic like “please pass the bread” or “two tickets to Avatar, please”.  But when English people yell, I instantly assume the worst.  Floods… fire… Brian Blessed… (although, I actually think Brian Blessed is HILARIOUS…)

I certainly don’t assume the ruckus is because the gravy hasn’t been made yet…  bless ‘em.  The incident was then mentioned jovially for the rest of the day, but neither my mom or dad in-law ever conceded defeat.  They just cheekily passed the buck (quid?) back and forth until it was time to watch Poirot and forget all about it…

I’m sure I’ll get used to it one day… give me 10 more Christmases and maybe I’ll settle in.

Before you start flinging mince pies: Surviving Christmas in the UK , a reminder

peacefulyorkshire

peacefulyorkshire

Sometimes I just want to bang my American head against my rented Victorian terrace house wall and fling all my Mr. Kipling mince pies at my window in my frustration with my airport delays. The pie box says they are ‘exceedingly merry’–I am so not feeling that way now as I am missing my holidays with my family. I am raising my hand and admitting that now I am having a very ungraceful moment as I am stranded in the UK as my flight getting home to America three days ago was cancelled. Long story short  I am still trying to get on a flight home. For those of you stranded in the UK with the current weather conditions of snow and cancelled flights (like me), this advice from our archives will keep you informed about the possibilities of spending Christmas in the UK– or some observations about a British Christmas.

As you readers know, Christmas in Britain brings on its own wacky traditions… no one tells you these things as an American in Britain that you might encounter:

The Grotto: No, not a ghetto, not Santa’s grotty. But a GRAW-DO…Yeah, I was confused at first, too. Yes, here in Britain Santa  lives in a cave called a grotto. Not a cottage! Not a cabin! Not a wonderland!Yes, grotto sounds like a dirty word but really, it is a place meant for little children to visit Santa. Don’t ask.

Christmas crackers: Under no circumstances should you win the Christmas cracker if you are pulling it with your well-meaning British Sister-in -law, her kids, or your mother-in-law. Trust me. Monitor your pulling effort and just let them ‘win’ the cracker. Do you really want cheapo nail clippers anyway? And don’t be fooled by the “Marks and Spencer Luxury Crackers” either, they have nail clippers in them, too. I would  like to add however that I have started a very nice collection of wire silver egg cups from Christmas cracker winnings.

The Christmas Hat– You might pull your Christmas Cracker too hard (to not win requires lots of practice) and you may need to put on the flimsy colored paper-hat inside. Depending on the British family you are with will dictate if you are required to do so. You need to be aware that yes, you will look ridiculous in a bright-orange-tissue-paper-crown. But if everyone else puts it on and you don’t you will look like a big stick in the mud and that is definitely a social no-no.

Style your hair so that it would look good with a bright-orange-tissue-paper-crown on top. Maybe you could plan ahead to coordinate your Christmas day outfit so that it would match these common Christmas hat colors: Red, Bright green, dark purple, bright yellow, bright orange, and dark blue or black. Pray that you get the black hat if you do pull too hard and win the Christmas cracker– it looks more suave then the other colors.

The Queen’s Speech: You should be prepared to watch the Queen’s Speech, regardless of what you think of the Royal Family. My soon to be mother-in-law has tons of collectible “Royal Plates” on her wall so I know it is going to be a given. Although some British families (probably not many) do not watch the Royal Christmas message, but just be prepared to stop your Christmas dinner to watch.

Or, your Christmas dinner will revolve around the Queen’s speech timed to absolute perfection when the teas and coffees are served (oh those Brits are so organised!!). Practice some lines beforehand saying nice things about the Queen even though her speech might seem fake, over-rehearsed and out of touch with reality. Easy for her to say: “I hope all the hungry children in the world get food to eat this Christmas”– she lives in a castle for heaven’s sake! Your British family will probably also agree she shouldn’t say such things since she is swimming in money but have learned to keep their traps shut in this matter.

