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.

How to have the best day in Bath, England – EVER.

I spent the most awesome day ever in Bath with my brother, Leonard and his wife Ella who were visiting from Chicago.  We had such a good time, that I though I should write about our itinerary in case anyone else is going to a pilgrimage to the beautiful Bath sometime soon.

Step 1 – Cream Tea at the Pump Rooms

You won’t regret hanging out in this gigantic, gorgeous, chandelier-y spot.  The cream tea is delish (two scones – one fruit and one plain – strawberry jam and clotted cream) and I can also happily recommend the Welsh Rarebit if you’re looking for something savoury.  It’s worth it for the atmosphere alone – there was a piano player tickling the ivories when we were there.  He did what we came to call The Moon Mash-up – he played Moon River, Fly Me to the Moon and Paper Moon in a single glorious medley.  Excellent.

(check out the Pump Rooms website for directions, menus, or just to oggle)

Step 2 – The Roman Baths

Ok.  I’m being serious.  Go here.  Shut down your computer, iPad, or smart phone.  Get your coat.  Finish reading this later.

The level of history is something that me and my American family-peeps were completely unprepared for.  I’ve never said the word ‘awesome’ so many times in 90 minutes.

It’s beautiful, fascinating, and comes with a top-notch free audio tour.  Legendary expat, Bill Bryson, has even done a set of audio segments that are priceless – not to be missed.

(check out the Roman Baths website – that is, if you haven’t stopped reading already as per my instructions)

Step 3 – Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights

Leonard, Ella and I are all carnivorous readers and so we couldn’t resist a trip to this gem in Bath’s crown.  The shop itself is lovely and has an outstanding selection of books (with all purtiest book covers, too) – but what makes it stand apart is the staff.  No question is too small and they make glorious recommendations.  They are SO FREAKING LOVELY there.

It’s worth mentioning that their gift wrap is also completely adorbs.

(check out Mr. B’s lovely website – it’s cute-patoot)

Step 4 – The Royal Crescent

We found our way to the Royal Crescent by asking a passing stranger where it was.  The exchange went something like this:

Me:  ”Excuse me.  I’ve heard there a big pretty row of houses somewhere that we should go and look at – do you know what that is?”

Friendly man: “You must mean the Royal Crescent… [insert directions and laughter here]

You’ll be shocked to know that ‘big pretty row of houses’ doesn’t quite do it justice.  It’s definitely worth a look!

(learn more about the Royal Crescent on your best-interweb-friend and mine, Wikipedia)

Step 5 – Thermae Bath Spa

Ok.  You have to go here, too.  Don’t go to Bath without coming here, just don’t.  It’s thermal.  It’s a bath.  It’s a spa.  For the love of God, what else do you want?

We opted to get in for ‘last orders’ at 7pm and spend two hours watching the sun set from the thermal roof-top pool.  We also frequented the scented steam rooms a couple of times (Sandalwood was our fave).  But most of our time was spent floating in perfectly heated mineral pools and looking at gorgeous views across Bath.

NICE.

(Fancy a warm floaty sunset-y Bath extravaganza?  What a dumb question, of course you do – here’s the Thermae Bath Spa website)

Step 6 – Eat food and drink wine

This last step is optional, but I highly recommend it.  We ended up in Carluccio’s where the happiest waiter on earth served us the tastiest garlic bread I’ve ever laid taste-buds on.

But there are far too many awesome restaurants in Bath to count – if anyone has any suggestions, bring it on!


And that’s the end of the recommended ‘Best day in Bath – EVER’ guide.  I’m sure that I’m missing things, but this list made for an awesome, but not too busy day out.

It’s going to be one of those days that ages in my head like a warm tasty whiskey – it’s going to get better and better the more I remember it.  And THAT is the sign of a good day.  A very good day, indeed.

I’m an American, I live in Britain, and I have a weird accent…

yankeebeanI didn’t mean for the beginning of this post to sound like an AA meeting… but having said that, I DO have a confession to make.

I used to heavily judge people for ‘trying to sound English’. Now, I’m not talking your Dick Van Dyke’s or your Oliver Twist’s – nonono – I’m talking your Madonna’s.

