Update on my radio silence

The blog has been very quiet this spring, with good reason…My husband and I welcomed our little boy into the world on April 19th! Parenthood is keeping us busy and I am currently on maternity leave from my library job. I plan to continue with the blog though am giving some thought as to what I want to write about since obviously my time is less taken up with the usual library/music/professional things and rather more nappy changes/keeping up with baby laundry/napping and feeding me and baby.

I’ve got a few bookshelf posts in the pipeline. Any other suggestions or feedback, please leave me a comment. Thanks for reading!

 

More expat stand up – Expat life part 4

The previous post in this series was poking fun at my own country, the USA. This of course now grants me free rein to poke fun at my adopted country, the UK.

There is much more a sense of national consciousness here than in the US, probably because it’s a smaller country. For example, did you know there is a national paint colour? It’s called Magnolia and is the all-purpose, inoffensive, go-to colour to paint everywhere, similar to taupe in the US.

 

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No, not THAT kind of magnolia. (Public domain image from pixabay.com)

It’s also the bane of interior designers and DIY show presenters who push people to be “edgy” and to “go outside their comfort zone.” Oh, we’ll just stick with Magnolia they say…

Chocolate is another facet of the British national consciousness.

Britons universally revere Cadbury’s and will happily have lengthy debates about the merits of different chocolates. Cadbury’s vs. Galaxy. Minstrels vs. Rolos. Dairymilk Buttons vs. Dairymilk Freddos.

Britons also universally agree that Hershey’s is rubbish. I am endeavouring to change this one Kiss at a time.

British social customs are another part of the national consciousness that has been well documented. Think “stiff upper lip,” “mind the gap,” queuing etiquette and the like.
However I have found that British politeness is a bonafide phenomenon, verging on an extreme sport.

Extreme in that politely assuming you’re in the wrong and apologising is the universal response for all social situations in the UK.

For instance, one day I ran into a neighbour in the mailbox room of our building. I said ‘Hiya’, she said ‘Sorry’…

Etiquette on public transport gets murkier. From what I can tell, when you sit down on the bus, say ‘Sorry’. When you get up from your seat, say ‘Sorry’. Like I said it’s the universal response.

I’m very sorry if I have offended anyone with this post. In fact I’m sorry for writing it in the first place. I’ll also apologise in advance for my next post of even more expat stand up.

My expat stand up routine – Expat life part 3

I’ve been getting into my standup comedy recently. I especially like the expat comedians and the provincial comics (sorry if I have just insulted a whole group of comics). There’s something very funny about people talking about their homeplaces and being Liverpudlian/Yorkshire/Indian/etc and fitting in here. I don’t have the courage to do standup so, presented here in the safety of my own blog, is my wannabe standup routine.

First, in all fairness, I have to take the mick from my own country, and specifically the South. Or as some call it, the Bible Belt.

I grew up going to a little whitewashed country church. Max capacity 100, or 120 when the deacons got the folding chairs out for Christmas and Easter. Southerners love church.

Almost as much as we love going to football games. AMERICAN FOOTBALL not SOCCER, that is.

The New Orleans Saints, our local NFL team, were notoriously terrible for decades. But we were proud of them, in a notional way. They were so bad, there was a point when fans would come to games and wear paper bags over their heads with eye holes cut out.

Because they were too embarrassed to be seen.

But still wanted to go to the game.*

Like I said, we love our football.

We are also very friendly (they don’t call it “Southern” hospitality for nothing). We have no qualms about asking a stranger all about their family and where they grew up and we’ll go to great lengths to find somebody or other that is a mutual friend.

The scary thing is you usually can.

Yard art is another important feature of Southern life. You’ve got your tasteful refurbished cast iron sugar kettles turned into water features, your sundials and bottle trees and your ‘Gone fishing’ signs.

Then there are the plastic pink flamingos, the giant inflatable Santa/Frosty/Rudolphs at Christmas, and another Christmas favourite (true story) the decorative gutted deer hanging up with white and red lights festooned appropriately.

 

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Azalea image, CC0 Public Domain from pixabay.com

Deer hunting is an important touchstone in the year for some folks. The hunting season coincides with the college football season in the autumn, so that is generally a busy time of year for us.

The other seasons might be described as Azalea / Hay Fever season (Spring), Gallons of Iced Tea season (Summer) and Glasses of Iced Tea season (all year round).

So drink iced tea, attend church and take up football and hunting, and you’re well on your way to mastering Southerner 101. And I haven’t even gotten started on the food…

The final post in this series and first of the New Year will be some gentle ribbing of the muddy island I now call home. In the meantime, I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

*For the first time in my life, I am paying attention to NFL this season (thanks BBC’s NFL This Week). The Saints are currently a meh 5-8, but apparently Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Who Dat!

