Trying to emigrate to the UK? Student visas might not be the answer any more…

» Student immigration levels unsustainable – BBC News

According to immigration minister, Damien Green, the current UK immigration system is ‘largely out of control’.

Translate: Getting in to the UK might be about to get harder. AGAIN.

The article focuses mostly on student visas and throws around some craaaaazy statistics.  For example:

  • In 2004, 21% of students were still in the UK 5 years on
  • In 2009, net migration increased by 33,000
  • In 2009 the number of student visas issued went up by 35%

Also interestingly – Sally Hunt (General secretary of the University and College Union) was quoted as saying,

“Damian Green is making his speech today after returning from a trip to India where he encouraged students to come to the UK.”

Looks like dandy D. Green is a little turned around :) .  I have my opinions about immigration just like the next Shamerican, but this blog isn’t about you guys having to put up with my policital ranting.

Nope, it’s about being an EXPAT, and this article makes my stomach a little quesy.  Why?  Because in 2004, I walked into the UK because of my student visa.  And in 2010 I’m still here…

I’m hitched with my tent pitched now, so I’m not worried about me getting the boot.  But my heart squeezes for anyone looking for their red-tape-loop-hole right now.  Googling ideas non stop and stressing about it every time it floats to the front of their mind.

I’ve been there… I’ve been RIGHT there.  Wondering how I was going to get in.  And once I was in, wondering how in the Bo-Jangles I was going to stay.

What do you lovely ladies think?  Is anyone out there filling out the student paperwork even as we speak?  And what I’m really interested in knowing is – How many of you got in to the UK on a student visa like I did?

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…

Gordon Brown lost the election, but he’s still the Prime Minister. Wait… what?

yankeebean

This was the first election that I’ve been privy to in the UK (although I couldn’t vote in it which is still annoying me right this very second).

The whole process was deliciously British!  Including classic like:

  • Even though Labour and G-dog-Brown lost, Gordon Brown is still the Prime Minister for the moment – who in God’s name made up that rule??
  • BECAUSE G-dog is still ruling the roost, there’s been lots of mention about the UK’s unwritten Constitution.  I asked Mr Nice Guy how that worked, but he didn’t really know.  How do we know what the rules are if there’s no written constitution?  Wikipedia provides a nice clear explanation, but I still find it pretty stymieing.
  • At the core, politicians are all very similar, no matter what country they’re from.  A week after arguing with (and slagging off) Nick Clegg in the political debates, David Cameron is now trying to politically seduce him into forming a government.
  • There was a political scandal about people not getting to vote because the queues were too long!  The fact that the scandal involved queuing just seems so right somehow.  (Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s redonkulus that people were cut off – you know it was all the Lib Dem-ers, too – young, hip and late.)

I’m completely gutted that I couldn’t vote – I haven’t applied for citizenship yet (don’t have a spare 750.00 quid laying around).  Who knows, maybe I’ll get to have my say in the next one…

When you feel embarrassed (and then guilty) about other fellow Americans in Britain

peacefulyorkshire

peacefulyorkshire

Dear Readers,

Do you ever have moments when as a Shamerican * you stumble across a fellow American in Britain that do things that are really embarrassing? Sometimes it happens when an American speaks really loudly with a very jarring American twang: “Hey Bob, look that stone bridge over there! It is from 1109, did you hear that Bob, the bridge is from 1109 –Mary would love that, bedder gedder a picture!!”

Or sometimes you get Americans in the UK that are more shocking in London, like on the tube, at 11am.  I knew she was American before she spoke. You can just tell. It was her overstuffed ‘Jansport’ backpack, a huge hoodie that that said ‘University of Texas Beta theta Phi Kappa Delta (or whateveh the hell those sororities are called ). But this isn’t about her wardrobe.

This American gal opened her bible up to the New Testament and attempted to read very loudly to other passengers around her on the carriage.   I know, brave!! But oh, lovely readers, the reaction was NOT PRETTY. One guy whispered to his girlfriend: Bloody Americans trying to push herself on us, what’s she on about? Got to give my fellow unabashed countrywoman credit. She just kept on reading and reading and reading— tube stop after tube stop….I did find myself very embarrassed for her.

Clearly she had no clue about how the British do things,  I mean she should really have a crash course in the ‘British way’ because let’s just say that preaching on a tube is not gonna win over any Jesus freaks, well, at least it’s not likely, anyhow.**

I can’t help it. Sometimes I see another American and feel embarrassed for them as they try to negotiate their way in this country. After all, I am American too, and have made a mess of it in the past, this blog will testify to that! The steps usually go like this when I see an embarrassing American.