(And now, me).

If someone moved to England and then started-up with the to-mah-to and the baaah-sil, I was instantly repelled.

Ridiculous! Insulting! Embarrassing! ‘Cringe-central… we have now reached cringe-central. Please take small children by the hand while disembarking…’

But OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHhhhhhhh, how the tables have turned! My eyes have been opened and all judgment reserved! I take it all back. And I apologise to Madonna, sorry Madge.

Four years in and my own weird accent has taken hold and is proving harder and harder to avoid. I don’t say weird as in ‘bad’ – I love weird things and embrace all things ‘dork’. But my weird anglo-ameri mutant twang is here to stay.

I made a little home-movie with my camera at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta this morning and when I listened back, there was mutant yankeebean chatting inside my camera; grabbing whatever vowel sound that took her fancy and any ol’ inflection that lit her fire.

Hi, my name is Yankeebean, I’m an American living in Britain, and I have a weird accent.

(Altogether now – “Hi, Yankeebean”)

————-

For Pacificbird’s views on  her ‘accent revelations’ click here

England, pet names, and you…

yankeebeanWe had a comment from ‘I Love This Blog’ (great name, by the way ;) ) about the pet names that are used in England and what we think about ‘em…

She said:

“Is it quite common for British men to use pet names such as “honey,” “dear,” or even “sweetie?”

First off, I absolutely detest pet names, I find them really generic (if there is to be a pet name I like it to have some story behind it). Secondly, as someone who is barely into her twenties, those particular words make me feel like I’m already over the hill and married for decades. Third.. Maybe it’s an American machismo thing but I’ve never heard men in their twenties use it! (I’m incredibly relieved it’s not “babe” or “baby”)

So.. just wondering.. is this considered normal or is my British man just the ultra sensitive type? :)

OOHHHHHHHHH, the times we’ve all had trying to interpret pet names and what they mean.  I often wonder how I SHOULD feel and try to measure it up against how it ACTUALLY MAKES me feel.  It’s very weird… like a brief out-of-body experience…

I oscillate back and forth about pet names…  There seem to be two major deciding factors that determine my gut-reaction to pet names:

The intonation

‘Love’, ‘Pet’, ‘Honey’, ‘Lover’, ‘Dear’, ‘Sweetie’… there’s not a doubt in my mind that you’ve heard them all.  But the intonation that’s used says a lot – A guy can say ‘alright, love?’ and it can mean any number of things:

  • “Hello”
  • “OK?”
  • “How are you?”
  • “Are you alright?”
  • “I think you’re hot”
  • “I think you’re hot and I think you think I’m hot”

It’s a smorgasbord of underlying meaning!  A man (or woman for that matter) could call me Love and it could almost go unnoticed… or (depending on the delivery) it could make me wanna go home a take a shower.

The second ‘major player’ in the do-pet-names-give-me-the-heebie-jeebies issue is a little easier to tie down.

The chosen pet name

There are certain pet names that just give me the creeps… One in particular is… drum roll, please:

Good Girl

GROSS!!!!   Eeeeeeeeewwwww!!!  Bleuggghhhhhh!!!

This is a rare one (thank God), but I’ve had English men (always men) say ‘Good Girl’ to me.  I’m 27!  I own and run two businesses!  It makes me feel like I should be wearing a pinafore with my hair in pig tails… yuck…

With ‘Good Girl’ (shudder) out of the way, that leaves two camps for me and pet names – The ones I don’t really mind and ones that are more likely to irk me a little.

I don’t really mind:

  • Love
  • Honey (Hun)
  • Anything ironic or comedic value like ‘crumpet’ or ‘doll face’ or something that’s obviously being said in jest

But I’m more likely to be irked by:

  • Sweetie (feel a little patronised)
  • Dear (ditto)
  • Darling (little too intimate)
  • Babe (greasy)
  • Lover (creates unwanted mental image)

I could go either way with ‘Poppet’…

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some… if you can think of any more, bring it on!

