Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 178

Guns….

Oh, guns. This tweet was forwarded to me by an American friend today and it reads thus: Trying to explain our gun situation to people in other countries is like trying to explain Hitler to dogs.

We Brits don’t really get guns. We don’t have a ‘gun culture’. The ‘cowboys’ at the mock-shootout we saw at the weekend asked us if we carried guns in the UK. Gosh, no, I replied. They both fascinate and repel me.

I wouldn't have one of these in my purse in the UK

I wouldn’t have one of these in my purse in the UK

See Dan’s interview below for a truly British perspective about guns….

Snow cones

These popular little cones of colourful fun are on the roadsides and at the pools in abundance at the moment and I had my first one today.

Snow cones are crushed ice. With coloured flavouring and are of no nutritional value whatsover. However, at the time it was perfectly refreshing. Bet you could do with some snow cones in the UK right now…..

Refreshing....

Refreshing….

The miles people travel

People are willing to travel much further in the USA than the UK, even in a day. The thought of setting out for a two hour journey to look at a beach or a mountain or to eat a special type of fish (yes, it’s true) and then drive back again is of no consequence to many Americans, it seems.

I remember when we planned a day trip….oh my, I would think, it takes 40 minutes to get to Oxford, that’s a long drive. But it would be nothing to moan about in this vast country. People are prepared to travel and the roads are made for doing just that.

I hear people do round trips of eight hours to see families at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Wow. It’s going to take me eight hours to fly one way to the UK in a couple of weeks’ time….

Miles and miles and miles

Miles and miles and miles

The Royal Baby, it cometh

Yep, a new sprog of royal descent is on its way and king or queen of our green and pleasant land it shall be.

There’s an air of excitement in the USA, and people are asking me: Are you on baby watch? Um, yes, I respond, having to think quickly. For one moment today I had no idea to which baby they were referring.

Such is the anticipation about the royal baby of Windsor, that Whole Foods has decided to produce a cheese.

Yes, some countries are lighting up monuments for the royal baby’s arrival, but America is celebrating with cheese! Good job (as is frequently said over here)!

Whole Foods is capatalising on the royal baby mania and has released a limited edition cheese named after Kate and Wills. The Westminster William and Kate Royal Addition Cheddar is an all-natural white cheddar that was aged for 12 months on a farm in England.

So, basically Whole Foods knew the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would be having a baby three months before the couple even knew!

The cheddar comes in 10 lb wheels, which sells for $7.99/lb on sale, so if peeps in the UK want a taste let me know and I’ll bring some over in my luggage!

Cheesiness for their Royalnesses

Cheesiness for their Royalnesses

Living life in LA

Our mate Dan is living it up in LA right now, and he’s having a ball. He had to leave his wife and two sons behind in the UK, but they’ve joined him for the summer. So, how’s life in sweet LA, Dan?

Dan’s adventure

Hi – my name is Dan Whybrew. I’m a 31 year old lawyer from the UK and am currently in the lucky position of working in Los Angeles as part of a six month secondment from my UK firm. I specialise (or is that specialize?) in film and TV, which is what brought me to LA three months ago. Home is Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, with my beautiful wife and two amazing boys (aged nearly 3 and 5).

Dan and his boys

Dan and his boys

How is LA-LA land?

I spent the first 11 weeks waiting for my family to arrive so that in itself gives me a different perspective about life in LA. I’ve also only been here for 3 months, which obviously has a bearing on my views as it still feels like a great long holiday. Having said that, I do feel like I have been immersed into Americana sufficiently to give some insight and now that I’m reunited with the family I can give some comparisons from a more level playing field.

So far it has been a genuinely great experience (!!) and here are just a few observations from me….

Climate…
Readers probably get bored of this from the Brit contingent, as do most Americans that have to deal with this topic coming up in every conversation with anyone from across the pond. Brits are obsessed with the weather, and for good reason, and that’s why it tops my list! The weather in the UK is pants [excellent British phrase, Dan!], mainly because of the inconsistency and the fact that every summer we cling to the hope that we will get 8 weeks of sunshine and BBQs and are invariably disappointed (although as a write this I hear that the UK is experiencing a mini heat wave with temperatures of 90°F).

The inconsistency really affects how we plan and live our lives. Contrast that with the climate in Southern California – awesome! Granted I’m out here during the best months of the year but you just know when you get up in the morning here that it will be hot and sunny. That lends itself to doing things outside, enjoying all the free stuff (beaches, picnics in the park, swimming), being motivated to go for that run and generally leading a healthier lifestyle etc etc. So, for me at least, sunshine = happiness and there is so much sunshine that it’s difficult not to be all smiles here.

Now that's what I call a beach...

Now that’s what I call a beach…

People…
As others have observed, there’s often a perception from Brits that Americans are a bit fake, superficial, wannabe actors, dare I say it “cheesy”. And it’s the “Real Housewives of…” and all those types of shows which feed the stereotypes (NB. The rational (I like to think dominant) part of my brain hates that trash but there is a small (until now secret) perverse part of me which is kind of intrigued to watch and which prevents me switching over when I stumble on to the latest saga to trouble the Beverly Hills WAGs) . No disrespect intended but I would like to think that Americans do not take all Brits to be cast in the same mould (sic) as the “cast” of TOWIE (although I am an Essex boy myself) (PS. to any Yanks – I appreciate much of the last few sentences will be lost in translation so you will have to google some of the references).

The dreadful TOWIE....

The dreadful TOWIE….

Yes, Americans and Brits are different as a result of our history, culture, education, politics, religious outlook, geography etc etc but surely diversity is something positive to embrace – variety is the spice of life and all that after all. The vast majority of people I have met here are very pleasant people. Some are not. Some I have met are really great people and I am certain will be friends for a long time to come. That is just like anywhere , right?

