A Guide to Getting Your Man into America

Welcome to guest blogger – Wandering Seattleite!  Visit her blog seattleiteimagery

Wandering Seattleite

Wandering Seattleite

Two weeks ago my British husband and I flew into LAX. He handed the immigration officer his sealed manilla envelope, waited in a sterile lounge for an hour, and came out a legal resident of the United States of America.

When I married Dan almost five years ago I had some idea how big a role immigration officers would play in our relational logistics, but this past year it hit home. Every day for 6 months the Green Card was on our minds: How long’s it going to take? What if Dan doesn’t get in?! Moving across the world is stressful enough without all the legalities.

Now that my alien spouse has finally made it into the country, the whole immigration process seems far away. But I’ve had lots of people back in England ask me for tips for getting their aliens into the States. So, whether you’re in the throes of the Green Card application process, or just thinking about what it will look like in the future, here are a few helpful tips.

1 – Have a meticulous husband

I can’t recommend this highly enough. Honestly, my husband’s detail orientation came into it’s own here as I watched him fill out the overwhelming and tedious paperwork I’d have placed in my “to do” pile(s) for months. Don’t worry if your spouse is less than organized though – set aside a few evenings and force yourselves to fill out the boring papers/ locate documents, etc. It feels like a lot of work, but it’s not that hard, so just get on with it. Then reward yourself with a bottle of wine and dreams of Mexican food and Trader Joes shopping sprees.

2 – Do your taxes & get your police checks

It’s easy to forget about your US taxes while in the UK. Very easy. But proof of filing those bad boys is one of the things the immigration office is going to want from you in order to let your sweetheart in. If you’re a bit behind, this guide will sort your out – http://britishexpats.com/wiki/Taxes_filing_with_the_US_IRS_in_London. Another potential hold-up could be waiting for the police checks from every country your alien spouse has lived for a year since age 16. It took about 6 weeks to get the Japanese police check through, so if your spouse is at all nomadic I’d get on it straightaway.

3 – Keep calm and carry on, damn it!

When we were going through the process, waiting for dates, biting our nails, trying to plan our lives, etc., those red WWII posters were everywhere. They were my daily reminders not to freak out, to channel my inner Brit and just keep calm and carry on. This mantra honestly helped. Thousands of people apply for Green Cards and are accepted every year, often without a high school education or grasp of the English language. If they can do it, so can you. It feels overwhelming, but keep it in perspective and stop worrying. You will get there.

4 – Don’t be afraid of Plan Q

Before we applied we had it all figured out. We’d get the Green Card within three months, find jobs from the UK and move seamlessly to Los Angeles to start our lives. Well, Plan A became Plan B became Plan Q. The Green Card took 6 months, we spent the winter in New Zealand with my in-laws (highly recommended) and now we’re living at my parents house on an inflatable mattress in Seattle looking for jobs. Not Plan A, but not the end of the world either. My advice is to reassess where you’re at every week or so with the process and create a variety of plans depending on how long things take. Flexibility is very helpful!

5 – Interview prep

When Dan went for his interview he got all suited and booted and said no one else in the waiting room made an effort. I’m not saying my man’s appearance got him in, but I don’t think it hurts to dress like you’re taking this whole thing seriously either. The interview took just over an hour and was basically a final check of all the paperwork he’d so diligently rustled up. The one odd thing was when he handed the officer a letter proving my London employment, the lady said I needed proof of American employment! This seemed like a Catch-22  – how could I get a job in America until I knew we could both move over legally? Anyway, for some reason they let him in despite my lack of dual employment (because he was so well dressed?), and we didn’t need to worry about it. I’m not sure how other people have got around this though.

This list isn’t comprehensive, but it includes some of the things I found helpful going through the joys of getting a Green Card for my alien spouse. Have you gone through the same thing or are you planning to? I’d love to swap immigration stories.

How do the British celebrate Halloween? One hairdresser gives her opinion

peacefulyorkshire

peacefulyorkshire

So tell our lovely readers a bit about yourself?

Ok… my name is Libby, I am 26 years old, grew up in Haxby and have been cutting hair now for 4 years, like. I trained in London at ‘Toni&Guy’ but am glad to be back in Yorkshire where me family is.