Boxing Day: Just when you thought Christmas was over comes along Boxing day. You’ve gotta think positive: you have made it this far and at least you are not at work like a lot of American employees back home! Yet, it is another day where everyone sits around in a food coma and eats lots of left-over beef and mincers while watching football matches you probably don’t give a hoot about. Around this point you might have had a few scuffles with your British partner and their family, probably unintentionally and probably about topics like their mother-in-law offending you, and what time you are going to leave.

A lot of British families like to take walks in the country on this day– you could fake a headache or indigestion if the thought of that is not appealing. At that point Christmas is about over anyway. And you will have made it through. Score!

Thanks for reading and Happy Christ– I mean, Merry Christmas! And fingers crossed to get myself home for Christmas….or lord help the mincers and my windows.

Why are you singing ‘Away In A Manger’ like that??

yankeebean

yankeebean

Ahhhhhhh, they JOYS of spending Christmas in another country (!) Everything that you consider an essential Christmas tradition teeters in peril – what will be kept??  What will be shunned??  What Christmas movies will be on TV??  What heinous desserts will you have to endure??

I guess the truth is that EVERYONE has to adjust to someone else’s Christmas eventually.  You move away from home and start to build your own traditions – keeping the wheat and chucking the chaff (‘Chucking the Chaff’ -> band name!!)

Anyway, I think I’ve adapted to English Christmas pretty bloody well (I’ve thrown the ‘bloody’ in to prove my point…)  Aside from missing my family like an amputated limb, I love Christmas in England.

EXCEPT… (you knew it was coming)

Christmas carols

There I was, at the carol service at my church – singing all the faves like ‘Joy to the World’ and ‘Hark the Herald Angles Sing’.  Christmas glow emanating from my face as I belt these Christmassy essentials in a gorgeous candle lit old church.  Then it’s time for ‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’ and…

THE TUNE IS DIFFERENT!?

Here I was, expecting the ol’ American classic:

But was confronted by a British surprise…

(unfortunately, neither were sung by Bing Crosby)

I immediately felt like I was trying to cram the round-peg-words into the square-hole-tune.  I know deep down that it ISN’T wrong… but I also know deep down that it FEELS wrong.  It DID come upon a midnight clear, but not like THAT – we must be talking about different midnight clears – are you sure you’re not talking about Boxing Day?

Anyway, I got through it without managing to make too many faces or without clutching my head in confusion.  Yes, yes, I know I’m very brave ;)

And, lo and behold – Away in a Manger offers the same dilemma.  Talk about a song that’s been ingrained in us all since birth – I feel like I sang that song in the womb.  Me and Mr Nice Guy have actually introduced an ‘Away in a Manger’ ban because we both hate hearing the ‘wrong’ version. *shudder*

So, expat shamericans, in addition to adapting to flaming pudding and fist-sized balls of orange-flavoured chocolate from all your acquaintances – get ready to learn some new tunes.  Or boycott Christmas carols (you Scrooge, you.)

———————————–

When our other fellow SNFY blogger Pacificbird hummed to the wrong Christmas Carol? Click here

Christmas pudding in England is freakin’ weird

I love it here – England is awesome in so many ways – but desserts at Christmas is NOT one of them.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard about Christmas Pudding… Made ages in advance, CHOCK full of dried fruit and nuts (like every English dessert on earth), full of booze, left to sit for weeks, steamed for hours ‘on the day’, LIT ON FIRE and then eaten with brandy butter (or, as I like to call it, booze cream)

After the description of Christmas Pudding was delivered, in monologue, by Mr Nice Guy – the silence of disbelief descended.

Was I curious about it?  Hell yeah.
Did I want to try it?  Abso-freakin’-lutely
Did I enjoy it? *shudder*

Dude, I have freakin’ FLASHBACKS about that action.  And after making the effort to adapt to Marmite, I really don’t feel the need to try and force the Christmas Pudding issue.

A Christmas Pudding being flamed after brandy has been poured over it - Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

A Christmas Pudding being flamed after brandy has been poured over it – Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

Admittedly, I’ve never been a big fan of lots of dried fruit, and peel makes me wanna gag.  I like traditional American desserts which involve a lot of sugar and, sometimes, not much else.  Christmas cookies, baby!  Sugar and E numbers – what more could you freakin’ want?? :D  Or pie, in any formation… with ice cream (or custard if you want a little ‘English’ on the side).

