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…

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?

When an American in Britain moves to South America (with a British man): a countryless situation.

peacefulyorkshire

We plan on returning to Yorkshire , my British man (Mr. Chill)  and I, but for the next three months  are living in South America. My Ph.D. requires field work study that cannot be done on the fair island. Not that  I am unhappy about a new adventure! We have packed all of our stuff into an overpriced storage unit in Yorkshire (that shockingly costs as much as our rent in South America) and have made the move.

This is Mr. Chill’s first time living in another place besides England.   I can relate wholeheartedly when he misses British things I find true to his nationality (well how can I talk? I missed Swiss Miss cocoa, Fruity Pebbles and Mac and Cheese for goodness sake. Bleh!). Mr, Chill misses the lack of British organisation to keep things running ‘smoothly’. He misses British Leicestershire, Cheshire and Gloucestershire cheeses that are nowhere to be found here and ‘rule following’ people. He misses quality single malt scotch, dark pubs, mega-stores like Tesco and cinemas in English.  As for me, after two weeks the Latin-ness in my blood is rejoicing. England? As far away as a dream.

I won’t lie and say I miss being in England. I don’t. It is refreshing to be away from rules of class and feeling like I am insulting people all the time by just being myself. For the first time in a  long time my awkwardness in social settings is gone. I don’t miss the dreary grey skies (Mr. Chill does…). I love being able to be out at the weekends and not see drunk people puking and wreaking havoc on the streets. God, I now live in one of the most dangerous South American countries and I feel safer here than I do in Yorkshire on a Saturday night.  I like that on average there are 2 protests here a day in the city. I like that because it means people here aren’t complacent and are wanting to be heard. Many care what happens in their often-corrupt government and will not be silent. Having suffered a military coup and then an economic crisis. People don’t seem to have the barriers of polite self-consciousness that I find in England. Directness is always my cuppa anyway so I love this.

But hey, I know that the things I find to be shackles of ‘British living’ come with the package of choosing England. Everything has a price and that is the cost I pay to have the wonderful things there like the great man I have met, a career I have built from nothing , the many friends and lovely family of Mr. Chill’s I have become close to. The clean quiet order of the life I found there.

By contrast, our South American life is not ordered, nor quiet. Where we  live now is ripe with poverty on our doorstep while chaotic traffic zooms past. We can’t ignore the hungry.  People sleep on our doorstep at night and rummage through our trash at night looking for things to eat or reuse. Packs of  dogs roam the streets with no owners to claim them.

When a local asks Where are you from? I answer I am American. But  I am not a clear cut woman identified by habits from my birth nation.  As if living in England has cleansed me  from claiming any nationality outright– and I wouldn’t have realised that until we arrived here. The hardest thing I did not expect is the inability to find a ‘country’ to claim as my cultural identity. Living in Britain I was always ‘the American’. Here, I am not.

And and I certainly don’t feel in anyway British– although the social mores I have learned there stick to me like a rash. Like the unrecognisable reserved nature that has become me when meeting new people, my ability to have patience in lines, my allegiance to the BBC and the way I can  just about master the  fork in my left hand. I said to myself just this morning, who is this countryless lady that is now me?

But, for now I enjoy my confusion and  soak in the rich Latin American culture of my heritage. I will continue to blog as an ex-pat from my new temporary place and —well, just enjoy being  myself, countryless lay-deh and all.

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…

Healthcare Reform from an expat’s point of view

yankeebean

Well, this week history was made (again!) by Barack Obama.  On 22nd March the Healthcare Reform Bill was passed in the Us of A…

I’ve seen it on the news again and again.  I’ve seen the ‘discussions’ (fights/soapbox speeches/propaganda) on Facebook and Twitter.  I’ve developed my own opinions and arguments about what I think is right.  But I’m not gong to talk about any of that now…

You’ve probably noticed by now that this isn’t a political blog :)

But I’ve just spent the past 2 hours up to my neck in White House reports, news articles and blogs about the Healthcare Reform Bill.  It was high-time I got myself an edu-ma-cation about this matter that’s happening thousands of miles away in a country that I don’t live in anymore – but where I still cast my vote.

Being in the UK means that friends and family in America often ask questions when things like this happen, and I feel like I should be much better informed.  Some people seem to think that the NHS causes more problems than it solves, others appear to believe that it means Brits to never worry about getting ill, or never having to spend hours looking at an income protection website in order to be sure they’ll cope if someone is unable to work. Those of us living here have probably found neither to be entirely true.