Any plans for Halloween, then?

Oh yeah, me mates and I are going down the pubs and whatnot– since its on a Saturday this year York will be busy. Lots of me mates are having fancy dress parties but I told them all that I was going down to York to be with everyone else who is out. Everyone should be out.

And will you wear a costume?

Yeah we are going as Zombie Nurses– me mate Sarah already gots our costume. We will use fish net stockings that are ripped with fake blood. A nurses apron and a hat and I am frizzin my hair out big style.

Wow, that is creative, are all your mates going as Zombie nurses also hairdressers by day?

No, in me crowd we have a solicitor, a driving instructor, oh and me sister is pregnant, did I tell you?! But I don’t tell people I am a hairdresser when I am out, like because everyone wants me to tell them what to do with their hair, I get tired of it. Last week we were out and this bloke wanted to know how to bleach his chest hair. It was right nasty!

Yeah, I can imagine!!

Umm. In your opinion how do you think that the Brits celebrate Halloween?

Well, its gottin more over the years but it used to be more for kids. But now I think that adults are gettin more into it though. Last year I went as a witch and we got loads of attention, like. I wore this huge black hat and yellow neon suit underneath my cape. It was smashing, like. I met me current boyfriend, Charlie, on Halloween, he’s such a sweetie.

And what was he dressed as?

A baby. He had a dummy and all kinds.

Awww…

——

The part where your Shamerican self feels spooked on Halloween? Click here

For more in our ‘Interview Series’ with informative Brits ( pub managers to tennis coaches to Scotsmen!) click here

Getting a UK Visa: One woman’s saga

yankeebeanThis post can’t come with a big enough disclaimer, my lovely peeps – A reader asked us to write about our ‘getting a visa’ experience so I thought I’d amble over to She’s Not From Yorkshire and get started.  But this only reflects my experience, pleasepleaseplease don’t take this as advice.  Visa laws and requirements change about every fifteen minutes so make sure to check with the Big Dudes (http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/).  I (unfortunately) know how stressful and heinous it is to have an application rejected for not doing everything right, so don’t take anything I write as gospel…

*deep breath* Ok… brace yourself, this is going to be a long one…

After I met Mr. Nice Guy, I went back to the US for University – we did the long distance thing for 4 seemingly endless years and then it was time to move.  So it begins…

Visa #1: BUNAC work-abroad programme = Accepted

Cost: 300.00 USD (ish…)
My location when I applied: USA
Valid for: 6 months
Received: September 2004
My age: 22

Bunac were the people that allowed me to first set-foot and work in England for 6 months as part of a work-abroad programme.  The exact programme I came across for doesn’t exist anymore (I imagine I wasn’t the only one that used it as a blatant weasel-in-to-England scheme).  Basically, they got me in the country and guaranteed me an English bank account – then they left me to it to find a job and a place to stay (which was the easy part).

I had two choices for my next visa.  One, find a job that would hire me and go through the visa application process on my behalf.  Two, marry my guy (I know, it doesn’t sound very romantic.  But I already knew I wanted to marry him, so I thought why not now?).

Visa #2: Work Permit = Rejected

Cost: Blissfully unaware
My location when I applied: UK
Valid for: However long I was employed by a specific employer
Received Notification: Early 2005
My age: still 22

I found a job in a standard beige office with the hopes that they would go through the second round of visa applications that needed to begin almost immediately.  They agreed (I still can’t believe they agreed) AND they said they’d pay for it (best news ever).  I was put in charge of all the research, paperwork and evidence required to get the Queen to let me stay.

Applications completed – One.  Evidence supplied – substantial.  Time spent researching – infinity.