My experience in LA is that people are very confident (more so than the average Brit) and much more willing to strike up a conversation (whether it’s in a lift, whilst buying a coffee or frankly anywhere there is human interaction). Is that such a bad thing? I don’t think so, although we cannot all be super-happy 100% of the time so I’m sure I’ve offended the odd person with an uninterested response when all I want to do is buy a drink and am not too bothered about said person’s last visit to London.

Guns and Hospitals…
I don’t want to dwell on these topics as I have not really been here long enough to give an informed opinion and I would rather focus on the positives of my experience in LA but the fact is that the approaches to guns and the healthcare system in the US and UK obviously differ vastly and both have a huge impact on our lives and how safe and protected we feel.

I will not apologise for the fact that I will never understand or agree with the gun laws in the US. The UK certainly does not boast a utopian society, far from it, but it really is saddening to watch or read the daily news in the US and witness it so often dominated by shootings. Yes, a Santa Monica incident could happen in Cheltenham because of some wacko but the point is that I just don’t feel like it will. That fear factor which leads everyone to want to own a gun for protection is a dangerous combination if you ask me. Anyway, that is just my opinion and I know it is hugely divisive.

I also feel that everyone should be provided with a certain level of healthcare by the state regardless of wealth and the healthcare industry should ultimately not be driven by a desire for profit. I know things are changing in the US and the NHS is far from perfect but do feel lucky the way we have it.

Movie time, LA style

Movie time, LA style

Misc. things that are better in the US

a. Fuel prices (and add prices of cars in general to that).
b. Actually, prices in general.
c. Fastfood – go on, admit it, everyone indulges every now and then. In N Out burger kicks ass/arse.
d. Supermarkets (with the exception of Waitrose in Cheltenham – Claire will testify). [Yes, this is v true!]
e. Cinemas.

Misc. things that are better in the UK

a. The countryside (remember this is based on my experience of LA. Having seen Mountain Men on the History channel I appreciate the US is a big place!).
b. Music.
c. Fashion. [Totally, apart from New York I think!]
d. Public transport.
e. Drunken nights out.

Name three things that you really miss about the UK…

1. Drunken nights out;
2. The ability to be able to spend a day or 2 without getting into a car; and
3. The 10 O’Clock News on the BBC.

The beautiful British countryside :)

The beautiful British countryside 🙂

What has really surprised you about the USA and its people and culture?

I wouldn’t say anything has really surprised me as I have grown up on a diet of American TV (Friends, Sopranos, 24, Breaking Bad, The A-Team and Bay Watch) so I knew exactly what to expect. Having said that, here are a few things I have noticed:

1. People really are super friendly. That is until they get into their cars and it is every man/woman on the road for themselves. The other day I stopped to let a guy pull out from a side street and he looked stunned and remained motionless despite me waiving him forward.

2. Americans really have little or no sense of the geography of the UK outside of London (I thought that was a myth but it’s not). I have given up explaining that I live in Cheltenham, a picturesque Regency spa town in the Cotswolds that does have Starbucks as well as indie cafés that sell afternoon tea. To be fair, I have no clue of the geography of Louisiana so we can’t complain.

3. The fact that people really do drive everywhere.

4. The amazing beer selection!! I was dreading 6 months of weak pissy lagers but the beer selection here is amazing!

5. Whilst people are sociable there is much less of a “let’s pop out after work for a drink scene” here. Probably because everyone has to blinking well drive. Also, I understand people don’t really do dinner over at friends’ houses as often as in the UK. Meeting for brunch is a much bigger deal.

6. I haven’t yet figured out how somewhere with as little rain as LA doesn’t have hosepipe bans (at least not as often as in the UK where it pisses it down for 11/12ths of the year!).

Does being in LA feel sometimes like you’re in a film set….?

Er, no. Unless I am actually in a film set, which is sometimes the case in my line of work. [Alright, smarty pants!]

Dan's family all together in the USA

Dan’s family all together in the USA

In what ways have you used your Britishness to your advantage?

The main reason I’m here (at least why I am being paid for the privilege) is for business development purposes and so I can meet people in my line of work. I am certain that being a Brit and new in town has meant more people are willing to meet up with me. There’s also no doubt that the accent gets noticed and my sons get a lot of attention!

PS.I’m only half way through my 6 month stay so I can let you know if anything changes come October (that’s if we leave then…..??). Suffice to say that for now it has been a truly amazing 3 months and I will never forget this experience. To quote a Hollywood legend, “I’ll be back!”.

PPS. Claire – your blog is superb! Very witty and insightful and when it is published I won’t demand any royalties or payment for copyright, just an end roller credit would be great. Thanks. [Blush, thanks Dan! Perhaps I’ll need your services when it gets made into a movie too… 😉 ]

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7 Responses to Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 178

  1. jacqueline moore says:

    “…Friends, Sopranos, 24, Breaking Bad, the A-Team, and Baywatch, so I knew exactly what to expect..” No offense if that sentence terrifies me. 🙂

  2. jacqueline moore says:

    Thanks, we never can be sure—it’s a joke to us but you can’t imagine how many UK visitors think if they could get a visa they can get a two-bedroom apartment (the size of “Monica” and “Rachel”‘s, in Manhattan, on the salary of a waitress in a coffee shop! Or that the average family has a house like the one in “Home Alone” (I wish!!!)

  3. jacqueline moore says:

    That’s funny…you brought up the subject of bumper stickers recently and I saw on that said PADDLE FASTER I HEAR BANJOS!!!

  4. john says:

    Things that are better in the UK (c) Fashions…Dude, really.

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