Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 407

Cool American friends

A British friend noticed that I had an American friend on Facebook with the surname ‘Kanicki’

‘That’s just cool,’ she said. ‘Cos of the Grease dude.’

It’s true, that is a very cool name for a friend.

Okay, so it's spelled Kenickie, but whatever!

Okay, so it’s spelled Kenickie, but whatever!

Bucket list

When someone today asked me what was still on my USA bucket list and I replied, ‘Oh, California, Memphis and getting chased down by some mad axe-murderer in a big truck and then hiding from him in one of those run-down motels like in the movies’, I was, naturally, having a laugh about the last bit.

Their response…?

‘You shouldn’t joke about that, it might happen.’

I like to think they were also having a laugh. ;)

It's usually this sort of truck that said axe-murderer drives (in the dark, of course).

It’s usually this sort of truck that said axe-murderer drives (in the dark, of course).

Transatlantically Speaking

There is a podcast that I listen to here in the USA that is all about the differences between us Brits and Americans and how confusing and amusing it can be sometimes. I was even on this podcast last year! (Hear it here – http://www.transatlanticallyspeaking.com/2013/10/11/greetings-from-merryland/ – I start waffling on about 13 mins in!)

James van Leer, 44, is the Brit who runs this podcast, and he’s been in the States since 1992.

The podcast

The podcast

Read on to find out more!

Name: James Van Leer

Occupation: Graphic Design

Time in the USA: 1992 – present

Reason you came to the USA: By accident. Was travelling back towards the UK from Asia (Hong Kong) and had planned to work here long enough to earn enough money for a flight home. Got a decent job, and just sort of stayed. I have no idea how I would have done it legitimately.

1. When you arrived as an expat, how did being in the USA make you feel?

A lot of my experiences were specific to Los Angeles and its geography. It took me a while to get used to the heat. Also, this town is notorious for being difficult to cultivate friendships in, because everyone lives in their cars (the song is correct, nobody walks in L.A.) and it really is a one-industry town with perhaps more than its share of shallow, unreliable people. And unlike most European cities, L.A. doesn’t have a “centre,” so there’s a strange feeling of being adrift until you decide which part of the city suits you best.

2. Were there times you felt lost and alone? Were there any particular things that made you feel homesick?

There certainly were those times, but looking back, they were just the typical things that happen to anyone, anywhere – job stuff, relationship stuff – it’s just that without the support group of family and close friends, it feels SO much worse. As far as homesickness was concerned, well, when I arrived there was no BBC America, and no soccer, not even an MLS! It would probably be much easier now you can watch the Prem every weekend.

Auntie Beeb

Auntie Beeb

3. What things really highlight the differences between our cultures?

Sense of humour. You learn quite quickly that Americans don’t use irony the way we do. There are three stages to that: Initially it’s frustrating, because nobody laughs at anything you say; then when you get used to it, it’s actually nice because you take everything you’re told at face value. The third stage is when you’re back in the UK and a friend or relative tells you something outlandish, and you react with childlike wonder, and they look at you with utter sadness; then they tell you that you’re irony-deficient, and should consider taking supplements.

4. How is your life different from at home? What are the challenges and frustrations you encounter?

Healthcare stuff still bothers me. It’s SO expensive here (and I’m a pretty healthy person!) Paying so much for something that would be free at home does rankle a bit. That and the fact that all my friends and relatives back home get five bloody weeks vacation.

Yep, I'm confuddled too!

Yep, I’m confuddled too!

5. Do you actively seek out a British community? If so, what were you looking for specifically?

I don’t, and oddly, I never have. But then, I never really went in for the pub culture in the UK, so never saw the need to replicate it here. Fact is, culturally I’m probably more American than British at this point, which inevitably happens. You spend the first couple of years catching up with American culture, and then one day an American friend asks you if you’ve heard of Russell Brand or someone, and you haven’t, and you realize you’ve crossed a threshold.

6. How do you feel the Americans responded to you as a Brit?

Americans really seem to like British people, even in L.A. where everyone’s busy pretending not to care. And they’re interested in you and where you’re from. If they’re soccer people, they love talking about that.

CalifornIA :)

CalifornIA :)

You have to listen to the podcast to get a sense of both our senses of humour – it’s awesome/fab, and very, very funny (and rude, naturally!)

:)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 406

USA questions of the week

‘Do you celebrate Easter in England?’

I was asked this question yesterday.

I nodded.

And then I turned around and giggled.

Hot cross buns, of course!

Hot cross buns, of course!

‘Why don’t people walk much round here?’

Where I live not many people go walking. Why is that, I asked a Brit who’s been here some time.

“Because of the all the drink drivers,” he replied, his tongue firmly in his cheek. “They’re worried they’ll get hit by them.”

Expat in Baltimore

Yep, there are plenty of Brits who want to share their stories on the blog!

This is Ian’s story. And he talks guns, politics and religion – brave man! Ian lives in Baltimore and, as well as swearing like a Brit, he has view on most things, having been in the USA for 16 years.