But don’t worry – if you’re at your in-laws for Christmas, you don’t have to ’cause a scene’ – there’s a way out without anyone getting hurt.

For anyone struggling with the lack of Christmas cookies and pie – repeat after me “Could you please pass the chocolate log?”

(Or you can fake a nut allergy) :D

America fits, but so do the Brits

yankeebeanI went back home to the Midwest in America for Christmas and New Year.  It was my first Christmas back home for 4 years and it was a fantastic experience.

Going back home (although I do consider England my home, too), I always breathe a kind of sigh-of-relief when I get back into the swing of things.  My weird semi-brit accent fades, the volume of my voice rises, my humor gets more flambouant, my hands warm up (is it just me or does England make your hands cold too??), my optimisim comes more easily, and the list goes on and on.

My Ameri-me is such a comfortable thing, even though it’s never quite the same as it was ‘back in the day’.  It’s like my favorite sneakers that I wear when I want to loaf around town or my giant College sweater that I get out every time I have cramps.  It just fits… like something that was made for you, and like something that you could never replace.

But, like I said, it isn’t quite the same as it always was.  I still made dry-sarky comments and people would actually think I was being mean until I explained in an apologetic rush that ‘I live in England and that would have been funny there, I’m sorry!’

This trip was the first time I didn’t fight these changes.  Before I always wanted everything to be just like it was, like some giant-American-time-capsule that you can only get to via O’hare airport.  But this time all I wanted was to enjoy what was happening ‘right now’.  I wanted to live in (and do a happy dance in) the moment.  And it was awesome!

I loved easing back into America’s famliarities, but I wasn’t annoyed when people picked up on my Brits-ways.  I loved seeing my Mom, Dad, and brother, but I lovedlovedloved coming home to Mr. Nice Guy and all of his gorgeous wonderfulness.

All in all, it was a 10 out of 10 experience, right down to getting 3 seats to myself on the flight back to England.  Nice!

Loving Lemsip

avt_kapyork_large115Hi Readers – Hope you had a nice Christmas and are looking forward to good things in 2009!  I spent my Christmas in sunny Manchester – the blue half of the city for those of you interested in Mr. Charismatic’s true ‘mancunianess’.

Like so many of you – I came down with a cold over the holidays.  All that time off work and what happens?  We get sick (or in Britain the term is ‘ill’ or ‘unwell’ or ‘rough’ because ‘being sick’ exclusively means throwing up here).

So, as I type I am choking down a LemsipMax.  It is lemon flavour of course because blackcurrant is far too British for me.    (And might lead me to the dreaded ‘sickness’).  A friend of mine who came to visit a few years ago nicknamed Lemsip ‘Crack for Colds’.  I don’t know what it is about 1000mg of paracetemol combined with one or two other drugs but it sure does the trick!

When I moved here I came prepared with all sorts of Costco size packs of ibuprofen and pepto-bismal etc.  One by one my various american branded otc medicines expired.  It was pretty scary the first time I purchased paracetamol instead of acetaminophen.  I realised that in America I never really paid any attention to what medicine I bought – it was always just whatever my parents had bought.  Now, I have really take a look and really know what it is I’m putting into my body.  Not to mention the fact that symptoms are described somewhat differently. 

Lets see… LemsipMax: paracetemol – check!  Phenylephrine hydrochloride – check!  Guaifenesin – Check!  Warm floppy body feeling – Check Check!

Now if only I could figure out just what makes a cough chesty

Christmas in Britain as an American, the facts

yahooavatar15Merry Christmas from us 3 American gals here at ‘ShesnotFromYorkshire.com’! Our Christmas poll results  are showing that you, lovely readers, prefer saying “Merry Christmas” over “Happy Christmas”, so were going to stick with that one–! Myself and Yankeebean are in America for Christmas, while Pacificyorkshirebird will be in Britain.  Where are you this holiday season?

