Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 172

American bands

In the UK I haven’t seen many bands with the enthusiasm of this teenage band that I saw outside the Howard County Library Miller Branch (the celebrations were about the Howard County Library System winning Library of the Year 2013 – a rather excellent feat).

Check these kids out! Yeah!

Love those kids and their enthusiasm. I have a feeling that the UK version would be a tad more sombre…….there would be no jumping – it would be prohibited to jump – and the band would be playing, without doubt, When the Saints Go Marching in. Fact.

And – ladies and gents (you know who I’m talking about chaps!) – I got a hug from the one and only Howard County Executive Ken Ulman at this event. Yes, I jolly well did! 🙂

Interview with expat Brit in the USA, Emma Kaufmann

Want to find out what this Brit, who’s been in the country for 13 years, thinks about driving and teeth in the USA? Read on!

About Emma
After hopping the pond from London thirteen years ago I found myself in Baltimore because my boyfriend wanted to go to grad school here. First we lived with many creepy critters in a dodgy apartment, until the collection of cockroaches, rats and ants became too much and we eventually scraped together the money to buy a house. Next I popped out a couple of kids and wrote a book about trying not to go mad after giving birth called Cocktails at Naptime. I also wrote a lot about my life in my blog Mommy Has a Headache and banged out some novels. For the last few years I also managed to get back to painting portraits of animals and kids as well as to start crocheting animals. As for the future … the sky’s the limit!

What do you enjoy most about living in the USA?
Well the weather is pretty fantastic. In the summer you can loll by the pool for at least three months of scorching weather. The fall has many red leaves and many evenings roasting marshmallows over a fire pit. The winter has tons of snow and you can laugh at people trying to drive in deep snow and getting stuck when really they should have stayed home!

Also the property prices are very cheap compared to the UK which makes it a great place to raise a family.

Emma in stocks at the Maryland Renaissance Festival

Emma in stocks at the Maryland Renaissance Festival

What do you miss about the UK?
Well, I lived for most of the time in the UK in London, much of it in Central London so I’m afraid I was well and truly spoilt. I would stagger home after pubbing and clubbing or if necessary board the night bus. I did not appreciate the convenience of the public transport or being able to walk to many places at the time. I didn’t even have a driver’s license in the UK so I have still not got used to having to plan ahead when you are going out here in the US and driving everywhere. Also I have a lousy sense of direction so if Sat Nav hadn’t been invented I would never find my way from A to B in Baltimore and would probably have spent my days in laybys looking at crumpled maps and shouting expletives like a madwoman.

I do miss UK pubs a great deal, especially ones with pub gardens. I have not really found a pub I like here although there probably are some in Fell’s Point but I don’t get down there as often as I like. Although Ryan’s Daughter in Belvedere Square is a pretty nice for a fake Irish pub!

Emma covered in Cocktails at Naptime books - her funny book for new mums

Emma covered in Cocktails at Naptime books – her funny book for new mums

What differences do you still encounter?
Well the amount of commercials on US TV used to drive me demented so I switched to just watching streaming TV like Hulu and Netflix. So when I have to watch someone’s regular TV it is a real assault on the senses. To me there just seems to be so much more adverts of every kind in the US – more billboards, more sponsored radio shows, more internet adverts. It is really bloody annoying and harder and harder to escape from.

The best thing about being a Brit in the USA?
This is straight up – often people I meet here ask me if I know someone in the royal family. To be honest, I get the impression that people I meet casually here think being British is classy and that I am someone straight out of a Jilly Cooper novel who has a stable full of horses back home. It is all rather flattering I must say. But suffice to say I was not brought up in a Downton Abbey environment although I suppose my accent is fairly middle class so maybe I could ham it up a bit for a laugh. I have been sorely tempted to say I am a minor member of the royal family and see if anyone believes me, that I hang out with Charles and talk to plants, but I think it would only make people think I am madder than they do already!

Emma and her daughters among the tulips at Sherwood Gardens, Baltimore

Emma and her daughters among the tulips at Sherwood Gardens, Baltimore

What myths, stereotypes and preconceptions about the USA do you think do exist or are just a load of nonsense?!
These stereotypes are true:
Many Americans – but not all- do not seem to understand irony or sarcasm. In the UK you just have to make a dry comment in a deadpan way and people will ‘get it’ whereas here you seem to have to SPELL IT OUT. For example, when Ricky Martin came out as gay I told an American friend in what I thought was a mindblowingly sarcastic way “Wow! I would never have believed that. I mean he’s so straight acting.” Well she raised her eyebrows and replied, “Really, because to me he always seemed totally gay.”

Secondly Americans have really amazingly straight teeth. You can tell someone is really poor if they have a mouth of snaggleteeth because they could not afford braces. I recently had to grab the bull by the horns because I was told my eight year old needed braces and $3000 dollars later here we are! My husband who has very crooked teeth was told by his dentist here quite seriously that his crooked teeth meant he would ‘never have a career in television’ and that to set them straight would require breaking his jaw and a $30,000 cost. People here take straight teeth very seriously indeed. Not to mention that my husband is an electrical engineer and has never harbored any ambitions to be on TV!

The preconception that Americans are, well, not very bright is not all that accurate I have found. There are morons everywhere, certainly, but generally I have found Americans to be pretty knowledgeable about world affairs etc. There does seem to be a bit of a ‘laissez faire’ attitude to spelling and grammar though which I find hard to deal with sometimes.

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4 Responses to Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 172

  1. Pingback: Monday Coffee Morning ~ Hurdle Jumping, Of Sorts! | The Move to America

  2. Rocky Balboa says:

    This confirms everything I suspected. I’ll be moving to the States to use my English accent for evil, just as soon as I’ve saved up enough money. For the teeth whitening.

    Interesting interview. Thanks and good luck out there.

  3. Pingback: Romancing the Crone | Posts

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