I am not flirting with you. I am just American.

Hello friendly coffee shop man, I’d like latte, please.

Yes, I’ll have a friendly chat with you.  It’s nice to shoot-the-shizzle while I’m waiting for my glorious latte.

Wait.

Waitwaitwait.  No, now you’re flirting with me.

Nono.

Crap.

When did ‘chat’ become ‘flirt’?  Now I have to cool off so you don’t think I’m flirting back.  I’ll put my wedding ring frosted hand on the counter for good measure.

———————————————————————————————————

Does this happen to anyone else??  My friendly Americanness keeps backfiring and innocent chats turn into weird hot-potato situations where I start trying to throw people’s flirtation back at them without having to touch it.

Do English people hate talking about money so much that someone is REFUSING TO PAY ME??

I woke up today to a ridiculous email from a friend (a friend!) I’ve been collaborating with.  I don’t mention it often, but I’m a musician and I do a lot of remote recording work.  My friend (FRIEND!?) and I just finished working on a ten track album on which I worked on 9 out of the ten songs.

I do this kind of thing all the time and usually with people I’ve never met.  So what I USUALLY do (very sensibly) is arrange a contract first and everyone signs it before I record a note.  But THIS time it was for an English friend so I thought we could just talk money once I’d finished.  What. A. FOOL.

When we came to talk percentages / royalties ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE and now I can’t see past my fury enough to figure out if he’s:

a) Over-reacting

b) A d-bag

or c) Rendered useless by money-talk because of his Britishness

Here’s what happened:

He emailed me to ask about contracts / percentages, etc.  I emailed back suggesting slightly high figures so he could barter me down to what I actually wanted.  Based on my past 10 years of experience – this is how it’s always done.  But here’s his response:

I think I wasn’t expecting any of this and in reality this album wont me making you or I any money.

Really?  Nobody every told me…

I won’t be making any formal agreement with percentages or sales in regards to the songs.

OH, GOOD.  I thought you were going to make this difficult.

I think you will have to accept the original terms – you did this because you wanted to play these songs, not for any financial reward.

What??   I  mean yes, I love music and yes, I like his songs – but I can’t pay my bills with the Sound of Music (unless the hills come alive and pay my mortgage)

You cannot now be asking for percentages and so forth when it was clear from the start I would not be paying you for your contribution to the album.

Um… yes I can.  Because no it wasn’t.

This is the same as a dentist doing a filling and his patient telling him he should accept payment as HIS LOVE OF TEETH.

So cast your votes, expats!  Is he a) over-reacting, b) d-bagging or c) paralysed by the fear of talking about moolah.

How do you connect with your English man’s friends? VERY SLOWLY.

I read an email from one of our fab-oo-luss readers and it’s definitely worth sharing.  I’ve been through this, and I know from past comments and emails that some of our readers have, too.

The question is:

How do you connect with your English man’s friends?

Here’s the email in it’s entirety:

Dear Yankeebean and all you lovely ladies from SNFY,

I’m having a slight problem with English culture I was hoping you might help me with over a blog post.

I’m an American doing my MA in London, and met a really great English guy shortly after I arrived. We’ve been dating 9 months now. He’s from London and doing his MA here as well, although at a different uni. My question for you is how to connect with his English friends. I’ll tell you more back-story so you can better understand my predicament.

My boyfriend’s close friends are mainly from his undergrad time, and although they all live in London, they don’t see each other very often, but when they do, they all get together for a huge gathering of about 15 people. They are all really close and more than half of them are actually dating each other. I’ve come along to about four of these gatherings now, and I’m having a hard time getting to know them, as they don’t make much effort to get to know me, and I’m quite shy as it is. Usually what happens is that they arrive, ask me the obligatory ‘How are you? How’s uni?” questions and then all talk together in a group about English topics I know nothing about, or reminisce about old university times. Other significant others who come along don’t seem to have this problem, as they aren’t afraid to chime in on the topics about England, whereas I have no idea what they are talking about. Even when I’ve spoken to a few of them one-on-one, which is usually easier, I’m the one doing all the effort, asking them all the questions about themselves (Although I must say, this is usually more true for my conversations with the women than with the men.) I guess my question is, is there some sort of unspoken English rule about how to actually converse in large groups in England? Any advice on how to get past the “How are you?” stage? I realize that it’s always hard being the newcomer at a gathering of old friends, but I thought that by the fourth time meeting them and 9 months into dating him, his friends would be making more of an effort to get to know the girl he’s crazy about. It wasn’t even until last time that one thought to ask where I’m from in the States!