Hiya, Ey up, Where y’at, or How to talk to expats – Expat life part 2

Language is a beautiful thing but it does have its quirks. I spent 20-odd years in the States then moved over here. I am undeniably American in culture, outlook and of course accent (we’ll get to this later). Traveling and living abroad is great because it broadens your perspective and has changed my viewpoints on various issues. However there are some points I’ve observed about interacting with locals and what I try to do myself in terms of welcoming and feeling welcomed. I’ve framed some of these below through the common questions I get asked. Obviously the big disclaimer to this post is that *these are my own views and opinions and do not necessarily represent views and opinions of other expats.*

“Are you [insert nationality here]?”
Some people get offended if you get their nationality wrong. I have been guilty of this myself, and have been on the receiving end as well. However I find it hilarious when people think I’m Canadian or Irish (both true examples). Even if you’re 99% sure, the better path is to just ask…

“Where are you from?”
Don’t guess, just ask!

“What do you think about Trump/Obama/other political figure?”
This can go either way so tread carefully! I used to not get asked this very often. However the past six months of this crazy US election season, I’ve seen a massive upswing as EVERYONE is now asking me about politics. I don’t mind and see it as an opportunity to share what’s actually going on in my country beyond the news bites. The main thing is ask with an open mind and view to opening a dialogue.

“Don’t you miss home?”
This question is problematic on so many levels for me. My only response options being, No, I’m a heartless automaton that doesn’t miss home, or, HECK YES I MISS HOME! DAFTEST QUESTION EVER. Instead I suggest asking…

“What do you miss about home?”
Rather than feeling homesick, this then gives me the opportunity to tell you about all the awesome stuff about my country like Southern hospitality, crawfish boils, stable weather day to day, jambalaya, iced tea, college sports, Thanksgiving…

“What was the biggest difference or the hardest thing to adjust to when you arrived?”
This is a good one. The expat can voice an opinion/beef and the questioner learns something new about both countries.

“Do you get to go back?”
Another that can go either way, depending on how close your next trip home is.

“Your accent hasn’t changed much.”
I usually say something like, give it another 20 years, then it might. I spent the first 21 years of my life in the US, so of course I sound American and that doesn’t change with a plane ride! However my family says my accent has changed and it definitely gets thicker when I go home. So check back with me on this one in say, another 15 years.

Agree? Disagree? Let’s start a conversation in the comments.

Next week, my expat wannabe stand-up routine.

Dorothy in Oz – Expat life part 1

Happy Belated Thanksgiving! And welcome to the first of a few posts on expat stuff. I’m definitely not in Kansas anymore which was brought home to me again last week when I went to do my Thanksgiving food shop. Last year around this time I remember a large freezer case full of turkeys ready for British Christmas dinners but this year was surprised to spot only three in the whole supermarket. Meanwhile there was an entire aisle of seasonal Christmas stuff…

I’ve been reflecting of late about the various ways I’ve changed and adapted to life abroad in the UK. In no particular order:

Metric system

I have discussed this before and how buying a digital scale changed my life (that’s only a slight exaggeration). I still run a hybrid metric-American kitchen operation but it works so long as you have the right tools: digital scales, measuring cups that also show equivalent in milliliters, and a good cooking conversion site (current favourite here).

Dishwashing

On my last visit to America, I volunteered to do the dishes and was merrily sudsing away when a certain family member exclaimed, “Wait a second, are you rinsing??” Alas I was not, because I have adopted this British trait of hand-washing dishes but then not rinsing the soap off before setting out to dry. My family is aghast. I was too when I first observed this phenomenon, but then after about a year here with no dishwasher, it dawned on me I could cut out half the time for this chore by…you guessed it, skipping the rinse stage. Because most of the suds roll off anyway, right?

Crossing the road

Again I’m a hybrid operator on this issue. It’s because I initially got very confused about which way to look for oncoming traffic when crossing the road (except in London where they conveniently write on the road “Look right” or “Look left”) so I just started looking both ways. I still do and now do this when back in the States because I function in a state of semi-permanent cultural confusion.

Terminology / spelling / slang

I’m now hyper aware of when someone uses British or American terminology in real life and on telly, er, I mean TV. I adopted British spelling long ago and set my computer accordingly, though now the poor thing is confused and several programmes, er, programs think British spelling is wrong (Office, I’m looking at you). Though Evernote appears to be equal opportunity and thinks both are right. I still learn new slang all the time. For example, bobbins and egads. I also regularly do the equivalent of your mom running through all the names in your immediate family before getting to yours, but with different UK-US words. For example, in a restaurant, “Please can we get the bill, no tab, no receipt!” In a shop, “Do you have any coriander, no cilantro, no that green herb?”

Next week, how to talk to an expat…or at least to this one!