Enjoy!

Name: Ian Tyrrell, 45

About Ian: I’m the only son of an only son, and my mum had one sister who never married or had kids. So, I’m literally the last twig on the branch of the family tree. Other than that, I love to travel; I love taking photographs of just about all and everything. I have tattoos, a long graying goatee, and I ride motorcycles all year round. Oh, and did I mention I’m half Geordie on mi dad’s side. The other half of me is all Notts.

Occupation: Retail sales for a very large technical company.

Time in the USA: 16 years as of April 13th 1998

Reason you came to the USA: I came to the US, because my ex-wife is from here. We got married in the UK, lived there for 2 years, then she wanted to move over here, and here I am.

1. When you arrived as an expat, what were your initial impressions of the USA? Has it changed much since you’ve been here?

I’d visited the US on 5 different occasions before I moved here, so I was already used to the culture and the size of the place. I wasn’t however used to the poor treatment of the working classes. I mean how can a country call itself civilized when, if you are lucky, you get two weeks holiday a year… I mean that’s just not cricket. I think, in many ways, things have got much worse in the last 16 years. 9/11 didn’t help matters, and being at war for who knows how long really has put a downer on things. Being in a depression doesn’t help, nor does the divide between the rich and the poor…

2. Tell me a little bit about your area of the States, and what you love about it, and what drives you nuts!

I live in Baltimore. The Hell Mouth of the East coast. It is like Sunnydale, only without Buffy. I think the whole of the I-95 corridor between DC and Boston is pretty bad, but Baltimore is the epicenter of it all. People are rude, uncaring, have this “it’s all about me” attitude and would rather piss and moan than try to do something about it. You get 20 miles west of I-95 and the people are very friendly and seem to actually care about how other people think. As for what I love about it… I love to get away for as long as possible.

Baltimore

Baltimore

3. What things really highlight the differences between our cultures?

Politics, Guns, and Religion. Oh, and beer. I mean on the political side of things, you have two parties that over the last 150 years have switched poles. Both are for big business regardless to what one of them tells you. I mean how can they not be when to be in Politics in the US, you either have to be a millionaire, or in the pockets of millionaires. So who are the politicians going to look after first?

Guns. I get them, I’ve fired them, I just don’t see why people need to have them at home. And I see no reason whatsoever about the need to own an assault rifle. The 2nd amendment gives the citizens the right to bear arms to form a militia. It doesn’t give citizens the right to own firearms for any other reason. And anyone who says guns don’t kill people is fooling themselves. The only reason to have a gun is to fire a piece of lead at high velocity to destroy the target that it hits.

Religion. Seriously, who cares what religion a person is, or isn’t. It has bugger all to do with anyone else. In the UK, if you say you are affiliated with one or other religion, people look at you as if you are raving mad. In the States on the other hand, people look at you funny if you tell them you don’t believe in a god, or gods. They’d rather vote for a Satanist than an Atheist, because with a Satanist, they actually believe in something. I could go on and on about the stupidity of it all, but there really is no point.

Beer. When will Americans ever make a good beer? Yeah there’s microbrews popping up all over the shop, but they are either crazy high in the alcohol content, or so hoppy that they have killed any flavour that make a good beer worth drinking.

4. How is your life different from at home? What are the challenges and frustrations you encounter?

I don’t really think my life is really all that different here than it would be back home. Other than it is much easier to get places back home than it is here, especially if you don’t own a motorized vehicle. I’m one of those people that can live pretty much anywhere and I adapt to my surroundings, whether I agree with them or not. My biggest frustration I thing I’ve found is this inane sense that to get a good job you have to have gone to college to get a degree. I know plenty of people that have 4 year degrees that are as thick as pig s**t. Yet because they have this piece of paper, they get better paying jobs. I’d rather have someone with some real common sense working with me, than some idiot who has a degree that spent 4 years pissing up a wall.

Ian hanging out

Ian hanging out

5. Do you actively seek out a British community?

The answer to this is yes and no. I’ve fallen into British communities. We can talk about anything without anyone taking offence as to what we say. We can talk about football, rugby, and cricket. We can make fun of ourselves, and tell jokes without having to explain the punch line.

6. What’s your favourite British saying that you keep uttering? And which Americanisms have you adopted?

I say bugger and bollocks a lot. And when something, or someone says or does something that really gets on my goat, I use the word twat too. As I mentioned in my brief bio, I’m half Geordie, so I do use Geordie terminology quite a bit. Way aye man, and hadaway, and howay pet are frequently used. As for Americanism, I try my hardest not to use any, but when I was living in OR, I did find myself using the word “Dude” a lot.

7. Tell me 3-5 things you would take back to the UK from the USA.

Peeps, Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. I think everything else has already been shipped to the UK. I mean last time I was home there was a Subway on every corner, a Pizza Hut on every other corner. Nottingham has a Hooters restaurant for crying out loud.