It’s straight-up weird to not live there when something big happens.  Or something big is happening.  It’s weird to not know how American people are experiencing these changes.  How they’re talking about it at coffee break… or fighting about it out back (depending on how they communicate) ;)

I’m experiencing it from a British point of view, but I’m not British (and I’m guessing a lot of you are in the same boat).  It effects me because my parents, my brother, his wife, and the rest of my family are going to live these changes.

It’s strange to be so close and so far from something at the same time.  Another part of the expat process?

Getting to know your British 21st century class system as an American (you have learned it, right?)

yahooavatar15Hey, don’t think that I am ‘rising above my station‘, but I want to share with you a little something that mystifies my American self (and is starting to scare me) about after living in Britain for 5 years. Wait, ‘mystifies’ is a polite word. I should say that my own self is starting to annoy the hell out of me. I am getting my own goat. I am ticking. my.own. self. off.  Help! As a member of the ‘upper-to middle-middle-class bordering on spiralist-meritocracy’ echelon, I am starting to become class-conscious. Has it happened to you yet? Be warned!

I am becoming a person that like other Brits, can “identify” class ranking like a stinky fish in a garbage can. I wanna say that I don’t care about class and all that hoopla but yet here I am thinking about it more frequently then I ever did living in America. Its infilatrating my brain! Got a Cath Kidston diaper bag and Molton Brown in your bathroom ? Oh, I detect a Yummy Mummy! Got a gold earring, have shaved stripes in your eyebrows and are wearing white Ted Perry trainers? Oh, that could be bordering on chav territory. Got a posh neutral accent and wear a cravat? Mon dieu, he MUST be a public school boy! Drive a white va…. ok you get the idea… and I can’t help myself. Have I been subliminally trained ? How in the world did I learn all this??

Something I just cant get used to here in Britain is the class-system ruckus. Words like working class, middle working class, the underclass, the middle middle class, the working blue collar, the noveau riche, the Old Boy’s network, wag, public school,  state-schooler, Mondeo men, Chavs, Neds, scallies, the rah, the essex man… ahhhh…..my god there are a lot to learn! Enough to make my head spin trying to keep it all straight. God save me before its too late!!

"Political conversations are a lot easier these days!" says one American woman living in Yorkshire

yahooavatar15Thank you, President Obama!

Now that old Bushy former president G.W. Bush is out of the White house I’m no longer listening politely, yet cringing with shame on the inside. Why? I haven’t had to listen to countless “did you hear what Bush did this week?” conversations at dinner parties. Oh, and at tea-breaks. And while driving with cabbies around town. Oh, and with the Tesco’s cashier. Maybe you have noticed that too? Instead the jokes seem to revolve now on Gordon Brown these days as he picks his nose on a Youtube video, smiles oddly when announcing MP tax allowance cuts and then disables any viewer comments. But that’s another story.  Now back to the point of this post. President Obama has celebrated his 100th day in office this past week, and  even my co-worker Fran is not saying that she thinks that Obama is going to be assassinated anymore. Thank goodness.

Now here is where you come in. For the last 100 days we kept a (non!) official poll to ask you if you would consider moving back to America now that Obama is president. The inspiration for such a question? Well, I know that I have been much more tempted to up sticks and move back to the US. I felt that things could be different there with a new leader–and some of you did too! Well, at least 16% of you.

The other 48% of you said that you are happy living in the UK (tea anyone?) despite him in being in office.

20% polled were already IN America.

16% polled wanted to wait and see how things progress. (Do y’all still feel that way?)

To leave you to celebrate your May Day Bank Holiday weekend I have found this BBC clip, 100 days in 100 seconds. Now how sweet does that pup Bo look?

An Englishman, an American and a German walk into a pub…

yankeebeanLast night I went to the pub with Mr Nice Guy and a very good friend of ours that’s visiting from Germany.  It wasn’t your average Friday-night-pub-jaunt, and I actually thought it was really amazing and eye-opening experience.

I’ll call our German friend Anna, and she’s an amazing person that’s very comfortable with herself and likes to have a good debate.  But when chatting with her, there’s never even a hint of conflict.  She has an amazing gift to talk about potentially irk-some things without ever sounding accusatory.  It’s an art… she’s a genius…

Over three hours we discussed a handful of wars – WWII, the Cold War, the American Revolution – we discussed the effects of the Berlin Wall, Barack Obama (and the election process), and more and more and more and more…  Oh, and we also talked about other less meaningful topics like mixing electronica with music from the 1930′s and crochet (it wasn’t just a giant history-fest)

And while discussing politics (and a little bit of religion), never once did the atmosphere congeal into discomfort.  No one was ever offended or upset by what was said.

