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).


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!


Winter Update – Thanksgiving, MLT & Library School

It’s been a busy month or two. The weather is getting more and more horrible BUT it was Thanksgiving a few weeks ago! Thanksgiving Day was on Thursday, November 26 and since that was a normal working day for me, we had a little Thanksgiving dinner with friends the Saturday before. New for me this year was attempting pumpkin pie and catering for a vegetarian. Both came off well I think! If this whole Thanksgiving thing is new to you, here’s a website that explains the history behind it. It actually brilliantly sums up my families’ typical day: ‘Each year on the fourth Thursday in November, Americans gather for a day of feasting, football and family.’


“Tom Turkey’ …as named by Jill…’ by Olin Gilbert. Flickr CC license.

My work with the Music Libraries Trust also ramps up this time of year. I’ve started organising our annual bursary scheme for the IAML (UK & Irl) conference in April. This involves some admin, letter writing and sending out loads of emails, posters and tweets advertising the bursaries. For more information on our work click here. We’ve also got a shiny, new website you might want to check out.

I’m in the final stretch of my library school coursework as well. I finished the final two modules yesterday. The assignments had become all consuming as they are wont to do. I wrote an article about the pros and cons of the new cataloguing standard Resource, Description and Access (RDA) which was implemented by most major national libraries including the Library of Congress and British Library in 2013. No one likes change and librarians are rather bad at it so you can imagine the uproar over this. RDA is a departure from the print-centric standards of the past and instead seeks to accommodate any type of content no matter the format. In short I think it’s a positive step into the 21st century for the field.

Now I will be busy with driving lessons (blog post forthcoming) and Christmas! Also, *space nerd geek out* I’m following the current mission to the International Space Station including the first British astronaut, Tim Peake. The BBC has done a brilliant documentary on him. Their Soyuz docks in a few hours. Current ISS resident, Scott Kelly is also worth following. He tweets the most beautiful photos and is part way through a year long stay (a human experiment trying to understand the long term effects of zero-G by using Kelly’s identical twin brother on Earth as the control). So cool. Geek out over!