These are Peeps ;)

These are Peeps ;)

8. And 3-5 things you think the USA should have/implement from the UK.

Steak and Kidney pie chips and gravy. Sausage rolls, good beer, a national health service, and mandatory 4 weeks paid holiday per year from the minute you start. Oh, and cricket!

P.S.

I know it sounds like just about everything I have said has been on the negative, but I do really like living here. I mean the people in the Midwest are wonderful people, and I’d dearly love to move back out that way again sometime. I love the open space, and the vastness of the country.

I enjoy taking the piss out of people without them knowing that I’m doing it. I love the fact that I’m a middle-aged, slightly over-weight, tattooed, biker type with an English accent that pulls the birds like you wouldn’t believe. And I like the fact I can reinvent myself on an almost daily basis without anyone being none the wiser. I’ve lived in the US for 16 years, I have no family ties to the UK anymore, but at the end of the day, I’m English, and England is home…

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 405

USA stuff ;)

Okay, so I debated about putting this in the blog, but it’s been amusing me for some time and so it has to go in.

Gents, you might not want to deal with this issue, so feel free to skip to the next segment.

But, ladies, I often sit in American ladies’ public loos (restrooms) and wonder why, oh why, the sanitary bins are placed low on the ground at the front of the cubicle so when one is disposing of one’s stuff discretely it’s very much on plain view. Not all public loos, but some, have this contraption in them.

This is a sanitary bin. Yes, I really sat on the loo and took this picture :)

This is a sanitary bin. Yes, I really sat on the loo and took this picture :)

I have no more to say about this, but suffice to say the positioning of these things seems all arse-about-tit to me ;)

Differences and similarities

Sometimes we Brits and Americans seem poles apart and sometimes we’re just like family.

Two countries, both alike in dignity (yes, I’m getting all Shakespearean again – might be something to do with my current play!)….

Anyway, these two comments from blog readers resonated with me…

…it must be said that I was keenly aware that our commonalities far outweigh our cultural differences.’

and

I LOVE how well you British laugh at yourselves. Such a wonderful quality in you-among so many others! Americans can take themselves too seriously. I try to avoid that. To me, if I can’t laugh at myself or (at least) some of the situations in which I find myself, then all is truly lost!Mindy Self-deprecating humor is the best! And so endearing!

:)

British blogger

More Brits in the USA! Whose left living back in the UK?!! That’s what I want to know!

Anyway, meet Tasha – she blogs too! Hoorah for her!

Tasha Davies

Tasha is a 24-year-old wife, mother of one, and work from home Social Media Manager. She and her husband are British expats and ironically their daughter was born on 4th of July last year. Long before she spent her days changing nappies (aka diapers), and constantly singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, she lived a very different life- where she showered and wore make up daily – she is also an annual Marathon runner although she actually dislikes running. She also studied Speech Therapy at a University.

Occupation: Work at home momma and Social Media Manager

Time in the USA: Almost 6 years! I was actually an International Student at Uni here, studied 2008-2012, moved back to the UK, got married to my long-term/long distance boyfriend, then moved back to the USA in October 2012.

Tasha's pad

Tasha’s pad

Reason you came to the USA: Husband’s job opportunity was too good to turn down.

Location: San Francisco

1. When you arrived as an expat, what were your initial impressions of the USA? Has it changed much since you’ve been here?
My first impression was that everything was very large… Food portions. Houses. Malls. I recall being overwhelmed at the friendliness of Americans. Especially the intense helpfulness of the customer service in the shops.

2. Tell me a little bit about your area of the States, and what you love about it, and what drives you nuts! We live in the Bay Area, by San Francisco California, and we love it. The weather, the palm trees, beaches and constant sunshine do wonderful things for the soul. Californians are typically welcoming and friendly so that helped with our transition. The one thing that drives us nuts is the terrible driving here! No manners or common sense whatsoever.

3. What things really highlight the differences between our cultures?
The fact that Americans worship the British accent, but often don’t understand what you’re saying, whereas Brits understand Americans perfectly (thanks to Hollywood), but aren’t really fussed. Other things like Drive Up ATMs!

4. How is your life different from at home? What are the challenges and frustrations you encounter?
Life is different here because Americans are, let’s face it, different! We’ve found that people are a lot more positive here. We’ve noticed there is less of a TV culture here. Don’t get me wrong, people still watch some shows, but other recreational activities take a more prominent place in day-to-day life. Perhaps it has something to do with the fabulous weather. The only challenges we have encountered would be things like not always being understood first time we say something. It’s rather odd when Americans stare at you in some kind of trance (not listening to a word you’re saying, just how you’re saying it) then randomly beg you to quote a phrase from Harry Potter or Pride and Prejudice. The one frustration we had was when we first arrived and needed to buy a car, not having US credit history made our monthly payments very expensive for the first year.

Cutie!

Cutie!

5. Do you actively seek out a British community?
No we don’t. Sometimes we bump into other expats at the International Section in the grocery store, but we don’t actively seek a British community.