When I think about it, none of these names REALLY bug me that much (except ‘Good Girl’).  At the root of it all I know it’s just another thing that makes the English English… it does, however, remind me of one of my new mantras – ‘To each their own’. :)

My English man and our long distance relationship

yankeebeanLots of people find She’s Not From Yorkshire because they’ve fallen for an English man – and so have we!  A comment left recently by Dreamer got me thinking about the logistics of meeting, falling in love with, dating, and possibly marrying and English man.

It’s not the first time we’ve been asked for advice about the long-distance idea, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  But, I always feel nervous about giving any kind of advice, because every relationship is different – and long distance relationships are SO hard and fierce and all-or-nothing… I never know what to say.

All I can talk about is my own experience, so here goes!

I met Mr Nice Guy when I was 16 and living in England.  I knew OF him, but didn’t really know him for 2 years.  But, one fateful prom night, we kissed and that led to us hanging out and getting to know each other more.

After 2 months, we knew were in love and after 4 months I got on a plane and flew back to America to go to University.

So begins the long distance!  Emails at least three times a day and a phone call every day or every other day.  Plus a flight every 3 or 4 months – we both worked our butts off outside of Uni to fund all this, cos what else can you do?  Skype was just a twinkle in the eye of the world wide web, so there was no web-cam chats or anything so glam, but we used what we had.  We got through the initial ‘trust issues’ although the deeply-rooted ‘he’s-going-to-meet-someone-else’ worries never really vanished.

Long distance came with built in worries, insecurities, loneliness, and jealousy but it was counter-weighted with joy, love, laughter and adventure.  I spent 95% of my time waiting for the other 5% of my time to arrive.  And when it did, I would spend 2 weeks with Mr Nice Guy love-drunk, hazy, randy and happy only to fly home crying and already planning the next trip.

It was really hard… but it was 200% worth it.

Everyday, I woke up and asked myself if I still loved Mr Nice Guy, if I still wanted him to be MY Mr Nice Guy and the answer was always ‘yes’.  So I kept emailing and calling (and sometimes flying) everyday for 4 years until we came out the other side.  If, for any reason, the answer had been ‘no’, I would have had to seriously think about what my next step was.

I hate remembering the ‘long-distance’ stuff, but I LOVE that it worked out (and mostly that it’s over and now we have a regular-distance-relationship).  And as much as I hated the ‘long-ness’, it helped (/forced) us to sort through a lot of relationship issues and laid a really strong foundation for the rest of our lives together.

So if any of you are considering a long-distance relationship, or you’re smack-dab in the middle of one, or you’re struggling to keep one alive, we know how you feel!  Any lack of advice is just because we don’t want to suggest something that will feel wrong for you – only you will really know what’s right… but we do understand that it’s a difficult situation – and we’re here for each other and for you guys, too!

English women treat me like I’m an alien from outerspace

After reading Michelle’s comment on the About page, it reminded me of one the MOST INFURIATING things about being an American woman in Yorkshire.

English women.

Now, I know I can’t lump them all in together, and I know some really amazing English women, too… but nothing gets my blood boiling quite as much as ‘the look‘.

If you’re an American woman in England, then you know the one I mean… that LOOK that an English woman will give you when you try to do something INSANE like introduce yourself, or ask what their name is, or talk about anything other than totally neutral subjects like the weather or going food-shopping.

It drives me NUTS!!  It drives me punch-the-air-go-for-a-run-bite-my-tongue GONZO nuts…

Hey!  English chick!  I’m not going to bite you!  I’m not going to steal your boyfriend!  I’m not going to sprout wings and dive-bomb you!  I’m not going to beam you up to the mother-ship!  And my AMERICAN-NESS is NOT CONTAGIOUS!!!  (Unfortunately for you…)

I’m a web designer, right?  So sometimes I go to some networking events and try to meetnewpeoplemakenewcontants blah blah blah blah… I once went to an all women’s networking event in York (WHY??  What was I thinking??).  I swear to God, I thought by the end of it they were going to light up a bunch of torches and chase me from the building.  It was made very (VERY) clear, that they thought I didn’t belong there.  I mean, it was like friggin HIGHSCHOOL all over again…

sigh…

Tell me this isn’t just me… PLEASE tell me it happens to you too??  I could use some support here…  and some witty quips and retorts if you can think of any.  We need to be prepared when confronted with this strange species…