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.

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!

Your British Sister-in-Law and you, the facts

yahooavatar15Dear Readers,

Christmas is just around the corner (21 days lovelies, 21 days!) And you are going to need to prepare. Us 3 gals at Shes not From Yorkshire know the stress of being an American in Britain for Christmas– we’ve been there and done it. Numerous times.

It may be that you will be going back to America to see your beloved folks. Lucky you!!! If that’s the case, you don’t need to read this now. Go get that second cup of coffee and we’ll see you same time tomorrow.

Ok,  that means that you are staying here for Christmas. Chances are you don’t have the clout to hold Christmas at yours this year. Number one reason is probably because you are Americanyou wouldn’t get it right to have the family over, after all how would you know how to hold an English Christmas?

Because you’re American, this means that the hols will either be at the in-laws house or at a sister-in-laws house. If its at the English parent’s house, this isn’t going to apply to you. That is another topic! So, go ahead and get that saved up Oreo…. and yes, we will see you tomorrow, same time.

This means that you are spending Christmas at your sister-in-laws?? You do realise that you will be needing some confidence to voice what you need and what you want and what you expect? You need to make it clear what you will do and will not do.

Repeat the quote: Trying Fails, but Awareness Cures… repeat three times a day.

Just be aware sweet readers, just be aware you will need to be vocal about your expectations because No one else is gonna do it for you–!

Ms British sister in law will probably be be lovely and ask you what you might want to make you “feel at home”. Under no circumstances will she ever actually get it right, not really her fault, shes not really concerned about your needs. You have to realise that she is trying to impress her parents, her partner, his parents, her kids, not you!

Ill have a pumpkin pie that is all I really want, Ill even give you a great recipe since you don’t want me to bring anything, you say. Mr. Kipling’s mincemeat pies will be flogged instead.

I don’t eat meat. she will serve you a nut roast from Tesco’s value range.

I’ll do the Christmas breakfast, you say, to try to show them that you can cook and can contribute, and what a great little lady you are. They won’t like your smiley face waffles. Odd bread products are brought from deep-freeze instead

Hasn’t baby Sophie grown so much, would you two like to take her to the park? she asks

About that point you start daydreaming about your lovely family and how much you miss them in America… I bet dad is on his 2nd Coors-light by now, you  sigh.

And don’t expect your British man to understand, even if he is Mr. Chill, Mr. Nice Guy or Mr. Charismatic. Its his family and you do not want to be in the middle. Nor do you want him to be in anyway held accountable for your homesickness. Its not his fault either.

Christmas at your sister-in-laws is under her reign, darling, and you’re just there for the ride…

Just be aware sweet readers, just be aware and you will feel better…

This American gal meets English Ghosts

yahooavatar15I am from the American Southwest. And My dad builds houses for a living. Yes, new houses.  On plots in the middle of the desert, and sometimes in the middle of nowhere. You always hear that old saying that says ‘the cobblers kids have good shoes’, well– I was always lucky to live in new houses.

There weren’t any ghosts haunting my bedrooms in my childhood only because I don’t think that ghosts like to inhabit new build houses– well, its logical, right? No, they usually appear where there is history, a past, visiting a place that was once theirs– (well, in the movies it works that way at least.)

So, it wasn’t until I moved to England that I:

a) started believing in ghosts

b) started feeling creeped out in certain old houses

c) started womdering should I be scared of them???!!

Fast forward to my Halloween weekend in Cumbria. My boyfriend, Mr. Chill, took me up in our Whizzgo car for the weekend to visit his parents. Now, without ghosts that is already a scary prospect… potential future in-laws? (cue a mini freak-out session)

Now, lovely readers, they live in this old, rambling, red sandstone 7 bedroom house, on the west coast near Scotland. It is Victorian. Yes, Victorian, of course!! Not a new build, heavens no that wouldn’t fit the story!

Well the Vistorian house is haunted by Mr. Chill’s Grandfather. It just is and that’s just the case. And the family understands this and everyone just gets on with it. Well, Ms. Wuss-when-it-comes-to-ghosts ( me) on Halloween was pretty nervous to be spending the night there. Well, wouldn’t you be, too? I mean, Halloween is when  all spirits come out to play and have a party and spook the daylights out of each other.

It was 1:13 am. I awoke in the middle of the night in a feverish sweat. I felt like I was suffocating. I felt like the grandfater ghost was tapping me on my feet. Boyfriend was asleep. Poked him. Didn’t wake up. Poked him harder til he woke up. “Turn on the lamp!”, I screeched.

I felt like such a silly willy. Sweaty and duvet tangled in a big mess. No ghost to be seen.

English houses that old can be scary. Maybe someday his grandfather and I will be friends??