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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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 400

400 posts!

Holy cow, that’s a lot of writing. Fact.

British eccentricity

I wrote a piece recently about how the British liked to take their clothes off a lot at sporting events. I’m told this also happens in America at the colleges quite frequently, so if I have time I’ll head to one of those colleges and check that out…. In the meantime, here is my piece about streaking the British way for you to enjoy :)

Streaking, British-stylie

Streaking, British-stylie

Drive up banking

I love drive-up banking in the USA, but I sometimes get it wrong. I don’t want to clip the wing mirror, but there again, I don’t want to feel like Mr Bean when I attempt to tap in my pin number and insert my card. There is a certain art to it, and sometimes I just fail.

Color/colour-blind

I spotted this picture yesterday at an event I attended.

It needs no explanation.

Abe Lincoln had it right.

Abe Lincoln had it right.

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 399

My So-Called Teenage Life in the USA

I am a bit fascinated about what it must be like to be a teenager in the USA. Why? Because, quite simply, I grew up as a teenager in the UK and I know there must be quite a lot of differences in the social structures and education system and wot not. We are different in so many ways, and I often wonder how I would respond if I were a British teenager out here in the USA. For a start, there’s the difference in the legal age for drinking…..

I also have images of Glee, the Breakfast Club, Grease and all those high school TV shows and movies in my head, and I wonder if they must be true. I kind of glamourised American school culture, with no school uniforms, lockers, catching the school bus, driving to school in open top cars, the jocks, the geeks, the cheerleaders, the marching band, the prom, the homecoming dance, graduation…..

The iconic USA high school prom

The iconic USA high school prom

I asked a British teenager, Molly, who has just moved to Howard County at the age of 17, about her experience of the differences and similarities between the British and American systems and ways of life. I’m curious about her experience, because I went to live in Gibraltar as an expat child at the same age as Molly and was met with a gregarious, exciting and crazy social life, a British/Gibraltarian education system, a plethora of opportunities, freedom, a drinking culture, lazy days on the beach, Spanish culture and adventures that have stayed with me forever.

This is a very honest, insightful piece by Molly about her new experiences in the USA.

Molly’s Teenage Life in the USA

Time in the USA: 3 months – arrived January 2014

1. When you arrived here as a British teenager, what were your initial impressions of the USA? How do you feel it differed from the UK?

Moving to the US has been one of the most daunting, but amazing experiences I have ever had. And what a hectic 3 months it has been! I had already visited the States a number of times with my family before moving to Columbia, so I vaguely knew what kind of lifestyle to expect. We always loved our American holiday adventures, Florida being a favorite, and it seemed crazy that I would actually end up living here. Moving over in January seemed a very bizarre time to come quite honestly! It completely ruined my AS schedule, as I had to leave halfway through the school year, we faced continuous torrential rain whilst trying to move out of our UK house (typical British weather!) and then we faced a large amount of snow in the first couple of weeks after arriving in Columbia which stopped us from sorting out numerous important things that we needed in order to live over in the US.

On so many occasions in the first month, I seriously questioned why I was actually out here. I doubted whether it was the right move and I was adamant that my life would have been so much easier if I had just stayed in the UK. It took a painfully long time for me to get into high school, which left me a lot of time to worry about everything!

Geeks, jocks, cheerleaders....

Geeks, jocks, cheerleaders….

2. You attend high school here.
a. Tell us what you would be doing in the UK for school and social life right now if you were there.

If I was still in Britain I would be currently studying for my AS Exams. I was so happy when I finished my GCSE’s because I thought I could just focus on four subjects that I really enjoyed for A level. Unfortunately that didn’t happen for me – you have to carry on studying every subject until you graduate over here (just when I thought I had managed to shake off Math’s and Science!). As I had to leave halfway through Year 12, I made the decision to study just one subject in the 3/4 months I had left. This was a really intense period, trying to cram everything in, but I managed to get it done and I am due to fly back in May to take the exam.

Sixth Form in the UK is generally a really fun time (despite the school work!) for most students. From the small amount of experience I had, there were loads of social events to attend and you got so much more freedom compared to the lower years in school. The introduction of free periods was a blessing! On top of this you had really strong friendships due to having spent the last 5 years with the same people. This was something that made the move over here so much harder.

b. How is this different from what you are doing now in the USA?

The first week of American high school has definitely been one of the most hysterical times ever. Whenever I opened my mouth, people would either be mesmerized by my accent, kind of in a trance or they completely freaked out and started shouting and pointing at me! In the UK I wouldn’t say I stood out for a particular reason at school, I just was a normal teenager getting on with life, so having all the attention focused on me felt quite peculiar and unsettling. I have kind of got used it now, something still happens every day as I am introduced to more new people. I am continuously repeating certain words and phrases much to the amusement of the students, but I quite like it and I feel very flattered!

