I am not flirting with you. I am just American.

Hello friendly coffee shop man, I’d like latte, please.

Yes, I’ll have a friendly chat with you.  It’s nice to shoot-the-shizzle while I’m waiting for my glorious latte.

Wait.

Waitwaitwait.  No, now you’re flirting with me.

Nono.

Crap.

When did ‘chat’ become ‘flirt’?  Now I have to cool off so you don’t think I’m flirting back.  I’ll put my wedding ring frosted hand on the counter for good measure.

———————————————————————————————————

Does this happen to anyone else??  My friendly Americanness keeps backfiring and innocent chats turn into weird hot-potato situations where I start trying to throw people’s flirtation back at them without having to touch it.

Do English people hate talking about money so much that someone is REFUSING TO PAY ME??

I woke up today to a ridiculous email from a friend (a friend!) I’ve been collaborating with.  I don’t mention it often, but I’m a musician and I do a lot of remote recording work.  My friend (FRIEND!?) and I just finished working on a ten track album on which I worked on 9 out of the ten songs.

I do this kind of thing all the time and usually with people I’ve never met.  So what I USUALLY do (very sensibly) is arrange a contract first and everyone signs it before I record a note.  But THIS time it was for an English friend so I thought we could just talk money once I’d finished.  What. A. FOOL.

When we came to talk percentages / royalties ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE and now I can’t see past my fury enough to figure out if he’s:

a) Over-reacting

b) A d-bag

or c) Rendered useless by money-talk because of his Britishness

Here’s what happened:

He emailed me to ask about contracts / percentages, etc.  I emailed back suggesting slightly high figures so he could barter me down to what I actually wanted.  Based on my past 10 years of experience – this is how it’s always done.  But here’s his response:

I think I wasn’t expecting any of this and in reality this album wont me making you or I any money.

Really?  Nobody every told me…

I won’t be making any formal agreement with percentages or sales in regards to the songs.

OH, GOOD.  I thought you were going to make this difficult.

I think you will have to accept the original terms – you did this because you wanted to play these songs, not for any financial reward.

What??   I  mean yes, I love music and yes, I like his songs – but I can’t pay my bills with the Sound of Music (unless the hills come alive and pay my mortgage)

You cannot now be asking for percentages and so forth when it was clear from the start I would not be paying you for your contribution to the album.

Um… yes I can.  Because no it wasn’t.

This is the same as a dentist doing a filling and his patient telling him he should accept payment as HIS LOVE OF TEETH.

So cast your votes, expats!  Is he a) over-reacting, b) d-bagging or c) paralysed by the fear of talking about moolah.

My nephew (who I’ve known for 8 years) didn’t know that I’m American

OH.

MY.

GOD.

Here’s how it happened.


My 8 year old nephew and I were in my in-laws’ back garden playing an epic game of wiffle golf.  He was just winding up to chip his ball into the purple sprouting broccoli (or as we call it, ‘hole 4′) when he said,

“Where are you from?”  Then he paused and gave a BIG laughed.  ”JUST KIDDING!” he laughed, “You’re from England!”

I stood there for a split second.  Stymied.

“No I’m not! I’m from America!”

I was laughing, too. :)  He stopped.  Dropped his wiffle club.  Turned.

“YOU ARE??”

“Yeah, I’m American – I grew up in America!”

“I didn’t know that!”


 He didn’t know!?  

I know that it’s really that I’ve known him since the day he was born and that I just sound like Aunty Yankeebean to him so he doesn’t hear whatever shreds of American accent that I’m still clinging on to.

But it’s another first.  I have never EVER before been confused for anything other than 100% American by someone I’ve know for years and years.  Add it to the list!

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

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.

British people are fascinated by American high school cliques – “What group would I have been in?”

yankeebean

Ok, it’s happened enough times now that it warrants a blog post.  I was a choir practice at my church the other day, sitting next to a girl who’s in her final year of GCSE’s (the equivalent of being a sophomore in high school).  During the break she came up and said,

“Y’know high school?  Do people really separate into groups like in the movies?”  She said this with a giddy excitement, clearly dying for me to say ‘yes’.