6. What’s your favourite British saying that you keep uttering? And which Americanisms have you adopted?
I took on the ‘adapt or die’ mentality when it came to language. I’m from West Yorkshire so my accent can be pretty tricky for anyone really. Especially Americans. So, besides slowing down my speech, and sometimes changing my intonation, I now use words like ‘diapers’ & ‘trash’, daily. I had to. I would get ever so frustrated having to repeat and explain myself. The one phrase I do hold on to though is “flipping heck”.

Oh the beach!

Oh the beach!

7. Tell me 3-5 things you would take back to the UK from the USA.
The amazing customer service everywhere. The larger scale sizes of homes. And believe it or not, the health care! I love the health care here, the Doctors are amazing, if you have an issue you can get it taken care of immediately instead of being on an NHS waiting list forever, plus when I went into the labour, the birthing and post partum suites at the Hospital were like a hotel! I didn’t want to go home!

8. And 3-5 things you think the USA should have/implement from the UK.
1. Greggs. 2. Salad Cream. 3. Cadbury’s. 4. Real Bread

Greggs is now a British tradition...

Greggs is now a British tradition…

P.S.
I definitely think moving to the USA was a good choice. All the positives outweigh the negatives for our family. The move has not been easy, but there have been so many welcoming people that we happily call California our second home. To anyone who is considering moving to the States, I would highly recommend it. Yes there’s a lot of paper work, some change and homesickness ahead of you. But a lot of happiness too. If you dive in to your new environment and embrace it, the frustrations and differences will soon seem trivial, and fade away.

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 404

Getting sick, USA stylie

I still don’t get the USA medical system.

Fact.

Chicken Maryland

I live in Maryland, where Chicken Maryland must come from – right? Wrong!

‘The dish known in the UK as Chicken Maryland, popular in the 1960s, consisted of fried chicken (often in breadcrumbs) served with sweetcorn fritters and fried bananas. It is likely that it was derived as an alternative for the American version of the dish. In England, there is a small chain of stores known as Maryland Chicken, mostly found in Leicestershire. There is no connection between the store name and the traditional dish, however. Their menu consists of normal fried-chicken cuisine, similar to KFC.’

Fact.

Chicken Maryland Mexican style, apparently

Chicken Maryland Mexican style, apparently

Wichita / Leeds

Wichita was recently being joked about by a group of American friends. When I said I would have to look up Wichita to find out about it, an American friend who has been to the UK likened it to Leeds.

Wichita = Leeds.

Fact.

Wichita

Wichita

Leeds

Leeds

How short are shorts – the debate

I recently followed an amusing Facebook conversation by some American mothers about the appropriate length of shorts for their teenage girls. Obviously, I just think in terms of Daisy Dukes. And they are v v v v short.

Fact.

Rock ‘n’ Roll USA

Hear this: ‘Be not afraid of dudeness: some are born dudes, some achieve dudeness and some have dudeness thrust upon them.’

Yep, I’m totally bastardising the great Bard’s words to introduce you to Tom Gillam, who I think is a total USA dude. Bona fide rock dude!

And here’s why….

Tom Gillam is a rock ‘n’ roll dude who I chanced upon in Gruene, Texas. This is his interview. Enjoy! (Best read with a bit of Tom’s music playing.….)

Occupation: Getting paid to do what I would probably do for free :)
Location: Austin, Texas / The World

1. So, you are like a proper rock and roll dude. Tell us a little bit about your life.
Hmmm, I live like a cat which is to say I have hours of frolic followed by many naps! As my friend Grant Alden (former editor of No Depression magazine) said “you get paid to gaze out the window and dream of melodies along with carting your gear around the world”. The actual show I get to perform is just the icing on the cake.

If music be the food of love, play on!

If music be the food of love, play on!

2. You are originally from New Jersey (I heard your song about it!) – what brought you down to Texas?
The short answer is my music seemed to resonate in TX much more than NJ. In NJ, if I said I was a musician they’d reply with “Oh, what do you do as your day job?” In Texas they say “Where are you playing next?” I toured through Texas for about 8 years after my first LP came out (Texas was my first taste of radio airplay!) and always thought “I should move here” I brought my wife with me one time and she kinda said the same thing, next thing you know I’m living in Austin, TX!!