Application status – rejected.  Ugh…

My application was rejected because it would only have been valid if it was for a job that no other person in the European Union was capable of doing.  I must’ve known deep down that there was no way it could work…

Visa #3: Fianceé Visa = Accepted

Cost: 350.00 GBP
My location when I applied: USA
Valid for: 6 months during which I was not allowed to work
Received Notification: April 2005
My age: 23

SO, me and Mr Nice Guy hadn’t decided to get hitched yet because we needed to make sure we were doing it for the right reasons.  To buy time I went back to the States and applied for a Fianceé Visa.  I had to bring evidence of our relationship for the past 2 years including stuff like letters, pictures, plane ticket stubbs – you get the idea – in addition to filling out yet another giant form of doom.  I went back home for 5 weeks during which I paid a little extra to apply in person, went to the UK Embassy in the big-bad-city, thumped my paperwork on the desk of some lady, left it there and went and had a coffee/panicked/waited, and then received a call from the UK Embassay informing me that I was successfully engaged to Mr Nice Guy.  :)

Not exactly a romantic proposal, but I cannot even begin to describe the feeling of refief that washed over me when I heard those lovely words of acceptance.

Visa #4: Temporary Marriage Visa (take 1) = Rejected

Cost: 750.00 GBP
My location when I applied: UK
Valid for: 2 years
Received Notification: October 2005
My age: 23

Fastforward past all the wedding excitement (Best Day Ever! :) ) and we arrive at the next visa.  Technically I was applying for Temporary Leave to Remain.  The rules for this Visa were that I had to 1) be married to a UK-type and 2) stay married for 2 years.

When I began this application process, I did everything I was supposed to (or so I thought).  All the evidence was in place, I’d even called the UK Visa Office to make sure I was using the right form for what I was trying to do.  But (I kid you not) between the time that I received what WAS the correct form, and completed and posted said-form…

They changed the form… so I sent in the wrong form.

Sure enough, 6 weeks later almost to the day I received my letter of rejection because I’d sent in the wrong form.  Enter drama from stage left – I criiiiiiied when I got that one.  Blah…

Visa #5: Temporary Marriage Visa (take 2) = Accepted

Cost: They rolled-over my first payment of 750.00 GBP (thank God)
My location when I applied: UK
Valid for: 2 years
Received Notification: Late 2005
My age: 23

I re-confirmed which form I was supposed to use, re-filled out every last detail, re-posted it to the appropriate red-tape-central address, and received my acceptance letter with a complimentary truck-load of relief…

Visa #6: Permanent Marriage Visa = Accepted

Cost: 750.00 GBP
My location when I applied: UK
Valid for: Ever (yay!!)
Received Notification: Late 2007
My age: 25

Technically what I was applying for is called Indefinite Leave to Remain – this was the one I had been waiting for.  This was the Visa that meant I could stay and never have to apply for another Visa unless I wanted to.  I had to supply evidence the me and Mr Nice Guy had been living in the same place for the past 2 years in terms of bank statments and things.  They had some rule that, if your bills were in a joint name, you need evidence spanning 2 years from 5 different sources.  However, if you didn’t have your bills and stuff in joint names, then you needed evidence spanning 2 years from 5 different sources EACH.  We (of course) didn’t have our bills in our joint name, so we scraped together about a foot of paper between the two of us.

Another giant form was filled in.

Another wad was posted off.

Acceptance arrived around Elevenses one morning while I was in the middle of a First Aid training course.  Mr Nice Guy called me on my cell to tell me the stellar news.  It was a good good good good day…

Visa #7: British Citizenship = Pending

I haven’t actually applied for this yet, but I will one day.  I was worried that becoming British would mean I wasn’t allowed to be American anymore, but for now I don’t believe that’s true.  I’ve been to many an Expat forum where people have said that America will not force you to solely be an American citizen.

However, I’ve also heard people say that America doesn’t really want to know if you’re a citizen somewhere else.  It would be a ‘use your American passport to get into the States’ and ‘use your UK passport to get into the UK’ situation.  The one warning I have heard is that you should never let your US passport expire if you’re also a British citizen because the US are unlikely to renew your passport if this happens.  Again, this all just stuff I’ve read on forums, but it’s good enough for me for now…

Bloody hell, I need a cuppa tea… I apologise if I bored the bejeezus out of you, but don’t worry, it’s over now :)

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)

Even the chavs are playing tennis in England when Wimbledon fever arrives!

yahooavatar15 So what does an American lady living in England need to know about Wimbledon? To heck with guessing! Today I went and emailed the source. Here is the inside info from Ed, a British Tennis Coach working in Yorkshire.

In your opinion what unique things happen in Britain during Wimbledon?