1) Shame for finding a fellow American, a compatriot so embarrassing

2) Guilt because I really am finding them embarrassing,

3)  I tell myself to stop being so damn snobby and just laugh (the best step– but sadly it takes going through steps 1 and 2 to reach this point.)

4) Complex comes over me where I want to protect these lost souls from stepping into it even more.

5) I usually text fellow blogger Yankeebean an OMG story and we cringe

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* We have unofficially nominated Shamerican as our term to replace ‘expat’ on occasion. We do not however, have any affiliation with this very intriguing website !!!

** Still trying to figure out (while writing this post) what the best way to win ‘Jesus Freaks’ over would be in this country. After 5 years I still could not give that American gal suggestions.

Feeling homesick? Why even the embarrassing American tourists might be your answer. Click here

Self-deprecation: A trixie little minx

yankeebean

yankeebean

If you (like me) are an American woman, living in England, married to an English man, having trouble making English women friends – here’s a tip for you.

Experiment (carefully) with self-deprecation.

You all know by now that I’ve had never-ending issues making good friends that are both female and English.  English but not female?  No problem.  Female but not English?  Nothin’ but net.  English AND female?  I’m an alien from outer space.

But there’s been a positive development in my handicap with befriending British women – self-deprecation.

It doesn’t have to be much, I’m not saying, “My God, I am just SHITE and EVERYTHING, I am such a WASTE of SPACE, I’m taking up VALUABLE OXYGEN that better people could be USING…” – but it seems that a little self-deprecation goes a long way.

I must admit, it doesn’t come naturally to me… I’ve spent my whole life working in an industry where self-deprecation = weakness = no work = no cash = no food = die (well, not DIE, I’d probably just have to move back in with my parents…).  I mean, there’s enough free criticism out there to knock any wobbly ego off its pedestal faster than you can say “American Gladiators”… why invite it in to bash you in the face?

Anyway, I’m starting to ramble…

Before

So, this is how it used to go when I met a new Brit-chick:

  • I introduce myself and shake their hand
  • I ask what they do
  • I make a comment about how that sounds interesting
  • They say something equivalent to, “Oh, it’s nothing, really”
  • They ask me what I do
  • They make a comment about how that sounds interesting
  • I say something like, “Yeah, I really love it – it’s the best job ever”
  • The conversation eventually either dribbles, grinds or jolts to a halt…

After

This is how it works now (only one small difference):

  • I introduce myself and shake their hand
  • I ask what they do
  • I make a comment about how that sounds interesting
  • They say something equivalent to, “Oh, it’s nothing, really”
  • They ask me what I do
  • They make a comment about how that sounds interesting
  • I say something like, “Oh, I dunno, you haven’t heard me yet, you’ll have to make up your own mind” (note: I’m a voice-over artist)
  • The conversation ambles along reasonably well for awhile

I don’t know exactly why it works and I don’t give a rip snort – but it definitely warms the atmosphere.  I get a kind of ‘you’re one of us’ vibe once the deed is done.  Of course, deep down I believe the people that don’t like my stuff either have different taste, or they’re just wrong.  But if I didn’t feel that way, the Industry American Gladiator would’ve WHOOPED my ass by now…

But beware!

A word of warning to all the confident, outstanding, feisty-sass-pots out there – don’t fall for your own bad press.  Self-deprecation is just a tool to crack the ice – we all know you’re awesome, really :)

PS – On the flip side of the foreign currency, Americans seem to HATE self-deprecation.  People tend to either try and big you up, or tell you to stop fishing for compliments.  I wonder if there are any American kids named Confidence…

When random British people (that you’ve only just met) tell you what is wrong with America

yahooavatar15Imagine meeting a British person for the first time. Imagine introducing yourself, answering all the questions that you get asked as a foreigner– like having to tell your “America to England” story for the zillionth time. Now, imagine randomly saying to this British person that you have only just met that people in Britain have  bad teeth. Real, real, bad teeth.That you have never been to a country where people have such bad teeth. That you saw this one 15 year old kid on the train and you COULDN”T believe he had such BAD TEETH. Now I am sure you are horrified about doing that, right? No, that would be so rude!  Plus could you imagine the wrath? It is hard enough making female friends in Britain!

Well, for whatever reason, some British people love to point out America’s flaws to me during our first meeting. Like today–a 6o-ish woman from Harrogate decided to tell me that she had NEVER SEEN so much obesity in her life as when she went to America. That she was on this train where she saw this 15 year old kid and he was SO FAT! That she couldn’t believe how many obese people were in America. That she couldn’t imagine how unhealthy THOSE FAT PEOPLE OVER IN AMERICA are.