3. What kinds of things inspire you to write songs and music?
It can really be anything. I’m more inspired by melody and music than I am lyrics, which is what I labor over. If I look back on my body of work (8 studio LPs) and comb through the lyrics it seems the best thing I can come up with is “personal politics” which I believe is navigating every day stuff we all go through, filtered through my eyes and a bit of story telling……make any sense to you? ‘Cause I just got confused!! ;)

4. We Brits have an image of Texas that is a lot to do with cowboys, but Texas is more about cowboys, right?
Yes, yes and another YES. I have not met many real “cowboys” in my 6½ years living here. There are a whole lot of people who dress the part, but that’s kind of every place you go isn’t it? I find people wear the “uniform” of where they would like to fit in, so if your heroes are “cowboys” you wear the “hat” , if they happen to be “acoustic based alt rock band guys” you wear a long beard, if it’s “hip alt country singer songwriter “wish I was Emmy Lou Harris” girls” you wear the sundress and cowboy boots. As for myself I stick to the classics and by that I mean “Rock dude circa 1972” Jeans, Dr. Marten boots, lots of rings, western style shirt…and eyeliner…..okay, not really the eyeliner but I’m contemplating it so you never know, Ronnie Wood does right?;)

Tom's music

Tom’s music

5. What are the main cultural differences between New Jersey and Texas (or East Coast and the South?)
The cultural mix is much broader in the East and by that I mean lots of Italians, Irish, African/American & Jewish people all living around each other, hating one another verbally but still somehow managing to get along. The South (or Southwest in the case of Texas) Have a lot of Germans so things get done in an orderly, Caucasian, “let’s eat a lot of meats and cheeses” kind of way. The other difference is most East Coasters consider themselves part of “the world” while most native Texans consider Texas “the world” or the only place on earth that matters

6. If you had to do an elevator pitch to promote lifestyle, what would you say?
What they hell is an “elevator pitch”? (Excellent response, Tom!)

7. Complete this sentence. Texas is…
A fantastic place to live and work…except in the summer, when it’s so hot it’s like living on the sun.

Texas landscape

Texas landscape

8. Complete this sentence. The USA is….
My home. I’ve been to a lot of places worldwide but no matter how fantastic those places are I still pine for the good ‘ol US of A, with all of it’s flaws it’s still the only place in the world a guy like me could do what I do and live how I live!

9. What’s next for Tom Gillam and the Kosmic Messengers?
David Spencer (guitar) and I will be touring Germany and the Netherlands next month (May). I’ll be touring with a side project called U.S. Rails in Spain, France & Italy for the rest of April and a bit of May. Then the plan is to record a new CD hopefully in July with a fall release. In the meantime there will be an acoustic CD released in Germany to go along with the tour first and here by summer. Most people think this job is easy, it’s not, it’s a whole lot of fun (mostly) but while most people work 8hrs a day my job seems to be a 24/7. I’m not complaining just stating a fact.

10. You’ve expressed to me an appreciation of British culture – what do you like particularly about the UK, and have you ever been there?
Unfortunately I’ve not yet been to the UK…yet, at least in this lifetime. There is a part of me that feels as if I may have lived there in a another place and time, mostly because the voice in my head ever since I was child has been British, and not just any old generic Brit accent but a real honest to goodness speaking proper London “Queen’s English” person. This helps quite a lot whist crafting e-mails!

Rock 'n' roll baby!

Rock ‘n’ roll baby!

11. What/who are your musical influences?
I think the obvious ones are artists from about 1968-1976 ,which would have been the time I became serious about music or “come of age” (around 10yrs old). The style of music I do is a mix of “country sounding” rock mixed with a healthy dose of “English style” guitar rock. To list my influences would actually take up too much space and time . I REALLY love music so when something catches my ear I become passionately consumed by it. That being said these days and at my age those instances are becoming few and far in between, but I’m open to possibilities

12. Finally, what’s your favourite song that you’ve written?
This is going to sound quite cliché but, songs are like children and it’s not fair to love one more than another. That being said, I do go through phases, especially with the older tunes, they bring back interesting feelings not only the lyrical content but about the time in which they were written. I like to revisit feelings and memories that way. The reality is my favorite song is the one I’ve just written and the one I will be writing at any given time. Vague I know, but I’m really so much better at just doing this stuff than actually thinking about it. :)

Tom rocks it out!

Tom rocks it out!

P.S.
You are quite lucky to be English, as your accent takes no work at all and is so charming and proper that getting your way is more than easy! Your country’s heritage and culture are as rich and wonderful as any in the world and no one on the planet rivals the British humor!!

The fact that you write about differences and similarities of our worlds is fun, and fascinating, please never stop! The difference between you and I is you get to go back to England and call it home at some point, while I must be content to visit or always be a “Yank“….oh well, maybe next lifetime, eh?

Cheers!

And ‘Cheers’ to you too, Tom! :)

Interviews

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 403

Weird Americans, weird Brits

There’s been a bit of America-bashing going on over the Interweb recently.

Articles like this one*, where the writer, when amusing herself with the fact that some Brits are only ‘somewhat proud’ of our country, reflects that she will ‘leave the bolshie, bragging ‘very proud’ to Americans [and North Koreans].’

*Although, the funny bit about this survey is that’somewhat proud’ was actually an option for us Brits. Of course it was!

I was also tickled by the paragraph where the writer states that she is proud of the following British attributes: ‘…the British way of mourning (badly, ineffectually but with dignity), the British way of weddings (with a punch-up and a bridesmaid getting pregnant), and the British way of Ladies’ Day at Aintree (short skirts, fake tan, drunk by 11am).’ Hahahaha, yes to all of the above! ;)

British class at Aintree... ;)

British class at Aintree… ;)

The other article is this one, where someone (I don’t know who) goes on about all the ‘weird’ stuff that Americans do and that exists in the USA.

