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.

Americans like ‘dongle’ and ‘bung’

Conversation between me and Mr Nice Guy when we were in America:

Me: Hun, where’s the dongle? I wanna check our business banking.

*giggles heard from the next room*

Mr Nice Guy: I haven’t seen the dongle since we got here – did you check the suitcase?

*chortles waft from the next room*

Me: Found it!  It was in your jeans pocket in the suitcase – do you want it when I’m done?

Mr Nice Guy: Nah, just bung it back in the suitcase when you’re done

*guffaws and general merriment erupt from the next room*

Voice from the next room: WHAT THE HELL’S A DONGLE?!?  HAAAAHAHAHAHAHA!!!  BUNG!?!  HAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

yankeebean

yankeebean

When I think about it, bung and dongle are two hugely English-sounding words.  I can imagine them both wearing wellies to walk to the local pub… talking about Alistair Darling’s pre-budget report – or Gordon Ramsay’s plastic surgery (depending on their current place in the British class system).

These are hidden gems, a level (or two) below ‘bloody’, ‘bugger’ and ‘brilliant’ – the ol’ faithfuls that always get rolled out when a British characters appears in an American TV show.

So, Americans!  If you’d like to put your British-ness on display, liberally apply the words bung and dongle across your next conversation.  Let me know how it goes :)

The differences between America and England

yankeebean

yankeebean

My grandma is English – she’s a British war bride that fell for a strapping American soldier.  She moved to America back in the day and knew that it was going to be forever – basically she had metaphorical cojones…

I asked her once how long it took her to feel like she was American rather than English…

“Ten years,” she said.

And back in 2004, when I took to the skies, that seemed like a freakin’ LOOOOOONG time – BAD long, y’know?  Impossible long.  But now, five years in, it doesn’t seem so bad any more.

I think a big part of that is because I don’t compare America to England as much.  Aside from a small number of niche cravings (Chicago pizza, automatic transmissions, yadayadayada), America is America and England is England – bada bing bada boom (I feel like I’m in the mob whenever I use that phrase, my kingdom for a Brooklyn accent!)

I don’t crave tea as much when I’m in America, I hop in the car without inner-moaning about how nothing is walkable, I LOVE STARBUCKS and unabashedly go there for a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious skinny latte without feeling guilty.

When I’m in England I make all my coffee at home and love it, I walk to the store and merrily (well, not exactly merrily) haul my groceries back to the flat up a big hill and then up 4 flights of stairs, I hang my washing out to dry without lamenting about our lack-o-tumble-dryer.

According to my awesome-Gram’s calculations, I’m half-way to feeling British.  I wonder if I’m on schedule…

I definitely feel like something has clicked in my head that helps me deal with being an expat shamerican.  My progress can be summed up by the quote of a wise sage, “Where ever you are, there you are.”

American Advertising: my British man and I love to laugh at ridiculous fitness ads

pacific bird This one is for those of you who have been away from the US for some time and haven’t seen American television for a while.  Mr. Charismatic and I saw this ad when we first arrived in America and we still laugh for ages every time it comes on.   Hope it makes you laugh too…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OH1DGd5T7c

PS. We watch a lot less tv now and we are REALLY missing British tv.  Who knew?

Me and Crocodile Dundee… two of a kind.

yankeebeanI’m sitting in front of Crocodile Dundee right now (yes, on a Friday night, but it’s been a bastard of a week and I’m knackered) – and I’m feeling the strangest of emotions…

Empathy.

I am EMPATHISING with Mick the man from Walkabout Creek – how bizarre…

I musta been about 8 years old when I first saw this movie and I remember thinking that it was HILARIOUS.  I’m sure you all remember the line:

That’s not a knife… THIS is knife…

(And if you don’t, get thee to your aging VHS collection and dust that shizzle off!)

But one of the key ingredients of this flick is that Mick keeps saying Aussie / bush things and New Yorkers laugh in his face.  The darker side of 80′s film making ;)

Now, as an expat (or ‘shamerican’ – more on that all-star term later), living in a strange-and-foreign land (kidding, kidding, chill out peeps) – I’m finding new depths to the bloody movie Crocodile Dundee…

Strewth, you learn something new every day…

Ameri-Brit children and awkward situations

pacific birdThis one is for those of you who might be raising kids with American and British families.  I’ve been spending a lot of time with my 14 month old nephew lately.  His parents are both American but Mr. Charismatic and I have given him a few books from Britain featuring iconic British characters, Noddy for example.  Today we were discussing Thomas the Tank characters.  My sister mentioned Sir Topham Hatt and Mr. Charismatic didn’t have a clue who that was.  So, she describes the nicely dressed man wearing a top hat.  “Oh!  You mean the Fat Contoller!” said Mr. C.  We all had a really good laugh about this.  Can you imagine a child going to an American school, playing with the train set and calling this toy “The Fat Controller”.  The American teachers would be horrified at such an un-PC name.

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)

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”)

————-

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

Tanning in America now costs $49 a go, say what?

avt_kapyork_large115Hello lovely readers!  Not to be a total bridezilla but I did get married to my fabulous English bloke a month ago and I’ve been saving up stories to share with you. 

A little bit of background:

1) Mr. Charismatic and I moved back to my home city in America about a month before our wedding.

2) I wear SPF 15 or better every day and was so sad when all the Friends stars started appearing super tan circa 1997 because I knew a crazy perma-tan culture was about to take hold and I would be thrust into a vanity vs. sensability battle over my skin. 

3) My tanning experience is limited to about 4 sessions right before my junior prom in 1998, maybe 2 sessions in college, and two weeks of regular tanning during my second year in Yorkshire which I justified with the typical British tanning excuse: I’m going on holiday and I don’t want to burn on the first day. 

So, Mr. Charismatic and I planned to do about 3-4 tanning sessions each before our wedding just to have a light tan color and I promised myself that this would be my last ever time in a tanning bed.  Well, let me tell you – I will keep that promise to myself for sure because in the 4 years I was in Britain, the cost of tanning in America spiraled into total insanity!

Did you know that there are crazy new systems of tanning that somehow use high pressure bulbs to increase the ratio of UVA to UVB rays?  This is how the ridiculous sales person explained it to us: “When it comes to tanning, what is more important to you – safety or cost?  Safety you say?  Then all you need to know is that the B in UVB stands for Bad.  So, the higher the concentration of UVA’s the better the tan and I promise you won’t burn at all.  It starts at $49 per session.”

So what did we do?  Ignored our instincts to run away and went for the cheaper option (which was still like $13 a session) AND completely got burnt even though we only tanned for 8 minutes.  Do you remember when tanning was about $5 and all you had to do was go use the one normal bed at the local gym?  Apparently, this is not how it works anymore. 

Me and tanning?  No longer friends – and my skin thanks me for that.