It always feels to me the start of summer when Wimbledon comes on. You will hear words like “Hawk eye”. You will see tennis rackets begin thrown. Young ball boys barely over the age of 10 will be hit by balls traveling over 120 miles an hour. At least 2 people will pass out live on television with heat exhaustion. Cliff Richard, a 60 year old pop star from the 1960′s, will be invited to the semi final and the final. And if it rains at Wimbledon and the game has to stop, Cliff is handed the microphone and he sings to the crowd. Pimm’s comes out, as does strawberries and cream.  My tennis coaching school business booms.

What are your views on the great British hopeful Andy Murray?

This year will be extra exciting because the UK has a genuine championship hopeful. The last time Britain was this excited about Wimbledon was in the heyday of Tim Henman. Outside of the main area where all the posh people sit is a big hill in Wimbledon. If you can’t afford a ticket you can watch it on the big screen there. This was called “Henman Hill” when he was around. Now its called “Murray Mount”. So you will see over the next 2 weeks Britain work itself up into a wild world-cup style frenzy as Andy Murray progresses in the rounds.  Hope that answers your questions if not will see you and Mr. Chill tonight down at the pub later!

–E

P. S. Forget to mention for your blog readers that the biggest thing you will see is that suddenly all the deserted tennis courts across the UK suddenly fill up with people wanting to be Andy Murray against their friends. For these 2 weeks England stops begin a football crazy place and become s a tennis crazy one.Today as I was driving, even the chavs were rampaging their friends with tennis fever. I love it.

The Scottish and English Divide: a single male Scot 'tells all'

yahooavatar15On occasion us 3 American ladies at She’s Not From Yorkshire post interviews with random Brits. This week, Owen, a single (take note, single ladies, take note!) Scot gives us his opinions on the fabled  Scottish and English Divide– and  everything else from visiting England’s chippies to the Simpson’s…

Tell our lovely readers a little bit about yourself.

I am male, Scottish, and born and largely bred in Scotland -  I have recently started regularly visiting various English towns (several in the picturesque north-east) but also mainly London and the Midlands. Thus I may not be wholly typical of most Scots/English! I am a newly thirty-something, newly-turned homeowner (just pre-crunch), who is trying to find some drive to finally de-clutter all previously acquired possessions and rediscover youthful ambition in order to decide where I want to go in life – or to just confirm that I am happy plodding along in my new little house!

And your work?

I have a good job,  if a little lacking in prospects, but also outside interests which compete for my attention and I probably should organise both better!!

What is the main difference between the English and Scottish in attitudes (if there are any) from your point of view?

I believe stereotypes have some use and do exist to an extent though I realise the dangers of generalising too much!  I would say the English can be a bit “chipper” – if that’s correct, more up-beat, possibly more confident without a bevvy in them first – though that is not possibly wholly true.  The Scots can be very proud (as can the English) and certain sections can be noisy and boorish in equal measure!

How so?

The Scots are always the underdogs which possibly seems to cause them to give up in sporting events and on balance England has often been seen as superior in many things e.g. football, rugby and cricket.

I’ve heard that opinion from my English boyfriend, too.

But, that said, Scotland has given the world numerous inventions and can stand as proudly as England (perhaps more so – my history could do with brushing up!) in terms of the number of pioneering people and inventions originating somehow from Scotland.

Yes. Like the Alexander Graham Bell chap.

It might be worth noting that several pioneering Scots (e.g. John Muir) made their fortune in the Americas – either through voluntary emigration or perhaps earlier through forced emigration by clearances. It is not as black and white as English land-owners and red-haired bearded randy drunken Scotch Picts, however!  Several land-owners may well have been Scottish – there are also some divides between English north and south and Scots lowlanders and highlanders. Several, perhaps slightly anglicised, land-owners (possibly simply through having business interests in London rather than any particular English favouritism) may have been hard on their more native Scottish tenants.  Thus it is as always a complex picture.

Do you feel out of place when you are “Down South?

I don’t feel hugely out of place when south of the border – oddly I am possibly more British than Scottish (although I feel one ounce of guilt with that lack of Scottish-ness balanced by one ounce of it being perfectly reasonable to be British and a mistrust of blind nationalism.)

