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Archive for the ‘expat’ Category

There is nothing more adorable to me then to see the kids heading off from school in their school uniforms. Especially the young kids. The uniforms look like something out of a movie or a childhood book. In the summer the girls are in a checked dress, boys in a shirt and trousers or occasionally short pants. Every person in Britain who has gone to school here has worn their uniform. Even my own 3 yr old son has a nursery school uniform. A little polo top with the school logo embroidered on it. They said that it was so that he gets used to a uniform and so none of the kids feel left out. Oh, and its so they don’t get their regular clothes dirty. He got one. I can buy more at £7-50 a piece… seven bleedin pound and 50p for a shirt to get dirty? I can get him a shirt at ASDA for as little as 75p.  Its a good thing that this ” uniform” isn’t mandatory. It will be when he is off to normal school. This is the first drawback on the uniform. The true uniform is expensive.

I have observed that the uniform sets up a mentality here in the UK. Its supposed to keep the kids from knowing who has more money. Its supposed to keep them on a level playing field. It doesn’t. They know. They know whose blazer is  second hand. They know who has the real uniform and who has a uniform from ASDA or Matilan. The teens all do their bit to keep some from of individuality one way or another. This is nothing compared to how we dressed in the states in high school. Jeans, T-shirts, and Birkenstocks. We wore what we wanted. We wore what was comfortable. Its no wonder I feel uncomfortable in a uniform.

This uniform mentality is set in them for life here in the UK. It sets them up for the working world. This is so true. Me, personally, I actually cringe at uniforms on adults in the work force. I only even had a uniform when I worked in fast food as a young adult. I hated it. Yes, offices had a dress code. Some more casual then others, but I never had a uniform outside of fast food. Here the uniform is in pretty much every workplace. The doctors surgery have a uniform, the nursery school teachers wear a uniform, pretty much every business that has a lot of women working there will have a uniform in place. I even had gone into a recruitment agency here. I noticed all the women had the same thing on: Black trouser or skirt, white blouse, black jacket. So I asked one of them if they had a uniform to wear and she said no, but they did. The mentality has become so ingrained they didn’t realize it. Without having to wear a uniform they wore one. I was the only one in the room in a suit that wasn’t black. This is a real difference in mindset for me to adjust to. The uniform. Everyone has their place. Everyone in their station in life. It does go against my American mindset of being who I am. Dressing for success doesn’t go hand in hand with a uniform in my mind. Ah well, when in Rome as they say.  I still think the kids look adorable in them.

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Its Christmas eve here in the UK. Time, once again, to remind me just how bloody small the fridges are here. The fridge in the UK is about a quarter of the size of the fridges in the states. This is because A) people used to just shop daily for what they needed and B) They don’t have room in the kitchen for anything larger then a dishwasher for a fridge.

Our fridge/freezer combo is so small. The freezer has 3 tiny drawers that you heave, shoving and pushing as much stuff as you can. The fridge, well think of your dishwasher. Thats the size. Wait, scratch that. If anything is at the back of our fridge it freezes so subtract some space for that.

So here it is, Christmas eve. I have bought stuff to make salads, stuffing, meat. Christmas meals. But we don’t have room. So I am left feeling frustrated. Again.

They have come out with “American style” fridges. Most are still smaller then what I had in my condo in the states, and it wasn’t the biggest fridge going.  One day, we will have a huge fridge. Either here or in the states, we will have a big ass fridge with so much room that I never, ever have to worry about the mayo freezing because it got pushed to the back again.

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Just to set the record straight for anyone who is wondering, Americans who live abroad are still Americans. We still care about America. We have the right to vote and we do. I am an American. I live abroad. I love my country and I vote.

I live my life, daily, as a living representative of America. Every time I open my mouth I am no longer a person, but the American. People don’t know my name but know me as the American lady. I am fully aware that I may be the only American the person standing in front of me has ever met, or possibly ever will meet. It was more intense when I first move abroad then it is now. Its still there. I speak, the response is always… you sound American.  Yes, I am an immigrant. I am a foreigner. I am American.

Because I am the living representative of America I have gotten the brunt of the anger from people. It has come as passive aggressive with under toned comments, or plain aggressive. I have had people glare, snarl and tell me to my face that they hate F-ing Americans. I have had people follow me, get excited, and tell me that they love Americans. It evens out. But the anger is there. America has lost its respect from the people who once held it in respect.  The world expects more from us, and frankly, so do I. More so now then ever. Fellow Americans, you may think it doesn’t matter what the world thinks about us, but it does. Very much so.

