An Englishman, an American and a German walk into a pub…

yankeebeanLast night I went to the pub with Mr Nice Guy and a very good friend of ours that’s visiting from Germany.  It wasn’t your average Friday-night-pub-jaunt, and I actually thought it was really amazing and eye-opening experience.

I’ll call our German friend Anna, and she’s an amazing person that’s very comfortable with herself and likes to have a good debate.  But when chatting with her, there’s never even a hint of conflict.  She has an amazing gift to talk about potentially irk-some things without ever sounding accusatory.  It’s an art… she’s a genius…

Over three hours we discussed a handful of wars – WWII, the Cold War, the American Revolution – we discussed the effects of the Berlin Wall, Barack Obama (and the election process), and more and more and more and more…  Oh, and we also talked about other less meaningful topics like mixing electronica with music from the 1930′s and crochet (it wasn’t just a giant history-fest)

And while discussing politics (and a little bit of religion), never once did the atmosphere congeal into discomfort.  No one was ever offended or upset by what was said.

One of the main reasons, I believe, is that none of the criticism was directed at ‘you’.  I’ve lost count of the number of times that people have replaced the word ‘America’ with ‘you’ when we’re talking politics – ESPECIALLY when talking about the war in Iraq.  And I wonder (although I didn’t ask) if the same ever happened to Anna while she was living in another country.

But there was no accusation, no arguing, no tension… just talking, debating and learning.  It was AWESOME…

Caution: Asbestos – Two nations divided by a 'common' hazerdous chemical

yankeebeanI grew up in the mid-west of America, and proud of it!  It was a fine place to spend my formative years, even if I do say so myself.

One year, when I was in the 5th grade, it was discovered that asbestos had been used in the building of our school.  And ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE.  We were relocated to another building, the old school was completely gutted and ‘treated’ and rebuilt and ‘de-asbestos-ed’.  Parents were in an uproar, wondering if their kids had inhaled the silent-but-deadly killer.  Many a memo went out to families in the district with updates and implications and safety information.

It was melee…

asbestosI then went on to do my A-levels in the South of England (equivalent to my Junior and Senior year of high school).  The FIRST DAY I was there, I saw these signs hanging all over the walls of the Common Room.

‘DO NOT DISTURB???’  I was 16 for God’s sake!  It was my very nature to leave a path of wreckage and destruction wherever I went!  What if we decided to play a game of human bowling using bike-helmets and GCSE students?  What if we flailed too flamboyantly while reenacting Billie’s dance from the Do You Have a Girlfriend video?  What if one of our ‘lock the Head of 6th Form in his office’ schemes got out of control?  I can see many a way that we might have disturbed the asbestos…

‘Do not disturb’, they say, like the asbestos had a heavy night and needs its rest…

It’s so (adorably?) English to say, ‘We’ll just leave it, it’ll be fine’ and so (blatantly?) American to say ‘Let’s rip the whole thing down and dance on the debris!  MWAA HA HA HA HA HAAAAA!!!’

Sorry, better keep my voice down.  Don’t wanna disturb the asbestos…

Fame: Being American in the English school system

yankeebeanI was inspired by a comment made by Cinda on our About page.  She’s moving to the UK with her 10 year old daughter and asked about the school system in the UK.

I lived in the UK for the equivalent of my Junior and Senior years of high school (or my A-Levels).  I’m aware that my experience won’t be the same as that of a 10-year old little lady, but I thought I’d share some of my experiences anyway.  After all, that’s what a blog is for, eh?