Several Americans were offended by this some references on this list, and I get that. But, I find this article interesting.

I’m not really offended by the word ‘weird’. The word ‘weird’, as I interpret it, means kind of ‘fantastical’ or ‘bizarre’ – and different. I see ‘weird’ as good. We all seem ‘weird’ to each other at times, because we are different and those differences – which are generally things that are unlike those that we are used to as part of our own culture, standards or behaviours – should be celebrated (as I’ve said sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many times before).

If someone said I was weird, that would be cool with me, because it means they see me as being different (my dress sense if often described as ‘weird’!). Sure, sometimes those differences scare people, or they just don’t get it, or maybe they might find it intriguing. Let’s not forget Austin, Texas, whose people live by the mantra: Let’s keep Austin weird. Personally, I like Austin because it is weird and different and unusual.

Keep Austin weird :)

Keep Austin weird :)

So, this article, whilst it might offend some Americans, is simply pointing out some of the things that an outsider to America would find as different, odd, or weird once they were here. Sure, a better choice of word maybe should have been used, because not everyone sees weird as positive. And I bet someone could write a very similar article about the UK (if they haven’t already!).

So, let’s look at some of these points made and see why they have been chosen and try to rationalise this in a tongue-in-cheek Desperate English Housewife way….

1. Portion size – yes, things are sometimes bigger in the States. Like a size ‘small’ soda at a theme park is big enough to fill a the tank of a lorry, but things are changing in restaurants and places. And let’s not forget those British Sunday Roast Carveries where you can pile 6 types of meat and 300+ vegetables on your plate… ;)

2. Flags – everywhere. I like this about the States – seeing those stars and stripes riding high in the wind. It makes me remember I’m in the USA. Why is this weird to an outsider, and possibly a Brit? Because until recently the Union flag was not particularly flown much, and the England flag – the St George Cross – had fascist connotations attached to it. But the Union flag has become more and more obvious, as people in the UK have become more proud – just think about the Olympics and the Golden Jubilee! Streets were awash with Union Jacks! Before the Jubilee the Royal Family was probably liked more outside the UK than inside it, but I think people might be swayed, what with Prince Georgie-Porgie and maybe another one on the way (just a RUMOUR!!).

British pride!

British pride!

The thing is, to refer back to earlier – I think we still have an issue with shouting about how openly proud (read as ‘somewhat proud’) we are about the UK sometimes – just sometimes – because we have got a terrible history of crusading and invading and wotnot and it belies the stiff upper lip to be overly-proud. Although, I have seen a huge increase in British pride with my parents’ generation with British nostalgia being central to that. Even in my generation where we’re like ‘Yeah, we’re British and it’s ace, and we’re cool, and our music and fashion and pubs are fab’ and there is nothing more to it than that. We’re just well chuffed to be Brits, in a good way.

3. I’m skipping to Tipping, because I am still crap at this. It just isn’t a massive part of our British culture, although to be fair I seem to be using the Common Core maths equations to get there, so it has benefits. I understand why we tip (cos the wages can suck), but it does take some getting used to as a Brit in the USA.

4. Toilet doors, number 10. Yes, I have issue with the gaps between the door and the frame. Though it appears my six-year-old son does not, and he finds it quite amusing to have a nose in at whoever is in there doing their business (‘They call it potty and pee’), though he won’t be doing that again soon after seeing an old woman pull down her entire swimming costume to have a wee last time we were at the pool…. ;) For some reason, the gaps exist in the loos, and I’m not sure why that is, especially when I’ve encountered such prudishness about nudity in the USA, but that’s a whole other blog! It’s a funny old world!

5. The Pledge of Allegiance. Now, I found it odd to hear Harry say this when he first started school, but now it’s just part of what he does on a Friday. And when the American National Anthem plays before a game or a race or at an event, Harry’s operatic hand and voice come in to full swing and he loves belting it out. The thing is, why this might appear a strange phenomenon for us Brits is that, whilst of course we do have a national anthem, many of us have spent the occasions when we are supposed to sing it simply muttering the first two lines and then stumbling over the rest, because, believe me, we have no idea what the rest of the words are. So it’s a new-fangled thing, to see this sung with hand on heart, and with passion and meaning. When you see people do it it’s quite overwhelming at first, but I can’t help tear up because it obviously holds dear in America’s heart. You know, I’m sure hearing ‘God Save the Queen’ at the Proms or at Hyde Park in the UK is equally as thrilling; it’s just not an everyday, natural part of our British culture to perform it.

Cheers America!

Cheers America!

And thus, my rationalisation is complete. We Brits are weird too, you know, if you look at us from an outsider’s perspective. Queuing, Sunday walks with wellies on, little terrace houses, drinking endless cups of tea, Page 3 boobs on the kitchen table (odd-weird), streaking at football matches, parking on the opposite side of the road, saying sorry all the time etc.