Since I’m a student in London, most of the people I’ve met are actually foreigners as well, so I really haven’t had much experience with English social norms. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now whenever I miss home, and always laugh at your insight into English behaviour. I’ve even just bought “Watching the English” on your recommendation. I was hoping it would arrive in time for me to prepare for the last get together (it was yesterday), but it didn’t :( I did start reading it today, though, and already found that I’ve been going about talking about the weather all wrong this whole time! :)

Thanks again for the great blog. Love it!

Cheers,
NotLongInLondon

And here it is again – that age old question, “How the FLIPPING HECK am I supposed to talk to new English acquaintances??”.  I feel for you, NotLongInLondon, I really do.  I’ve been there.  In fact, I’m tempted to buy property there since I visit so often…

There’s a post by one of our guest authors, Redilocks, about just this topic – How to Make Friends and Influence People (English Style).  It’s a step-by-step guide about how to meet English people without scaring the shite out of them with your natural American-ness.  In fact, it was after I read this post that I started complimenting English women when I first met them.  IT TOTALLY WORKS.  I still get the odd alien laser death glare, but they’re much less common these days…

But if you want proof that you’re already doing a grand job of working your way in to your boyfee’s UK crowd, read this comment from a past post.  One of our readers, Michelle, remains the victim of the rudest and most unbelievable encounter that I’ve ever heard of between an American and an English woman.  After you read Michelle’s experience, I know you’ll feel better about your attempts, because it sounds like it’s actually going pretty well for you.

My final word of advice, and my own person attack in situations where I can’t seem to turn the tide in my favour is this.  Channel your inner  ninja, sit, and listen.  Don’t worry about talking or chiming in, just sit back and observe what’s going on.  If you have something to say, go for it, but don’t stress about it.  I think the ultimate key to hanging out with an already-established group of Brits is time, time, and more time.  Just keep going back, be patient, and you’ll wear ‘em down soon enough.  :)

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.

Take your UK planning permission and shove it up your arse

Back up, expats – I’ve got mah BITCH on.

I just finished watching Grand Designs (The one about the couple that built a super modern boat-house type thing right on the Thames).  The finished product was a real stunner – modern, but sensitive to its surroundings.  It was beige-y, river-y and awesome-y.  In short, I lurved it.

What is planning permission?  Wikipedia says that “Planning permission or planning consent is the permission required in the United Kingdom in order to be allowed to build on land, or change the use of land or buildings.

The people in this episode didn’t actually have any trouble with getting planning permission – but their heinous neighbours couldn’t seem to believe that such a MONSTROSITY could POSSIBLY be built among their chocolate-box houses.  There were petitions and council-led meetings and the build was fought at every turn by their neighbours (who now hate the completed house AND the new residents, too, just for extra arse-points).  They used words like ‘monstrosity’, ‘blight’, ‘disaster’, ‘ruination’, ‘It’s DESTROYED the space/street/block/area/county/country/planet/universe’.

You get the idea.

Even though the council backed the new build in the end, watching this episode reminded me how OUTRAGEOUS I find the idea of planning permission in the UK.

Rationally, I get it (SORT of):

  • England wouldn’t look like England without planning permission – it keeps it all lookin’ England-style
  • It helps to protect valuable conservation (countryside and farm land)
  • It helps to protect residential areas from fusty industrial development

But deep down, the American Revolutionary in me can’t believe that I could buy some land, 100% own that land, but some Suit with an official stamp and an architectural attitude could proceed to tell me what I am and am not allowed to do with it.

I’m going to have my own mini Boston Tea Party in protest!  I’m going to go get all the tea bags I have in my kitchen and THROW THEM IN A PUDDLE.  (Please note: No tea bags were harmed in the writing of this blog post and I don’t advocate littering so please do clean up after yourselves if you have your own mini Boston Tea Parties).