My overall memory of the English school system is:

It’s some seriously good learnin’
my English teachers crammed a lot of information into my brain.  It’s the kind of thing that infuriated me at the time, but I look back on with a sense of accomplished whimsy.  I studied the same 3 subjects for 2 straight years and I got A LOT out of it.  One of my chosen subjects was music and getting an education in the UK really gave me an advantage when I returned to the States for college.  Plus it sounded freakin’ cool on the ol’ resume…

Plus Madonna wanted to have her kids educated in England right?  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

It’s like be a B or C-list celebrity
Everyone knows who you are because you’re ‘the American one’.  Everyone knows your name and where you’re from.  People watch you… not in a bad way, but they do.  This can be either fantastic or horrible, depending on how you feel about ‘the spotlight’.  I LOVED it, though… surprise surprise :)

I have never been so wonderfully and openly accepted so quickly
Dudes… the kids I met in England were SO AWESOME.  I moved around a lot when I was a kid so I’m very familiar with the standard new-kid-at-school feeling.  It could take months for American kids to pull their heads out of their clicks and say ‘hey’ to you.  But my first day in my English school I was treated to a non-stop stream of people that came to introduce themselves and talk to me.  Some kids immediately asked if I wanted to hang out that weekend, people helped me find classrooms, everyone was just outstanding…

If you’ve ever been the new kid, I don’t need to tell you that that is the best possible first-school-day of all time.  Best ever…

Something to look forward to
I don’t know if any of this is helpful, but it’s what happened to me.  I think ‘grown-ups’ are more stand-offish, but it’s not true for everyone (sometimes it just feels like it).  And there are plenty of American people around if you need someone to lend an ear :)

For all my blogs, I do love it here… I really hope you will too!

Teaching the English how to give thanks


67% – Hell yeah! I’m having a big bash and educating the masses.

25% – I don’t know, but I’m so homesick that all I wanna do is eat Mac and Cheese or Hershey’s Peanutbutter Cups… and I want to talk to my Mom.

8% – Nope, when in England, do as the English do.

0% – I’m going back home for Thanksgiving! WOOP!

0% – I’ll have turkey, but it’s going to be a quiet one this year.

The results of the Thanksgiving poll are in!!  It seems the majority of you are determined to, not only celebrate, but drag English people along for the ride.  A whopping 67% of you held your very own Thanksgiving bashes.  Hoorah!!

I had a few people over for Thanksgiving dinner (English neighbors and stuff), and it was awesome.  I could do no wrong because I’m ‘the expert’ (ha!).  If anyone corrected my pronunciation or terminology, I ‘won’ because it’s my holiday and so everyone just went along for the ride.  And by the end of the night, some of the Brits were pronouncing things the American way… y’know… for authenticity :)

Also, by the end of the night, everyone seemed agreed that England should seriously consider adopting Thanksgiving as a holiday, too.

It’s only a matter of time now… we must keep educating the masses!!

Look mom, Brits don't know their geography either!

yahooavatar15Okay, so they’re not Katie Couric and Matt Lauer from the Today show, but sometimes GMTV can be just as fakely uplifting in my dark British mornings of November. I still miss Matt Laurer’s hair plugs.

Yesterday morning 8:16am, over my Aldi knock-off “Special J Breakfast” cereal,  I crunched away aimlessly and GASP! WHAT??

map-of-britain_lMost people in the UK do not know how many countries make up Britain or which is the world’s most spoken language, a national survey has found.

American always get so much slack for not knowing where things are blah blah… but it looks like Brits are having some trouble even on their own tiny whiny island, too! Thank goodness there are people that don’t know where things are in Britain–it makes me feel better somehow—

The poll of 2,000 adults was commissioned by geographic technology company ESRI UK to mark Geography Awareness Week. Yes, Geography awareness week! What a momentous occasion , I thought, as I toasted myself some Wharburton’s Toastie.

It found that a quarter of people (23%) would like to be an explorer (–like Christopher Columbus?)- although many have trouble identifying where cities such as Leeds and Sheffield are in England.

When asked to rank a list of UK cities, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham and Luton, in the order they are located, from north to south, eight in 10 correctly placed Newcastle and Luton (81% and 80% respectively).

But only half (53%) correctly identified Leeds as the second most northerly, while a similar proportion (54%) put Sheffield correctly in third place.

Ummm, I still get confused about that one tooand I even live up North. Wait, but I am American… so its expected, right? Got to get more of that Aldi .99p Special J Cereal…