Many of these things on this USA list I’ve noted in this blog because of the differences they highlight between our British and American cultures and lifestyles, and I never think ‘I dislike that’ (apart from the frigging awful squirty cheese crap), but I do think, ‘ooh, that’s different’. I love America and my American cousins/friends because of those differences and that is all part of the experience of being a Brit over here in the sometimes weird, sometimes funny, sometimes charming, sometimes quirky, and always surprising, USofA.

Nooooooo!

Nooooooo!

But, as I said. Weird, different, unusual is good and sometimes very, very cool. Everyone is weird, different or unusual in some way – let’s embrace it, not disrespect that, folks.

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 402

Sunshine (at last)

Well, after two days of Spring, summer’s here on the East Coast, and gloriously hot it was too. It’s warmer than England now, don’t ya know (and bloody right, so it should be – summer’s one of the reasons I wanted to move here!)

Aussie or British: A Very British Problem

Today an older American gent approached me at one of the gyms where I work. Nothing untoward there, to be honest. Except that this is the conversation that ensued:

‘G’day. You ever go out for a “sneaky beak”?’

“I beg your pardon?’

‘A “sneaky beak”….you know…that’s what a lady in Australia told me is the phrase she used when she went ‘taking a look around a place’. How long have you been over here in the States? Forgotten that already?! Hahahaha!’

‘It must be a colloquialism….’ [pause] ‘We don’t really use that in, um, Sydney.’

And for the next [excrutiating] ten minutes he told me all about his adventures in Australia, with me nodding about how lovely the lamb is there, and how big the vegetables are, and how cool Bondi Beach is (never been there). Occasionally I interjected, in a kind of mock Aussie-drawl. I even asked him if he’d been to England ever and that I had been there myself several times, but he kept going on about Oz. Ten minutes is a long, long time.

Oh, why did I stumble and not tell him that I was from England? Because I am British, and I don’t like to correct that kind of thing, that’s why. He’d made the assumption I was Australian, and I just really, really did not want to embarrass him, because he obviously wanted to talk to someone from Australia about his time in Australia, and I at least gave him that, in a manner of speaking. I do get asked if I am from Australia a lot; this time I stood no chance of saying I wasn’t (even though I am sure I would love the place). Sigh.

These images will explain this British etiquette/phenomenon/awkwardness that occurred today in no uncertain terms.

british1

british2

british3

british4

british6

british7

british8british9

;)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 401

Investigation Discovery: Southern Fried Homicide

So, I don’t watch TV in America-land, but I got to learn about something that I feel I must watch on a rainy afternoon when I really, really, really do not have anything better to do.

This thing is the Investigation Discovery channel. Many of my fellow actors in the play I’m in have had parts in these TV shows, which recreate crimes and murders and other horrible stuff and tell how they happened, why they happened and how these crimes were solved.

Juicy tales from the Deep South

Juicy tales from the Deep South

My ‘favourite’ title of these shows is Southern Fried Homicide, the synopsis of which reads thus:

‘Across the Deep South, heat, humidity and darn good hiding places provide a perfect backdrop for dark, despicable deeds. Southern Fried Homicide transports viewers into the steamy, Southern subculture whose lifestyles and charming drawls are captivating viewers – and covering up crimes.

SOUTHERN FRIED HOMICIDE probes the juiciest stories from down in the Bible Belt, from the Carolinas to Louisiana and Tennessee. The premiere episode profiles an old adage in the south: families are a bit like fudge – mostly sweet, but with a few nuts. After pedigreed Southern belle Susie Newsom’s marriage fails, sweet Susie spirals and starts to have an affair…with her disturbed first cousin. When the rest of the family isn’t exactly thrilled with the kissing cousins, their scandalous relationship ends with nine family members dead, spanning from Kentucky to North Carolina.

SOUTHERN FRIED HOMICIDE proves that ugliness lurks behind Southern beauty when cracks in moral society give way to cold-blooded murder. Actress Shanna Forrestall, a native belle of Louisiana, serves as the gatekeeper to these salacious stories that give another meaning to things that “go south.”‘

The butler did it!

The butler did it!

I mean, how can you NOT want to watch that! ;)

Check out a clip here…it’s pretty amazing! (I love the bit that says ‘some of the dialogue has been fictionalised for dramatic purposes’ – no sh*t!!!)

The NYC guy

I like hearing tales from Brits in other parts of the States. Chris lives in NYC, the Big Apple and is a part-time stand up comedian – must be a tough gig in America as a Brit comedian (I only say that cos some of my jests and jokes evoke only tumbleweed…).

Anyhow, this is his [funny] story….

Occupation: Part-time Stand-Up Comedian and full-time project wrangler
Time in the USA: Since Oct 2012.
Reason you came to the USA: I fell in love.