Well she was in luck, cos I did say ‘yes’, and she got really excited (well, as excited as a 16 year old girls lets herself get).  I also told her that the best description of the different cliques I’d seen was in the movie Mean Girls – it was the only movie that went into such specific detail about how niche they can be.  It’s by no means a complete list, but it hints at it…

I said all this while she smiled and flapped quietly and 16-excitedly.  And then she dropped the bomb…

“What group do you think I would have been in?”

CRAP, I knew this was going to happen… do any of you lovely American expats get this?  It’s like being instantly transported back to high school for a moment.  You have to remember all the secret rules and socialla warefare involved in just surviving.  And then you have to judge a person by those bollock-y rules that don’t matter (at least as much) any more.  Tttthhhbpbpbpbpttttt…

But let’s face it.  There can only be one answer to this question when you’re talking to a 16 year girl who’s nice and sits next to you in choir.

I told her she’d probably be a popular kid because she was cute and friendly (and English, can’t get enough of that accent over there).  She was very very very happy…

So I guess it ended well, but this is the third time someone has asked me about the cliques in high school and then asked what they would’ve been.  I’m starting to wonder if I need a standard answer that I can whip out without having to think or have high school flashbacks.  Something witty and ironic… the Brits would like that : ).  Any ideas?

**PS**

I was telling Mr Nice Guy about this and he said, “I know exactly what I would’ve been.  I would’ve been a Scrabble Jock.”  :D  I said he would’ve been the only one, but that I would’ve fancied him for it…

Does your British man kiss their guy friends on the mouth?

yankeebean

There’s been another out cry from a fellow expat and I’m opening it up to you lovely She’s not from Yorkshire ladies.  One reader is American, living in South Korea and dating a British expat there.  She’s said that he’s lovely, and funny and adventurous, but does one thing that makes her uncomfortable.

I am concerned about his overly affectionate behaviour with his mates. I just don’t understand it. And I don’t know if it’s just a British thing? Help!

When we’re out, him and one of his best mates will kiss each other (fairly regularly and it’s pretty over the top and drawn out). I find it rather unsettling so I broached the subject one day. He told me that they kiss each other ‘because they love each other’, as well as to get a reaction and he also said that he thinks it’s an acting/theatre thing (they’re both actors).

He said there are other guys AND girls he’s done this with back in England, but it’s not romantic or sexual. He’s also very openly affectionate/cuddly/huggy with his friends (including the guys).

It makes me uncomfortable, but at the same time I don’t want to change who he is.

I want to know if this kind of behaviour is more common with British men – do they tend to be more physically and verbally open and affectionate with their friends? I’ve never seen this kind of thing with American guys so it really puzzles me. I think I also need to make it clear that it’s unacceptable for him to continue doing this with the girls he used to openly kiss now that we’re in a relationship (even if it doesn’t mean a thing!)

If you’re able to give me your opinion and/or any advice, I would truly appreciate it as I’m at a loss.

Well, I would be uncomfortable if Mr. Nice Guy was doing any more than giving someone a peck on the cheeck.  Man / woman, it doesn’t matter – those lips are mine…  But I also know that Mr. Nice Guy isn’t openly affectionate, he’s never liked PDA.  We hold hands, or have a little smooch in public, but other than that, it’s saved for when we’re on our own.  So if I saw him doing this, it would be TOTALLY out of character.

I ran with the theatre crowd when I was in high school and I can easily imagine my guy friends back home doing this kind of stuff.  I think it still would have made me uncomfortable, though.  Hugs?  Fine.  Cuddling?  Borderline.  Kissing?   Nonononooo.  Maybe I’m just possessive, though.

What do you think, ladies?  Does your British man kiss other male/female friends?

***********UPDATE***************

Thanks to Carolina.firefly who posted a link in the comments to a Guardian article about straight men kissing more.  It proves you’re not alone, lovely reader!

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… :)