As far as I’m aware there are building CODES in America, but there’s no Big Brother telling you that your window frames have MUST be white and your extension HAS to made of Bath stone.

Can we weigh in on this one, peeps?  Am I the only one that breaks out in hives every time someone mentions planning permission?

The WORST fake English accents: Why don’t they just hire British actors to play British characters??

I’m at the stage at my stay here in the UK that I don’t really hear the British accent anymore.  Unless it’s a strong local-y sounding one (Yorkshire, Bristol, Scouse, Geordie), it washes right over me.

But when they hire an American, an Irish person or an Australian to play a Brit – OH! – Mine ears, they do tremble.  Why don’t they just hire Brits??  Especially since they’re cheap labour

I’ve been doing some Googling to find some evidence, and I’ve come up with the following 3 heinous examples:

Anne Hathaway in One Day

Bless her heart, I love Anne Hathaway in almost everything she ever touches (yes, this includes the Princess Diaries 2).  But how can I keep track of what’s going on in a film with this strange Ameri-cockney-yorkshire accent beast staring me down?

Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta

I’m also a huge lover of Natalie Portman – she’s a freaking genius and most things she touches turn to golden box office successes.  But her ACCENT!  Ohmygee, her accent.  That’ll be ten Pledge of Allegiances and a whole cheese pizza as penance, Nat-Port.

Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins

No list of crappest-Brit-accents would be complete without Dickie-boo!

I love this movie.  MY GOD, I love this movie.   I live in eternal hope that one day I’ll find a handbag big enough to keep a floor lamp in.  But Dick Van Dyke really set the bar in terms of heinous accents.  It doesn’t ruin the over all movie for me, though – probably because it’s all so cartoony and his accent is, too.


Part of me gets it.  Directors have a specific actor in mind and they bring them in regardless of their stubborn American twang.  It’s distracting, though – there’s nowt to be done about it!

I know it isn’t a one-way train.  There are plenty of Brits doing heinous American accents out there (except for Hugh Laurie, of course.  He sounds more American than I do), but for some reason I don’t tend to find bad American accents as distracting.  Now that I mention it, I should give a shout out Gweneth Paltrow who throws a seriously excellent English accent in my opinion.

What about you guys?  Can you stand it?  Have I missed any obvious ‘worst English accent ever’ candidates?  Or what about bad American accents?  I can’t think of any off the top of my head…

 

Oh no… here come more broad sweeping generalisation from people who I thought were my friends…

Every time America is in the news, I find myself unfriending someone else from  Facebook.  I’m starting to see a pattern here…

As we all now know, Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan – it’s big big big news.  Some people are celebrating, some are anxious about the possible retaliation that we have to prepare for and pretty much everyone I know is talking about it on Facebook.

Comments on my Facebook page are all fairly similar.  People are talking about Obama’s speech and several people have mentioned that they think this will cinch his re-election.  Anyway, it’s obvious that Bin Laden won’t be missed…

But there was also this:

Alright – place your bets. Who’s going to be the next bete noire for the USA? There must always be a figurehead to strike fear into the witless populace and make them willingly give up their freedom.

WHY do people think it’s ok to make broad sweeping generalisations about Americans??  If something like this was said about someone’s race, gender or sexuality it would be completely unacceptable.  But not the Americans… we’re open game to anyone with a chip on their shoulder.

The truth is, I expect to hear stupid comments like this sometimes – it’s all part of the joys of being an expat no matter where you live or where you’re from. The thing that throws me is when someone that I like(d) says crap like this…

Sigh…

Does your British man kiss their guy friends on the mouth?

yankeebean

There’s been another out cry from a fellow expat and I’m opening it up to you lovely She’s not from Yorkshire ladies.  One reader is American, living in South Korea and dating a British expat there.  She’s said that he’s lovely, and funny and adventurous, but does one thing that makes her uncomfortable.

I am concerned about his overly affectionate behaviour with his mates. I just don’t understand it. And I don’t know if it’s just a British thing? Help!

When we’re out, him and one of his best mates will kiss each other (fairly regularly and it’s pretty over the top and drawn out). I find it rather unsettling so I broached the subject one day. He told me that they kiss each other ‘because they love each other’, as well as to get a reaction and he also said that he thinks it’s an acting/theatre thing (they’re both actors).