I met Fiona, a few weeks before she moved to New York with her work, and we did the long distance thing: transatlantic. And yes, it was very expensive, but so worthwhile. We dated for less than 9 months, and that was it. I was sold, I asked her to marry me in the April and we got married in July three months later. Once I got my paperwork through, I moved over to be with her.

I tell this story when I’m on stage, as it is completely true, and for the romantics in the house.. it gives hope to that it could happen to them. However for those couples who have been together for a bit longer: 2 years, 3 years, 5, 10… but not had “that chat” – I have to apologize in advance for the awkward subway journey home.

When you arrived as an expat, what were your initial impressions of the USA? Has it changed much since you’ve been here?
It is everything you think it will be. In New York everything is bigger and louder, and anything is possible. I am still a tourist – just a long-term one. When I’m walking around, I still do a double-take and go “that’s the Empire State Building!”.. wherever we move to next, I know that a bit of my heart will always be here.

American pride!

American pride!

What things really highlight the differences between our cultures?
The sense of pride in America is invigorating and ingrained – anything is possible. British people seem more modest and considered; being number 1 is still celebrated, but we just don’t want to cause a scene.

How is your life different from at home? What are the challenges and frustrations you encounter?
I miss my family, Skype is a godsend and I have lost track of all the hours spent on it. The biggest challenge is with the time difference; my folks often expect a call much earlier than I am ready for. It took them a little while for them to understand that 10am on a Saturday for them, is still me snoring in bed.

Do you actively seek out a British community?
Not proactively, but I have met some great people through random adventures… even someone who went to my university and lived in the same apartment!

NYC

NYC

What differences do you really notice between us Brits and our American cousins?
There are a lot of preconceptions when people find out I am British; they think of Doctor Who, James Bond and Downtown Abbey – so I know I could be a disappointment. Understandably, people have ideas of what they think British life is like. I have had to field some odd questions from colleagues here:

“Do you celebrate Mothers Day in the UK?”
“Yes.”
“what do you call it?”
“Mothers Day”
His mind was blown.

A perception at home is that American comedy is just a series of punchlines, but in my experience New York audiences are smart and aware and comedy offerings here are of a very high caliber.

(See Chris on stage here!)

What’s your favourite British saying that you keep uttering? And which Americanisms have you adopted?
I used to apologize a lot “excuse me, pardon me etc” when I was walking around and trying not to bump into people.. I have toned that down now. I never expect that people would ask me to say things in my “quaint British accent”. I was getting a sandwich at a deli on 23rd Street. I was minding my own business In the queue, and the lady behind the counter asked what I wanted.

“Ham and Cheese on Rye please.”
“Oh my God, are you British.”
“Yes.”
“Would you say something for me?”
(There was a long line of hungry people stood behind me. I heard once voice say gruffly “Say what she wants, I want my lunch.”)
“Sure – what can I say?”
“The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.”
Was happy to oblige, but the think is that no British person has ever said this in real life, and to be honest I doubt any Spanish weather forecaster has either.

Cheese on rye is sooo Americana

Cheese on rye is sooo Americana

Tell me a bit about your work and what you do. Has being in America made a difference to your career?
I work for a growing company which makes online games. One unexpected challenge was that my use of language had to change to include (in particular) sporting metaphors. With the stand-up, comedy was a personal challenge for me when I moved here. I wanted to do something here that I couldn’t do anywhere else in the world. So many venues, a diverse range of performers and the bar is set very high. I’ve been lucky with meeting great people through it – audience, artists and promoters – and it’s going really well.

Chris at a gig

Chris at a gig

Tell me 3-5 things you would take back to the UK from the USA.
Brunch; it’s a classy way of having booze with breakfast at the weekend.
The playing of the national anthem, as I mentioned earlier, there is such pride in here and if they have an excuse they will play “Star Spangled Banner”. I love that, I wish we played “God Save the Queen” without feeling awkward about it. Granted that might wind up the Scots with that awkward second verse, but I think we should be stronger in our identity.
Finally – it’s a tossup between a Philly Cheese Steak or Reece’s Peanut Buttercups.

And 3-5 things you think the USA should have/implement from the UK.
Full-size pint glass – don’t change the volume based on the strength of the beer. If a man wants a pint, let him have a pint.
Squash; a cordial; doesn’t have to be a posh barley water, but something to slay a thirst. Iced tea mix is just not the same as Ribena.
Oh – proper chocolate.

You live in NYC, what’s that like and what do you love/dislike about it?
My wife told me that the seasons are much more noticeable here than back home. I just smiled and nodded. The second week I got here, Hurricane Sandy. We live on the 38th floor of a building, it was the first time I really appreciated that buildings here are designed to sway. Thankfully, we had power but friends didn’t, so we helped out and people came over to shower, charge phones & drink wine. Fi was rushing around beforehand to make the place tidy, and she started lighting candles everywhere. I asked why, she wanted to make the place cosy. I had to remind her that these people had been living by candle light for the last few days, we could look like we are taking the mickey.

Three words: New York is…… Big and apple-y.
Three words: America is….. USA! USA! USA!

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