As you readers know, Christmas in Britain brings on its own wacky traditions… no one tells you these things as an American in Britain. Oh no, I have learned these things for myself:

Christmas crackers: Under no circumstances should you win the Christmas cracker if you are pulling it with your well-meaning British Sister-in -law, her kids, or your mother-in-law. Trust me. Monitor your pulling effort and just let them win the cracker. Do you really want nail clippers anyway? And don’t be fooled by the “Marks and Spencer Luxury Crackers” either, they have nail clippers in them, too. Laugh at the jokes inside, even if you they’re not funny–because it is  guaranteed that they won’t be.

The Christmas Hat– You might pull your Christmas Cracker too hard (to not win requires lots of practice) and you may need to put on the colored paper-hat inside. Depending on the British family you are with will dictate if you are required to do so. You need to be aware that yes, you will look stupid in a bright-orange-tissue-paper-crown. But if everyone else puts it on and you don’t you will look like a big stick in the mud and that is definitely a social no-no.  Style your hair so that it would look good with a bright-orange-tissue-paper-crown on top. Maybe you could plan ahead to coordinate your Christmas day outfit so that it would match these common Christmas hat colors: Red, Bright green, dark purple, bright yellow, bright orange, and dark blue or black. Pray that you get the black hat if you do pull too hard and win the Christmas cracker– it looks more suave then the other colors.

The Queen’s Speech: You should be prepared to watch the Queen’s Speech, regardless of what you think of the Royal Family. My mother-in-law has tons of collectible “Royal plates” on her wall so I knew it was going to be a given. Although some British families (probably not many) do not watch the Royal Christmas message, so just be prepared to stop your Christmas dinner to watch. Or, your Christmas dinner will revolve around the Queen’s speech timed to absolute perfection when the teas and coffees are served. Practice some lines beforehand saying nice things about the Queen even though her speech might seem fake, over-rehearsed and out of touch with reality. Easy for her to say ” I hope all the hungry children in the world get food to eat this Christmas”– she lives in a castle for heaven’s sake!

Boxing Day: Just when you thought Christmas was over comes along Boxing day. Think positive: at least you are not at work like a lot of American employees back home! Yet, it is another day where everyone sits around in a food coma and eats lots of left-over beef and mincers while watching football matches you probably don’t give a hoot about. Around this point you might have had a few scuffles with your British partner and their family, probably unintentionally and probably about topics like their mother-in-law offending you, and what time you are going to leave. A lot of British families like to take walks in the country on this day– you could fake a headache or indigestion if the thought of that is not appealing. At that point Christmas is about over anyway. And you will have made it through. Score!

Thanks for reading and Happy Christ– I mean, Merry Christmas!

Christmas movies – an English myth

yankeebeanI’ve been keeping an eye on the TV guide this Christmas so I can see all the classic Christmas movies.  Wait, no, I’ve been keeping an eye on the TV guide since TWO THOUSAND AND FIVE so I can see all the classic Christmas movies.

Where are they???  Where’s Rudolph?  Frosty?  Charlie Brown with his sad-but-triumphant-tree?  Garfield?  Bing Crosby in White Christmas?  Jimmy Stuart in It’s a Wonderful Life?  The Grinch?  The Muppets?  How can be Christmas without the Muppet’s classic line “Light the lamp, not the rat!  Light the lamp, not the rat!!”?

christmas_moviesAnd there’s plenty more where that came from…

Sometimes I think I paint my American memories with a big sparkly silver lining (especially this time of year), but I swear you couldn’t turn on the TV after December 1st in America without being accosted by something Christmassy.  (And I say this as good thing)

I didn’t realize until this year how much I missed it, especially a the Muppet’s Christmas Carol and White Christmas… oh, and Linus’ speech in ‘It’s Christmas, Charlie Brown’…

I guess if I step back and look at the situation, it’s not surprising.  It’s just a different scene.  In  general, English people don’t like cheese, sop, or cheer in large quantities and those are the 3 main ingredients of any good Christmas movie experience.

It seems like people would rather watch a news brief about the Lapland fiasco than sit down in front of a sparkley 1950′s musical extravaganza.  (Image this next part with lots of echo, like in a big cave) - nooooooooooooooooo!!!!

I’m surprised they don’t show It’s A Wonderful Life, though… it’s essentially a long drawn-out suicide-attempt filled with despair, but with a really happy ending.

But I have that one on DVD anyway…