He said there are other guys AND girls he’s done this with back in England, but it’s not romantic or sexual. He’s also very openly affectionate/cuddly/huggy with his friends (including the guys).

It makes me uncomfortable, but at the same time I don’t want to change who he is.

I want to know if this kind of behaviour is more common with British men – do they tend to be more physically and verbally open and affectionate with their friends? I’ve never seen this kind of thing with American guys so it really puzzles me. I think I also need to make it clear that it’s unacceptable for him to continue doing this with the girls he used to openly kiss now that we’re in a relationship (even if it doesn’t mean a thing!)

If you’re able to give me your opinion and/or any advice, I would truly appreciate it as I’m at a loss.

Well, I would be uncomfortable if Mr. Nice Guy was doing any more than giving someone a peck on the cheeck.  Man / woman, it doesn’t matter – those lips are mine…  But I also know that Mr. Nice Guy isn’t openly affectionate, he’s never liked PDA.  We hold hands, or have a little smooch in public, but other than that, it’s saved for when we’re on our own.  So if I saw him doing this, it would be TOTALLY out of character.

I ran with the theatre crowd when I was in high school and I can easily imagine my guy friends back home doing this kind of stuff.  I think it still would have made me uncomfortable, though.  Hugs?  Fine.  Cuddling?  Borderline.  Kissing?   Nonononooo.  Maybe I’m just possessive, though.

What do you think, ladies?  Does your British man kiss other male/female friends?

***********UPDATE***************

Thanks to Carolina.firefly who posted a link in the comments to a Guardian article about straight men kissing more.  It proves you’re not alone, lovely reader!

My friends have started blaming America again – the honeymoon is over…

yankeebean

It’s happened twice in the last week, and I wonder if it’s only the beginning.

Two of my friends posted properly mean stuff about Americans – two separate but equal mini rants (via Facebook status updates).  The first rant ended with ‘Bloody Americans…’ and the second ended with ‘Stupid Americans…’

Now, I don’t have a stick up my arse or anything, I can take a joke.  But these two rants really weren’t very nice and I was a little bit offended.  In both instances I rallied for the cause and defended my nation!  Using myself as a (hopefully) good example of a real, 3D American that isn’t stupid.

Both of my friends’ reactions were the same, too.  They both said, ‘Oh, I forgot that you’re American!’  Then they both said something like, ‘I’ll make an exception in your case’.

That really got my hackles up…  my complaint is two-fold.

  1. They FORGOT that I’m American??  Is seven years all it takes for people to forget your nationality and start verbally crapping all over your country right in front of you?
  2. They’ll make an exception???  Oh… *bow*… *scrape*… how GENEROUS of you to make an exception and allow me out of the American slum and onto the golden streets of the UK

What a coupla noobs.  I hope everyone I know hasn’t been keeping a tight lip about their real feelings about Americans for the past seven years.  If so, things are going to do downhill fast.

And what will I do about it?  Cup of tea, of course…

When British people try to imitate your accent ( Do I sound like that? SERIOUSLY!?)

forensic spiceHanging out with the English is so much fun, yet there almost indefinitely comes a time during a night out where your American accent is attempted by a Brit. Suddenly, as you are telling a story, you get your American accent parroted back to you by your UK friend(s):

Them: “Hee-low, Iyme Amereycan, aynd Iye lyke yew!” (in the most nasal voice EVER)

You: “Yeah, thanks a lot.”

Them: No hard feelings, just “taking the piss” mate!

Whether you are an American in Yorkshire, London, or Wales, you’ll know what I’m describing. What do you do in these situations? The first option is to get annoyed and/or embarrassed. The second option is to laugh.

Have you ever tried the British accent in a UK group? You’ll likely get laughed at. If they get to do it, well then, so do we!

This phenomenon is only indicative of the American-UK relationship. Can you imagine your Nigerian or Swedish friends doing this? Or you doing it back? Probably not. So join in the fun on something that makes your UK experience differentiated from any other country.

Roll down a fake car window and parrot back in your best Yorkshire accent! Excuse me Sir, but do you have any Grey Poupon?”

Forensic Spice is one of our newsest guest bloggers and is a Californian now living in Yorkshire.