I am aware of being a Jock – however I have been called Scottish in England (not sure it matters so much in London – except for Scottish bank notes)  But significantly (and possibly due to a slight twang in my accent from my years in the Midlands) I have been called English when in Wick! (Wick can be a wild place on a Saturday night). I have however been considered to have a broad Scottish accent by a posh Liverpudlian girl so it all gets a bit confusing.

Give us an example.

I don’t really notice being a Jock in London – though I do notice it a bit more in other parts of England.  I was at a fish and chip shop in the Midlands last year and when asked about salt and vinegar I was taken by surprise (as if they don’t have salt and vinegar in England) and stammered out “aye, a wee bit” – since I was speaking to a more working class fish shop operative (ok they may have been a middle class student I suppose but it was the outskirts of this small town away from the college. Upon returning to my guests house I was given my order which was identified by “a wee bit” !

How about that Scottish money people always moan about accepting  in England?

On balance though I only really notice people occasionally pretending to complain about Scottish money… generally less so now.  Ironically that has only been an issue in London when I’ve dealt with foreign bar staff.  Doubly ironic given that the Prime Minister and Chancellor are both Sots – the point I always have ready to fire at them if they complain.

Why do you think that the English and Scots don’t get along?

There is a some degree of rivalry and mutual resentment/mistrust – most commonly however which appears thankfully only as light-hearted rivalry. I don’t think they seriously hate each other – not when considered intelligently – more likely there are isolated cases of racism towards other nationalities like ones I have sadly witnessed where I live in Glasgow. There is friendly rivalry although there are instances of more serious stuff but I think that is people’s nasty behaviour coming out with the Scottish-English thing rather than being inherently anti-English.

But how about you personally?

I can’t claim to be immune from a borderline racist slur (if just thought) but this is just a way of making the pain or frustration inflicted by the other person’s behaviour or bad driving seem less…

That said, any deep-seated subconscious resentment (which is hard to shake off over many generations) can be traced back to the Highland Clearances and attempts by the centres of power in the south to subjugate or whatever the heathen people of the north.

The subsiding of any justified bitterness has of course been hindered by things such as the Poll Tax experiments, perceptions of Scotland’s supposed oil being raided – (more likely by Norwegian, American and other companies than England!) – and last but not least the Scots’ ability to wallow in sentimental self-pity! Look at the portrayal of the Scots in the Simpsons – it’s not that far off!

———————-

(If you have missed previous interviews in our interview series, you can click here .)

How do the British celebrate Easter? One English pub manager gives his opinion.

yahooavatar15Tell our She’s Not from Yorkshire readers about yourself:

My name is Rodders and I am the pub manager here at this pub, age 39. I am a Man city supporter, umm, I am not sure what else to say, like.  I have 1 kid named Sophie and it will be the first Easter that she will be aware of what’s going on so I will be looking forward to that. This time of the year is great for my pub as people have 4 days of consistent drinking ahead.

What is a popular Easter drink then since you run a pub?

Just the usual really, pints.

So, how do the Brits celebrate Easter in general?

We give each other Easter eggs. Eat lots of chocolate, best of all Easter also starts the British summertime. We have 4 days off, its a lot of laughter, everyone is happier, so it feels a positive time. Everyone goes on day trips, ice cream vans are back out…. it s a good time of year. There is also a lot of flowers blooming everywhere. This time of year is probably the prettiest time of year in Britain. Its more about the natural season then any religious holiday. But thanks to the religious aspect part of it we get 4 days off to enjoy it.

Yeah, the four day off thing is fantastic. So, what have you done to celebrate this year?

So far I haven’t done anything.

Do you have any plans then?

Yes, I am going to buy my little girl an Easter egg .

There are only 104 different kinds to choose from last time I went to Tesco’s– gosh, now there are even organic ones, fair-trade ones, luxury one’s at twice the price–

(laughs) Think that I’ll just buy her the biggest one, no doubt like (laughs some more)

Some of our American readers might not know what the “easter egg” thing is since we do more selling of pre-made baskets in the states.

Its a chocolate egg the size of an adult hand. They come wrapped in a purple foil. Or gold too. Inside there is a toy or more chocolates. My favourite is the Minstrel egg. Everyone used to stayed clear of Revels Easter eggs because all the kids hated the coffee flavoured one.