Right now I am feeling pretty blue about my homeland. This election is a pretty remarkable time. Its fantastic that a black man and a woman are running. Its fantastic that we have progressed. It looks fantastic on the surface. But what I am seeing from way over here, an ocean away isn’t so great. From what I am seeing and hearing are some pretty nasty comments, and disgusting lies.  This election is bringing out the lowest side of us. People are saying and doing things that they would never do. On forums or social sites, they are saying things they would never say to someones face. Its ugly. Its disgusting. Its un-American.

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Today we had a drive out to Little Morton Hall. Its a National Trust site and its not really all that far away. This hall is from 1510. Its all higgly piggly. Very cute and definitely what you think about when you are an American coming to the UK.  We climbed the stairs up to the top floors. They are the typical stairs for old mansions and castles. They just go round in a circle and are very narrow. How on earth the women made it up those stairs in the old days dressed in those huge skirts is beyond me. The stairs are so narrow that my feet didn’t fit on them. It was also the typical rope for a hand rail.

When you get to the top its an open hall. I think at one point it was the largest room in England, but by today’s standards its not very big. But its was so out of plumb that I was dizzy. None of the wall where straight. I actually felt like I was on a boat and I got seasick.

I think I might want to go back by myself and hang out a bit. I never get a feel for anything with kids in tow. I also have a feeling that its probably a haunted site. Really cool though.

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It was about 5 yrs ago about this time in Sept that I was heading home to California. I had been in England, staying with my then fiance, for 4 months. In that time we had gone from having met in person once, to having lived together for 4 months. We had traveled to Spain and gotten engaged. I remember feeling so extremely happy, as you should when you are newly engaged. I had a new diamond ring on my finger. It was all so very exciting.

I remember the night before I left. S came down the stairs and he was in tears. He said that it had just hit him, really hit him, that the next day I would be gone. We had no idea for how long. I had to get home and sell my condo, sort my life out there, get rid of everything and get a fiance visa to come back and get married.

The day I left, we stood in tears at the airport in Manchester. The thing I hated most about long distant relationships was saying goodbye, not knowing when you would see this person again. There is always that level of doubt that if a few to many months pass that they will have a change of heart. All your fears come to play. Its very painful, long distance relationships. They are really not very fun at all.

After really no sleep the night before, a 6 hour layover in Atlanta, and a long flight to Sacramento, I was home. I would like to say that the next 5 months before I moved to the UK flew by but they didnt. I had the stress of cleaning, painting, sorting and selling my condo. I had the heartache of being with my beloved step dad as he lost his battle with cancer. I had the blessing of being with him as he took his last breathe. It was a long and painful 5 months.

The one bright point was in November when S came to visit. We had a few days away from the cancer in Southern CA to get my visa, a few trips out but mostly it was a bit of a downer trip for S. We did have our fun moments though. It was also what seemed to be a start of a great friendship with him and my brother. Or as S says, his brother from another mother.

5 yrs on. So much has changed. Marriage, a son, ups and downs. I came to England all lovey with very rose colored glasses on. About a year in the rose color glasses did the typical expat thing and turned to grey. I think being pregnant really threw me into the greys. Pregnancy was mentally and physically hard. Being in a foreign country with no family was very hard. I didn’t really know people as I hadn’t been here all that long. It became easy to see the bad more then the good. Its also a pretty typical expat thing to do. There is a whole science to it.

So here I sit, 5 yrs on from leaving this land for the 1st time. I can not believe how fast it goes. I also am a bit shocked at the next stage of being an expat I seemed to hit. Acceptance. For the past year our lives have been geared towards moving. 2 weeks ago S got laid off from his job. Since then everything is up in the air. Strangely I have quickly become more comfortable with the idea of staying. A month ago I would of said NO WAY. Now, its a possibility. S seems to be more about moving then me. Its all a bit strange. Not sure what to make of it myself, but I am more of the school of if we do we do, if we don’t we don’t right now.  I just wonder what I will be doing in 5 more years and I think back to the day I left to change my entire life.

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Its been a week now since S got laid off from his job. Since then, everything is up in the air. We don’t know what we are going to do. Even the move is on hold for a bit. The exchange rate has dropped so much that we would end up losing nearly $20k with the drop. Not good.

We are looking at many options at the moment. Staying optimistic. We just don’t have a clear picture of where we are headed. I should be freaking out, but I am not. I am actually kinda excited that we have options again. It feels like everything was forced into a narrow tunnel for the last year. Now we can stop, reassess, and go forward with an open mind. Strange feeling, but sort of a relief.