One of the main reasons, I believe, is that none of the criticism was directed at ‘you’.  I’ve lost count of the number of times that people have replaced the word ‘America’ with ‘you’ when we’re talking politics – ESPECIALLY when talking about the war in Iraq.  And I wonder (although I didn’t ask) if the same ever happened to Anna while she was living in another country.

But there was no accusation, no arguing, no tension… just talking, debating and learning.  It was AWESOME…

Dear Mr. British Music Director at Posh British Academic Institution….

yahooavatar15Dear Music Director of a Posh Academic Institution in Yorkshire,

My name is Ms. Peaceful Yorkshire, and I write to see if you have any availability to teach harp in your music department. I hold a Masters Degree in harp performance from a Royal School and have numerous experiences in teaching at higher institutions worldwide.  As well as a dedicated teacher, I am an experienced harp performer as you can see by the numerous recitals and masterclasses listed on my CV, which I have attached for your perusal.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Kindest Regards,

Ms. Peaceful Yorkshire, Mmus

———————

SILENCE . Waiting. SILENCE. More SILENCE.

So. I. called. The new American gal freshly moved to Yorkshire needs to work, you know?

3 weeks after letter was sent.

ring ring

HIM: (In posh Queen’s English) Hello?

Me: (With American Accent) Hi, I am just calling to follow up on a letter I sent 3 weeks ago. You see, I am a harpist that has just moved to your area and have heard such great things about your music department. Would you needing any harp teaching this year?

Him: No. We are not interested. Then SLAMS DOWN PHONE.

Yes, readers, that was the conversation.

Me: Big sad Crying ensued… how dare he be so rude and hang up on me like I am some sort of annoyance! I am not some bum looking to clean the loos! Not even a chance to have a decent conversation!

Note to self… don’t ever deal with him or his music department again!

——————–

Fast forward to last week, which is 2 and a half years later:

Dear Ms. Peaceful Yorkshire,

We have never spoken before which is why I wanted to be in touch and introduce myself. My name is the posh music director at the poshest school in town. As you can see from our website, we are leaders in music education and are a progressive institution. Would you be interested in doing some teaching at my posh academic institution in Yorkshire? If so, please let me know, we will work around your schedule. We have heard so much about you, and your reputation is well-known. I do hope you would consider working with us, and can’t wait to meet you.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Warmest Regards,

The Music director at posh, Academic institution

—————-

Dear Music School Director at  posh Academic institution,
Thank you for your email.
I must say I was most surprised to receive it, as we had spoken briefly on the phone when I arrived in Yorkshire 2 and a half years ago– you do remember that we have spoke before? I sent you my CV and then phoned you as well. At that time you made it very clear you were not interested in my services. You actually hung up on me.

Since our last conversation I have taken up the post as principal instructor at another posh academic school (a rival) and I cannot help you at this moment.

With Regards,
Ms. Peaceful Yorkshire,  Mmus

———————

SILENCE (possibly forever from him!)

This incident just happened last week, fellow readers… and writing and then sending that letter never felt better.The rule of karma is active and alive in England… do share with us your British karmic experiences  too!

Tricking the English

yankeebeanI first moved to England when I was 16 years old with my whole family (in fact, that’s how I met my husband, who I’ll call Mr. NiceGuy).

My brother and I used to see what random facts we could make up and convince English people were actually true. It was an AWESOME game and you wouldn’t believe some of the things that people believed.

Once my brother convinced a group of his friends that ‘United States of America’ was prounounced ‘ooo-NIHT-ed STAAH-tase of aah-mare-EEE-caah’

And once I told some knob-head in the pub that I wasn’t allowed to date British men because they teach American women sex secrets that only American men can know about and understand. And he BOUGHT IT…

I know I know, it’s a little mean, but I was only 16…

I must admit, I’m still tempted to try it sometimes. For example, I was tempted to tell people that the it’s againt the law to vote in the American Election outside of US territory. So the US government provided absentee voters with ‘Voting planes’ that pick us up and fly us over America air-space to cast our vote legally.

But I didn’t tell anyone that… I swear…