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!

Stuck in America because of an Icelandic volcano

yankeebean

When I say ‘stuck’, please translate that as ‘YAY!  I get 6 extra days in America with my family!!’ :)

The main reason I wanted to write this blog is because of the title.  How often can you write a blog title like that and have it be 100% non-fiction?

Anyway, the short version is that Mr. Nice Guy and I were supposed to fly out of O’hare tonight at 9:45pm, but instead a volcano shut down the skies over the UK and we’re not flying home until Wednesday morning…

Any other Expats stuck in their home away from home?  I feel like I’ve gotten an extended snow day :D   WOOHOO!!!!

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?

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.

When your American-self imagines breeding some British children

peacefulyorkshire

peacefulyorkshire

I am not  hoping to get knocked up my English boyfriend. But! I can vouch that when you are a lay-deh approaching the big 3-0- your mind just starts thinking about kids, biological clocks, your eggs disappearing….I know, I know before you think this post is ‘cliche-arama’,  hang on: It is different when the ‘eggs and time ticking’ happens when you are living as an American woman in England. Doesn’t the thought of having your own kids in a foreign country make you think about things differently?

For instance. Somehow in my ‘happy family fantasies’, my offspring all speak American(well, like me!): Hey therrrr Mom, can I have som’more them Nabisco Waaaaayferrrs? My good-natured-well-rounded-children would do happy things like celebrate the 4th of July while they squirt lines of E-Z cheese on their Oscar Mayer wiener*.

But if I imagine having kids here in the UK,  I start to feel uncomfortable at the thought. What would it be like to have kids that speak in a British Accent? (Oh Motha dear, could I trouble you foh some of that lurvely Ribeeena?). As if! In my fantasy they wouldn’t sound like that- I have them down sounding more like da Ali G.

The ‘what-ifs’ eat away at my brain. I freak out that they would have to grow up in a council estate because we couldn’t get on the UK property ladder anywhere else.There my British children would become little chavsters and enjoy burning out wheelie bins. I wouldn’t able to send them to a public school on my meagre income and all the good state schools would be oversubscribed so their brains might rot. I would worry they would have sex at age 11 and drink Thunderbird mixers in secret alley ways (you know, the ones with the orange lights!). My family in America couldn’t help raise them because they are too far away. Gollee, my unborn British children really freak me out right about now. Bring on that free NHS contraception.

Yankeebean’s post that midly freaked me out enough to inspired this one…. Click here

*that would be a hot dog and not the dodgy UK defintion of ‘wiener’ just to clear up any confusion as it would confuse the meaning of this post somewhat.

Ameri-Brit children and awkward situations

pacific birdThis one is for those of you who might be raising kids with American and British families.  I’ve been spending a lot of time with my 14 month old nephew lately.  His parents are both American but Mr. Charismatic and I have given him a few books from Britain featuring iconic British characters, Noddy for example.  Today we were discussing Thomas the Tank characters.  My sister mentioned Sir Topham Hatt and Mr. Charismatic didn’t have a clue who that was.  So, she describes the nicely dressed man wearing a top hat.  “Oh!  You mean the Fat Contoller!” said Mr. C.  We all had a really good laugh about this.  Can you imagine a child going to an American school, playing with the train set and calling this toy “The Fat Controller”.  The American teachers would be horrified at such an un-PC name.

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)

Your negativity is eating my brain… stop it, I NEED my brain

yankeebeanRecently we had another cracking comment from one of my fave readers, ‘I Love This Blog’ (don’t worry ILTB, you’re not the one eating my brain, more on that later).  On our post ‘My English man and our long distance relationship‘ She said:

I was just wondering how your loved ones reacted to your moving overseas for love? Not that it’s really affecting my decisions, but most, nay-ALL, of my closest friends are 100% against the idea and think I will either have my heart broken or be sorely disappointed.. The only ones who support my decision are the ones who are completely right-brained, completely romantic, and have no grasp of common sense or logic (so, it’s a little disheartening..)

How did you do it? Did you find a job first, or did you just up and move? I’m a little nervous!

So many memories (good/bad/ugly) flooded in when I read this comment.  When it came to hopping-the-pond for love, my heart and my head were pretty much always in agreement.  It was my FRIENDS of all freakin’ things that made me wanna panic, unpack, and apply to work in the nearest global food chain.

There was no shortage of negativity – it came pelting in from all angles.  Even my best friend showed her disapproval just by keeping her mouth shut about it (y’know, ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say’, yada yada yada).  Sometimes I felt like their negative monologues were actually burrowing into my brain… gross… too much information.

Negativity isn’t exactly what you NEED when you’re about to cram all of your belongings into two giant suitcases, say good-bye to your parents, hurtle through the air in a giant metal tube (I hate flying…), and stumble, bleary and unkempt, into the wonderful arms of ‘the reason for all this’.

I really de-railed a couple of times pre-move when my friends would launch in to a ‘This is never going to work and when it all comes crashing down you’ll be alone and penniless in a foreign country’ speeches.  SHUT UP, for God’s sake!!  I need SUPPORT right now!!  I’m about to move to a country that doesn’t even have a written form of their constitution!!  Can you freakin’ BACK ME UP for a minute here??  (That’s the sound of me derailing… sorry about the constitution snipe)

At the end of the day (to use a most-excellent English expression), none of it ultimately stopped me from boarding the giant metal tube… I mean plane.  I tried to apply an ‘I’m rubber and you’re glue’ attitude to the whole friend-negativity-eat-my-brain mutiny.  Did it work?  I have no idea, but here I am!  And it’s good… it’s REALLY good…

Oh yeah, about the job hunting – I did look before I arrived, but I didn’t actually land a job until I’d turned up.  I’m sure you’ll find just the thing!  And if you need a shoulder for leaning or an ear for bending, we’re here!

Emergencies Overseas

avt_kapyork_large115A few weeks ago my family had a scary emergency and of course, I am very far away. I did not run for the very next plane out – and we all decided that it was not the kind of emergency that called for a visit home. In fact, the people in the US were quite sure about that. But a few people in the UK asked if I needed to go. Everything is ok now, luckily.   

I have always been fearful of exactly that type of situation and it was pretty shocking when it happened for real.  

Have any of you had a similar experience?  How do you decide when to go and when to stay?

Kraft – Its the Cheesiest! And other care package desirables

avt_kapyork_large115I received a care package yesterday!  My Mom sent 9 boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and 2 bags of Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chips!!  That’s right Ladies, semi-sweet morsels!!  :)

Care packages are just automatic ways to lift spirits and be reminded of favourite treats from home.  Any of the yucky feelings left over from a rough day at work yesterday suddenly lifted.   Note to self: bring small baggies of morsels to work every day. 

It got me thinking – what things will I want in a care package from the UK when I’m back in America?

Here’s a quick list:

Cheese and onion pasties or veg pasties if from Thomas the Bakers (not suitable for overseas travel, sigh)

Cadbury’s Dairy Milk

Lemsip – Flu strength

Yorkshire Tea

Any number of vegetable curries (also not a good shipping contestant)

Louie Theroux documentaries

Episodes of Never Mind the Buzzcocks with Simon Amstel

Umm, this one is embarrassing but… I really like all the reruns of Murder, She Wrote that you can get everyday if you have Sky.  I don’t think you can still get that show in America anymore. 

What would you put in your care packages Ladies?