What are some British traditional Easter foods?

Hot cross buns, Simnel cake, spring lamb. I like hot cross buns more than Easter eggs, they’re more savoury. (He then starts singing the theme song to Hot Cross Buns jokingly)

In America there are lots of easter egg hunts, would you say Brits do the same thing?

Yes

And the Easter bunny? Does he make an appearance?

Not like that American twat bunny you see (laughs) The American ones are everywhere over there. Its more about the bunny then it is Jesus in America! The Easter bunny thing arrived when I was older, probably from America. I always wondered why its an Easter bunny that brings eggs? Wouldn’t it make sense to have a chocolate chicken that laid chocolate eggs?

Britain doesn’t seem very “Jesus” orientated either.

No, its not, my parents go to church but I don’t. I used to have to get all dressed up when I was little for the Easter meal and church, I hated that.

Anything else that you would like to say about how the Brits celebrate Easter?

Everyone forgets to put suntan lotion on if its warm and comes back with red faces. People drink too much beer and come back to work Tuesday with a hang-over. Dads spend half of the day trying to steal the kids chocolate (laughs)

Thanks for the interview and enlightening me.


An American expat in Britain learns about the Old Boys Network (and works it to her advantage)

yahooavatar15Its not really spoken about, but its definitely there lurking among Britain’s social and business circles–The Old Boys Network. And there is not a lot on the subject to “research” … Wikipedia has an entry on it, but I think that it lacks real understanding about what it really is.  Here is how I see the definition:

You are an English male born into a white upper-middle class (or higher) family, both parents of which are considered part of the existing Old Boys through breeding. Then, you leave home, aged 4, to go to school at a posh public boarding school with a very expensive fee (around £20-25k a year). Then you make your way to an elite university with more than the academic entry requirements because you have the right background. Your friends are all of the same situation as you.  When you graduate from all your schooling, you become part of the Old Boys Network. This affiliation is like a club that puts you “ahead” of others in jobs, social status, etc. It not only limited to England. But I am writing about it as an American woman because its part of my life in Britain!

I teach harp at one of Yorkshire’s most elite colleges. It is a world of class ranking and old traditions I don’t understand well, because I am an outsider looking in. I have observed the Old Boys Networking in action with the annoying parents I deal with, the snooty events that are part of the college. Heck! I have even used it for my own advantage as in I’ve said :

“Oh you know so and so at (Old Boys School)! I am a teacher in the Old Boys School, could we make a deal on this house I want to rent… etc..” I tell you what, its one benefit of working in that type of elitist environment, because it really works!

I went straight to the source for you and interviewed a 30-year-old man about the situation to give you a clearer image of how it affects those of us that are not in the Old Boys game ie: me and the rest of the world.

Tell us about yourself.

What is this for again? When are we going to get coffee? Do only American women read your blog? um. I am a 30-year-old Male, British University Lecturer, single. I teach GPS. Can you write that I also own my own flat in Edinburgh because I can settle down in 5 years – who knows if I will still have a house or job though in this economy.

Are you an Old Boy?

No. I went to the wrong school. I was born in the wrong place and was born to the wrong people to be considered an Old Boy.

Do you like Old Boys when you meet them?

Um. In small doses they can be fine, however I spent most of my life resenting age-old barriers that were put in my way.

How do you know if a person is an Old Boy?

The first signs are his non-localised accent, (which he is encouraged to leave around age 4). Second, his varied and deep education, particularly to subjects that are off the national curriculum: Latin, choral singing and so on. From there, a quick couple of questions about where he is from and what he does generally confirms suspicions. Look out for the phrase “He’s one of us!” Whenever you hear it,  it tends to mean there is an Old Boy lurking about.

Have you felt a barrier in your career because you are not a member of the Old Boys Network?

Particularly when dealing with blue chip and large cooperate organisations.

Anything else you would like to add?

The important thing to know about the Old Boys Network is that it isn’t to do with money. More to do with breeding. For example. Wayne Rooney earns more then any of those Old Boys out there–but he will never become one of them. Despite the fact he owns more money and houses and so forth. These days I’ve comes to terms with the Old Boys network. It is there and its an important part of its history. It wouldn’t be the same country without them. I have found my own way to circumnavigate it as have many other successful business men. The real key is to make it work for you, not against you.