Running through my head as Mrs. Harrogate ranted at me: Hello? have you seen all the white muffin tops pouring out of jeans in Leeds City Centre  lately, honey? There are fat people here too, and it seems its getting worse according to obesity reports!”

I wish I were brave enough to say that!  But instead, while smiling politely I said “It is just a different lifestyle there, isn’t it? You must excuse me while I go get some milk for my tea…”

Now then, lovely readers! Why would someone decide to tell me this to me, an American? Am I responsible for America’s obesity? Do I even LIVE IN AMERICA anymore? How would I be an expert about America’s weight issues? (I have enough of my own!). Sometimes I think that I have to defend America all the time, and I am so tired of it. Please tell me that you have to take the ‘blame bullet’ too?

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P.S.  I don’t really think that all British people have bad teeth. That was used for example purposes only, and is used to represent a silly stereotype that people have of other countries.

P.S.S. I forgot to say that the afore mentioned lady from Harrogate had only visited Florida. And that was it!

P.S.S.S. On a ‘let’s blame America!’ related topic: Why are dinner parties with your British friends so much nicer now that Obama is in the White house? Click here

Converting an American recipe to British is tougher than you think!

redlillocksFirstly, I’d just like to thank the amazing ladies of SNFY for once again allowing me to contribute as a guest blogger and get some of my frustrations off my chest. Beats anger management classes anyday! You girls ROCK I tell ya.— REDLILOCKS

Autumn Baking…

Hey did anyone notice those couple of days of sunshine we had over the past few months? Yes, that is what they call here The British Summer. I know, I know, I almost missed it as well. I have to admit moving from Southeast England to the Northwest, I never realised that when people said it was cold and rainy in Manchester that they actually meant it! I just figured people were exaggerating (I mean, the whole country rains, right?). Well, much to my surprise, they weren’t. Dreams of pretty cotton dresses and drinking Mojitos in the sunshine never entirely materialised but as the weather turns, I find myself with new fantasies to occupy my time. Warm knits, knee high boots with opaque tights, snugly scarves and that cool nip in the evening air that tells you that autumn is well and truly upon us.

Despite our rather sorry stint of truly warm weather, I actually quite like the cool crisp September weather and having a taste of home the other day, I decided I wanted to make a Zucchini Cake. There’s nothing like a bit of baking to warm up the house and remind you of cozy nights in with hot mugs of tea and a bit of baking from scratch. As you probably know, they are called ‘Courgettes’ here (we Americans use the Italian word, the British use the French) but as it is, after all, an American recipe, I decided it’s only right to use its proper American name.

Now I do quite a bit of cooking in this country but it was first time I was going to actually attempt to BAKE. With my fabulous boyfriend’s (we’ll call him Mr. Lovely) vast array of culinary equipment and ingredients to hand (he’s a great cook) I decided it would be a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

I knew, of course, the ingredients would be in imperial measurements but I was confident that with a bit of conversion using metric kitchen scales, I could easily manage the recipe – no problem. Well, the issue wasn’t the conversion. It was the ingredients.

My conversation with Mr. Lovely went something like this:

Sitting in the living room, I called out to Mr. Lovely in the kitchen, “Can we get ‘All Purpose flour’ here?”

Mr. L responded, calling back, “What’s ‘All purpose flour’?”

“I don’t know, I guess it’s just regular flour.”

“Umm. Yeah I would think so. Is that the same as Self-Raising Flour? I have some of that.”

I didn’t like the sound of flour that rose on its own willpower. “Self-Raising flour? Hmm. I don’t think so.”

Mr. L, already tired of the exchange, assured me, “It’s okay, we can nip to the shop and get some.”

“Ok…” I went back to my recipe but only for a moment. “What about Baking Soda?” I called again.

“Do you mean Bicarbonate of Soda?”

I thought about it for a second. I know I’ve heard of Bicarbonate of Soda but I’d never eaten it. “I think so. Aggy and Kim use it to clean everything; I think it’s the same thing…” I went back to the ingredient list.

I called again, “What about Baking Powder?”

It was at this point that Mr. L, realising this may be an extended conversation, came into the living room. “What’s Baking Powder?”

“I think it helps the cake to rise. Or wait, is that what Baking Soda does?”

“Well, that’s what self-raising flour does.”

“Ahh right. Do you think I can skip both of those then if I use the self-raising flour?”

“I’m sure you can. It’ll be fine, just use the self-raising flour,” he assured me. He’s good like that.

I pondered this for a second. “Wonder why we don’t use self-raising flour in the States? Seems a lot easier….” Back to the ingredient list again. “What about white sugar?”

Mr. L crinkled his brow. “What do they mean by white sugar?”