The USA school bus

The USA school bus

My UK school timetable would have been Art, Textiles, History and Business Studies, however at my American high school I am studying American Government and Politics, Fashion and Interior Design, Psychology, Law and the Citizen, Algebra, English and Sociology. Completely different! Not only are there nearly double the subjects but half of them I haven’t even studied before. I went in a bit clueless really! However I didn’t let this phase me, I went into all my classes with a positive attitude and now I really enjoy them (except maybe American Government and Politics, it’s just sooo boring!)

3. What are the key differences between the British and American teenage social structures?

I’ve only been at an American high school for roughly 8 weeks, so I haven’t been able to observe in depth the social structures. However, one thing I have noticed in particular is that people tend to hang out with peers that are interested in similar extracurricular activities, whereas in the UK I was friends with people who all had different types of hobbies. For example if you played an instrument in band, you would most likely associate yourself with other band members – just like in the movies!

4. What differences have you noted between the British and American teenage social life?

I think the large majority of American teenagers social lives are based around their extracurricular activities. It is seen as important to take part in activities out of school in order to make your college application stronger. Therefore extracurricular activities are put ahead of social lives. High school sport teams for example are a huge commitment, and training occurs almost every afternoon after school. Most after school clubs in the UK were once a week, so this is a huge contrast. When teenagers have the time to meet friends out of school, it seems pretty similar to the UK. It is usual to go out to eat, go shopping, watch a film at the cinema etc.

5. What differences have you noted between the British and American teenage education / schools?

One thing I have particularly struggled with since starting high school is the early mornings. I have to be on the bus at 6.45am in order to get to school on time, but in the UK I didn’t have to catch my school bus until 8am. The benefit is you do get to come home earlier, so you can achieve more in the afternoon when you get back from school. I have also noticed that I don’t receive as much homework either over here, which I personally think is brilliant after having to spend so many hours at home completing work for GCSE and AS exams. Lessons in American high school are a lot more vocal, as teachers regularly hold class discussions. I have really enjoyed this because it enables everyone to get involved.

If you are interesting character in a USA movie, yours will be on the top row :)

If you are interesting character in a USA movie, yours will be on the top row :)

6. What three things do you think British teenagers could learn from American teenagers?

• Be more confident – e.g. American’s generally enjoy speaking publicly, whereas I noticed in the UK most tried to hide away from it!
• Don’t be afraid to say your opinions.
• Get up earlier in the morning – my days have been more productive since I have had to start school so early.

7. What three things do you think American teenagers could learn from British teenagers?

• Be more creative – structure and guidelines are very rigid over here, there aren’t enough opportunities to express individuality.
• Take pride in self image- I have seen too many flip-flop and sock combinations!
• Respect elders – teachers and adults aren’t given enough credit for the hard work and effort they have put in to help our generation succeed.

8. Complete this sentence:
American teenagers are: enthusiastic, confident and committed.

9. Complete this sentence:
British teenagers are: hard-working, creative and sociable.

High school life

High school life

P.S.
I definitely think moving out here was a good choice. All the positives outweigh the negatives – not many British teenagers get the opportunity explore the US in their free time! The move has no way been easy, that is for sure, but we have met so many lovely people in Columbia that have made us feel welcome, which has made the transition more enjoyable. To anyone who is moving to the States, the only advice I could give to them is embrace all the opportunities that are available over here. It is a great way to meet new people and make new friends, with who you will potentially keep in contact with for the rest of your life. It is not like you are completely cut off from your life back at home, I have been so grateful for the technology that has allows us to FaceTime or Skype friends and family, they’re only a phone call away.

Any of this going on on the bleachers...?

Any of this going on on the bleachers…?

P.P.S.
We often think that USA high schools are like those we see in the movies or on TV.
a) Are there any similarities or not? and
b) Do you ever stop and think: that’s just like Glee, Grease or similar…?!

I have constantly been comparing the situations I’ve been in, or the things I have seen with scenes out movies, because that is all I had really to form a picture of American high school. I have found a lot of similarities, much to my amusement, but I don’t know whether that is just because I was looking for them!

Cliques definitely exist in the American high school environment, because your interests define what ‘group’ you associate yourself with. All the big events that you see in films and T.V such as Prom and Home Coming most certainly occur too, and these from what I have seen and heard are very materialistic, and you are judged on your dress, transport, hair , date etc. so there is a lot of pressure put on people. Unfortunately I haven’t yet seen anybody break out in song in the school corridors, like in Grease or Glee, but I am hopeful that it one day might happen!

A fan piece, Molly. Thank you!

#HoCoBlogs

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