What about females, where do they fit in in all this?

Females are encouraged to marry off one of the Old Boys, although these days it might be changing I don’t know.

Right. Maybe that will clear up some of the confusion for anyone who is curious about the Old Boys Network, thanks!

How do the British celebrate Valentine’s Day? Very Quietly.

yahooavatar15Valentine’s Day in England. What could be done to celebrate and cheer up the atmosphere? Tonight at ASDA I was looking for some of those small Valentine’s Day Cards to give out to the kids I teach. An unidentified English informant said “OH NO. You cant do that. They are only for lovers. Child Safety will be all over you if you give kids Valentines!”

I typed into Google… “How do the British celebrate Valentine’s Day?”.

What came up first? Nudists can celebrate Valentine’s Day nude in pub

It didn’t take me too long to realize that a lack of definitive findings about what anyone in Britain really does on Valentine’s day seems to say that Brits celebrate it more quietly than America.

Well, unless you were alive sometime ago. According to this a website I found, in Great Britain on Valentine’s Day Eve, women used to pin four bay leaves to the corners of their pillow and eat eggs with salt replacing the removed yokes. They believed they would then dream of their future husbands.

Ok, that’s like, not what women do here anymore,  so where can I find out some more info?

So I decided to go right to the source: Mr. Chill, my English boyfriend. An interview:

Tell our readers a bit about you before we begin.

I am a Cumbrian in my late thirties, drive a Honda Civic and support Everton FC. I enjoy a fine single-malt whiskey on the night time.

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

I do now having had my eyes widened and opened by an American lady who celebrates EVERYTHING! I think that Valentine’s day is something that Brits reluctantly do , something that HAS to be done as opposed to something that British men feel fantastic and wonderful about. In fact this is how Valentine’s day IS  in Britain, we just don’t do big heart-felt speeches like you Americans do. British people are so reserved and held back that it is an understated event. People keep most of what they feel hidden deep down and then let 10% go free for Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day gifts sold online in the UK are HUGE.

Why?

Because British people feel strange going out and buying gifts– and if they are seen at Tesco’s it is embarrassing. You will see everyone looking left and right at the cards to see if anyone is looking at them. They want to get in and out FAST.

Does this mean my gift will be bought online?

That’s for me to know and you to wonder.

Anything else you want to tell people about Valentine’s Day in Britain?

That’s it. Oh and that everyone breathes a sigh of relief once the 15th arrives.

(So there you have it folks, words  straight from a British man– and of course, Happy Valentine’s Day!!)

"I hate eating turkey" says English boyfriend to American girlfriend on Thanksgiving

yahooavatar15Yawning, Stretching, and wishing the alarm wasn’t so early, 200,000 Americans will wake up in Britain today. (Gosh, can you believe there are so many of us here?)

Today, we will have one thing in common, because its Thanksgiving back home!

An interview:

“What is Thanksgiving again?” says Mr. Chill, my loved-up Northerner.

“Is it a festival of  Thanks or something? I remember seeing it in John Candy films. It sounds like a sneaky marketing opportunity. Am I going to be quoted on your blog about this?”

“Oh honey”, I say, “We’ve had this conversation last year– its where people celebrate what they are thankful for, remember?”

“Well, I hate eating turkey”, he says. “Its one of the ugliest creatures on the planet. Its so ugly it makes me sick to think of eating it. Its head is too small for its body and it has a bingo wing for a chin. If someone has said that all turkeys on this planet were going to be extinct, I wouldn’t be sad, I would even rather see rattlesnakes survive. Actually this is not a bad idea. Who were the pilgrims again? Is it a celebration about when they landed or something?”

So thus I start to explain why us Americans celebrate thanksgiving.

“When the pilgrims first landed upon our shores they encountered the first native people, who shared with them their harvest so … wait, look, here is a picture from google images!”

first-thanksgiving

“Hang on” he says, “What went wrong? I thought the pilgrims shot them all and became your gun-crazy Americans?”

“Never mind…”, I say, and give up trying to explain the logic of it.

This will be the first conversation of many that I will have trying to explain our Thanksgiving celebrations today.