I shrugged. “I think they mean just regular sugar.”

Mr. L went back into the kitchen and brought back a white packet. “I have caster sugar,” he announced.

I looked inside the packet, examining the tiny crystals. “Hmm – this is a bit finer than regular sugar. Do you think it’ll be okay if I use this?”

“Yeah, it’ll be okay.” (I swear that should be his motto, he says it to me so often.)

“Ok, I’m sure it’ll be fine,” I said, reassured. “Oh wait, the frosting takes confectioner’s sugar. Can you get that in this country?”

“Never heard of it. What about icing sugar?”

“I don’t know. This is a soft icing, it’s not gonna go hard is it?”

By this point Mr. L put his hands on his head. “ Arghhh I don’t know…” and walked out of the room.

It was clear by this point, I was on my own!

Now, my dear readers, let me tell you that in the end, despite all the guessing and against all the odds, the cake came out rather fantastically well – I know, no one is more shocked than me. Turns out all my substitutions worked a treat. However, next time there’s a chill in the air and I fancy a bit of baked scrummy goodness, I might just save all the hassle and go to Greggs instead.

Want to see Redlilocks other popular guest post? Click here

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”)

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

Life in Yorkshire: Needing the Sunshine Like a Druggie Needs Cocaine

yahooavatar15I admire British people that remain in the UK. I really do. Apart from generally being very polite in public, well-spoken and generally un-offensive, they also kindly put up with the UK weather system in a very dignified way. And probably have been doing so their whole life.  I gotta give it to them, they handle the weather very gracefully. Not like me!

In general the weather up here in North Yorkshire miffs me off. I get angry at it. I blame the cloudy weather for my bad moods. I complain about it to Mr. Chill, my English man on a regular basis (I know– poor man!). I take holidays to Spain that I shouldn’t. I rant about the grey clouds in my psychotherapy sessions. I curse my seasonal chilblains. This hate I have is not going to be solved with a  sunlamp, chillblain cream, or by admitting I  have SAD year round. Nah, its just I hate the weather here in Yorkshire. Period. The weather and I are mortal enemies. Let’s put it this way. If you were to go back in time  ‘Back to the Future style’ and put us both in the Roman Collosseum to duke it out, I would put up a huge fight and aim to kill.  But the UK weather would still win.

I  grew up in the middle of the desert so I need the sunshine like a druggie needs cocaine. I crave it.  I bloom in the heat. Its just my Puerto Rican blood that the sun needs to run through my vains. Its just another thing about moving to the UK, you just gotta accept the weather (which I am trying, I am trying!). But that doesn’t mean I will EVER love it. Not a chance little darlin, not a chance!

A Reader in London Ponders a Return Back to her Native Texas

yahooavatar15Us three ladies on this blog get to know many of your worries. We’re glad that you can trust us enough to share your thoughts and troubles-we get many stories about your experiences in the UK. Believe us, we love it and don’t mind if you need a place to vent (see our strap line above for verification!). In our short 6 months of blogging we have 6,000 readers a month now come visit us and some leave us stories (we’re chuffed!). From your worries about UK visa approval, to your British partner’s hygiene, to your homesickness, to your long-distance trans- Atlantic relationships, to being broke and not having enough to eat, to not being able to get a job, to not making friends in the UK, to moving your child here, to the bad weather, to ranting about Bed and Breakfast etiquette (oh wait, that last one was just me)— WE’VE READ IT ALL!

From our About page Lisa writes:

“hi, I’m glad I found this site too! I’m an american who has lived in Greater London for 9 years now (married a brit). In all this time, I still haven’t met any good friends (keep in mind, we have a 6yo daughter so I’ve been and done all the baby/toddler group mingling as well). I’ve got 1 friend, if you can call her that, whom I go shopping with occasionally and that is it…and she only calls me when her man isn’t busy spending time/money with her. The “aloofness” of UK girls is REALLY getting to me…I want to find some girlfriends who will just open up and chat, chat, chat! Because I feel isolated, I often find myself wanting to uproot and take my daughter back to Texas so I can see my parents and friends again. It is so hard b/c financially, my husband and I are better here. We have an age gap and he would find it too difficult/expensive in TX. So if I did move, he’d stay here. That would NOT be good for our daughter….so I’m feeling very torn right now. Any tips how to get over all this??”

Lisa, I completely understand your feelings! In fact, we have posted about some of these situations ourselves. Just know you are NOT ALONE! You might find some of our posts helpful:

So, in closing and as we grow in readership I want to ask the sassy-brilliant-and-smart-as -a-whip-She’s Not From Yorkshire community what would you answer to Lisa in London?