So if anyone is wondering if we are still moving, we don’t know. I will let you know when we do.

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We had planned a day out for last week a few weeks ago. We decided to head to the Peak District here in the UK. S took a day off work. We had high hopes for a fun day seeing the sights. Luckily, the day we planned was on the same day of the week that I take my son to a toddler play time at the leisure centre. We figured an hour play would get his energy out and give us a more peaceful drive through the countryside. Besides, S never gets to see him play with the other kids as he is at work. So we went, and my son had his usual fun time running, playing on the little cars, and general toddler play. I keep a really close eye on him as he has a hugging thing and can over hug other children, but he didn’t hug anyone. Then the weirdness started. There was a younger woman there, firmly ensconced with her circle of other younger mothers. We noticed at one point this woman jumped up and pushed this little kid and jumped just as quickly back in her seat. My husband and I just looked at each other.. odd. Must be her kid. Then my son went and touched her son. She was up like a shot. Just before she pushed my son she saw me, stopped, and just snidely said “tell him to not to touch”. Yeah, tell a 2 year old not to touch, right. So I moved my son along. Then it happened again, my son touched this little boys shoulder. She was up again just about ready to push my son. This time she was all glares and very angry. “keep him away”.  By the third time of her trying to get to my son to push him away I had had enough. I looked at my husband and said “that is that, lets go” My husband at this point was biting his tongue and just shooting her dirty looks. I am sure that if my son touched hers again she would of hit me. That is how weird she was acting.

So we pile in the car and off we go. We had a nice drive to the Peaks. Lovely views. Stopped for photo ops. Just had a nice drive. We drove into a town called Buxton. Very cute. Its an old spa town. The types that the rich Victorians would go to and be healed by the waters. My husband drove up to the back of the town and on a one lane, one way street we started looking for parking. As quick as can be, and SUV started backing up. We had to slam on the brakes. “Cool, parking” I said. Because this SUV had shot back so quick we needed to back up to let them out. Didn’t have a lot of room as the SUV behind us had to slam on their brakes as well, but S backed up a bit. Just then, the car behind us started honking and flashing its lights. We stopped, didn’t think to much and the SUV pulled out of the spot and we pulled in. The car behind us kept honking, flashing its lights and I noticed that the woman in this SUV was getting out of the car screaming. What the heck? So S rolls his window down and this woman is screaming every obscenity known and telling us that another woman, parked on the sidewalk/pavement, and not in the car, was waiting for that spot. How this woman knew what was going on in front of us, or in the mind of the woman parked on the curb, is still a mystery. But she was really angry. Red faced. Screaming. Man, I should of taken her picture to post. I had my camera in my hands. Next time, I will be photographing and posting to be sure. After a few mins of exchange between them, she drives off. I had S go ask the woman if she was waiting for the spot. She said yes, but she hadnt been in her car at the time. What ever! So I made him find another spot.

Buxton is a nice town. We had a wonder around. Just in town the heavens opened. I mean it was pouring. We ducked into a cafe for lunch.  One again, I am let down by the food we are served in the UK. We decided to get full English breakfast. I usually don’t go for that, but I know that my son loves sausages and would eat most of it with me.  One scrambled egg, barely cooked through, one small sausage, one fatty piece of English Bacon, one piece of toast, half a grilled tomato and a spoon of beans. Two of these and two pots of tea… £12. That is close to $24. We always feel so ripped off eating here. We wouldn’t of stopped but for the rain.

We left the area and had a nice drive. We went through hill and valleys and villages and towns. We drove through Bakewell, Edale, Eyam and a few more. We saw the Blue John Mine. We decided to get out and wander around Castleton. This is an area that my husband used to go to the youth hostel and stay when he was young. There are tourists wandering everywhere and we figured there must be some cute stores. So he decided to drive up the road, no parking but a great view. Just a lovely stretch of valley. I was looking at the view, trying to decide if it was worth stopping for a photo, when a movement caught my eye. This young woman was yelling at me. “What the F you looking at?” What? I wasn’t even looking at her. With all the tourist around, I didn’t even pay attention that people where around. She was F’in and Jeff’in and glaring. Talk about a chip on her shoulder. We drove on, found parking and wandered around. But that woman had ruined it for me. I just wanted to leave. Actually, all three horrible women had put a damper on a day that I was really looking forward to. I was ready to go home.

If, in the future, I have my camera and people behave like that, I will be photographing. I swear I will start a new blog so people around the world can add horrible people, their stories and their pictures. So next time you want to behave so poorly and have road rage or any other kind of rage, you better be prepared to be shown to the public in all your glory.

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