21 February 2011

The Glamorous Expat Life

So I have been a proper expat for approximately 10 days now. In these ten days I have done…well, I’ve just been living really. Call me delusional (though I hope that I’m not the only delusional expat out there) but when I thought about living abroad, I had all these grandiose ideas on how living abroad would be so glamorous and exciting and filled with new discoveries everywhere I turned. While the new discoveries bit is quite valid in many aspects, the real truth is being an expat is not glamorous or not incredibly exciting simply for the whole lot of Basic Living you’re actually doing.

Let’s put it this way – when you go on vacation somewhere, to a foreign land or hell, even to Florida, you’re on vacation. You don’t think about laundry detergent or which bank has the best APR’s or what form you need to fill out for a grocery store savings card. You’re on vacation. On vacation your main concern is having fun, eating fatty foods, and taking 168 pictures of landscapes to bore your friends with back home. You don’t look around and think to yourself whether or not the area around the hotel would have a good school system, do you? But that’s what it’s like being an expat. It’s just real life- regular basic living, isn’t it? The only difference from trying to get settled in another town in the country you are born in and trying to get settled in a new country completely different from your own is that people talk funny and you spend entirely way too much time identifying the worth of the coins you have jangling around in your pocket.

I also think your mind is a lot more open when you are on vacation. Or maybe that’s just me. I just know that when I was here last year for 3 weeks I was all about trying all the local foods and just taking in whatever England could throw at me. This time around I find myself already searching for American equivalents to the every day things I use. I didn’t give a rat’s ass about that a year ago. Why would I? There’s no point in finding Britain’s answer to Secret solid deodorant if I’m going to be back in the US in 3 weeks. Bring on the roll-on!

This all may sound like doom and gloom. Andy is probably reading this right now shaking his head and mumbling about me being a bit fat complainer; which I must respond, I’M NOT COMPLAINING. I’m actually stating some facts here and I’m stating them for all those out there who are thinking about moving abroad and are as delusional as I was. Because if you are delusional (like I was), the reality can hit you in the face pretty fucking hard and maybe it would help if someone had told us (the delusional people) a little bit about how it actually goes down. So, hey dumbass, it’s not going to be a vacation, it’s just going to be your life.

With all that NOT complaining stated, I have to tell you that life here isn’t so bad. It’s actually quite good really, for regular life. Technically, we’re still in limbo living at Andy’s mum’s house at the moment; anxious to get on with proper settling down in our own place and all that, but it’s been good regardless. Now that we’re here we’ve been able to buying the big things that the baby is going to need – stroller, crib, car seat – also things that plug in like the baby monitor and bottle warmer. That’s actually been a huge relief. For someone who considers herself efficient and just likes to get things done already, it’s great not to be waddling around at 34 weeks without a clue on how we’re getting the baby home from the hospital. Baby aside, we’ve gotten a lot of the basic things taken care of – opening a bank account, got new phones with really long phone numbers (which I admit fully I can never remember what mine is), got the saving card at the grocery store (and Costa Coffee – uber important!). I’ve also got to experience a lot of normal UK life – going to the tip (aka: dump\landfill), going to the Trafford Centre (aka: big ass mall), going to the cinema on Friday night to see Simon Pegg’s new movie, “Paul” (I was the only one in the theater who laughed a the illegal alien joke), and eating out A LOT. We’ve visited the cat twice in quarantine, which is really a big ass compound in the middle of the countryside (she’s doing fine, though has let herself go by gaining a least a pound in two weeks). We’ve helped Andy’s mum buy a new laptop and Blu Ray player at Curry’s (aka: similar to Best Buy but they have Best Buy too).

The Willage (aka: Crosby Village).  I've been to Costa no less than 8 times in the last 10 days.

Our abode and fantastically awful Vauxhall rental car

Headed into the Birkenhead Tunnel to go see Chloe

Our chubby little monster

Me, trying to show off my bulging belly in Sefton Park but failing miserably.  At least I have water shooting out of my head.

Like I said, we’ve been busy and it’s been good but it’s not terribly exciting, it’s just life. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I do have one small anecdote for you, which is to describe Little Chef. Little Chef is a chain diner type place, usually located along a traveling route. I would say it’s similar to a Stuckey’s or Waffle House in the States. When we go and see Chloe in quarantine (which is in the countryside remember), we actually pass two Little Chef’s on the way. The first time we headed that way, I couldn’t hold my bladder any longer and asked Andy if we could stop at Little Chef so I could pee. Walking in to Little Chef is like visiting an area that just got a visit from the Dementors (Harry Potter reference – I don’t care how dorky it is, I’m not changing it as it’s the only way to describe it). Everyone there, from the customers to the employees just looked like the joy had been sucked out of them. Like they were all there, in that Little Chef, wondering what they had done in their life wrong that they somehow ended up there, at Little Chef, for the rest of their days. Even their mascot, Charlie, looks like he has a forced smile. Growing up my parents used to threaten to drop us off at jail when we were misbehaving. When Henry misbehaves, I’m going to threaten to drop him off at Little Chef.

I feel the life draining from me just looking at this.

That’s about it for me. Now that the laundry is done, I’ve got to run into the willage (aka: Crosby Village) to get some bread and vegetables from Sainsbury’s because that is the sort of glamorous expat life I lead.


  1. You are not delusional at all. It's hard living abroad and it's not all fun and games. There are challenges daily and you (at least I do) will constantly compare things to "back home." Good luck getting settled into your new life.

    Also, I like how you said you aren't complaining, just stating facts. That's how I feel about my blog too even though it sounds like I'm complaining all the time.

  2. Growing pains. I know how you feel!

    Get ready to be one of the only people laughing at various jokes in the theater! Sometimes, even though it's the same language, it doesn't translate. I remember seeing 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' in the theater (I'm sorry, the Cinema) and laughing my ass off. And being the only one doing so.

    Hey, if you ever figure out what the difference between Bio and Non-Bio laundry detergent is, would you let me know? :)

    PS Sainsbury's? I'm jealous. I hear only good things about it.

  3. Not complaining at all. Sometimes it's a bit crap and it's nothing like being on vacation. See my blog for 'things that shit me' items. I love the UK but sometimes....

  4. Ooh - is Chloe living on the 'posh' side of the river?

    I think I agree with you about vacationers being more open-minded. They can afford to be - they're going to be back home soon.

  5. Sara: Most my conversations with my husband recently are him going, "You wanted to move abroad!" and me responding, "I know, but..."

    Liz: When I asked my mother in law about the Non-Bio\Bio detergent the first thing out of her mouth was, "The Bio kind actually gets cloths clean!"

    VW: I've read your "Things That Shit Me" posts. They're awesome and should probably spawn a blog of they're own.

    AA: Posh side? You mean "the Wirral"? (The Wirral is one of those names that makes me giggle for some reason as it seems like it should be a laundry washing term.)

  6. Yes - the Wirral - traditionally considered posher than Liverpool, despite some parts of it being just as run down as parts of Liverpool. The entire Wirral used to be part of Cheshire until the county of Merseyside was created. Neston and Ellesmere Port were included in Merseyside and fought to return to Cheshire. They kept a Liverpool postcode for years though and finally got a Chester one - having a Liverpool postcode had hiked their insurance rates!
    (I grew up on the Wirral!)

  7. AA: That's very interesting! I had actually thought that Birkenhead was part of Liverpool before Andy told me otherwise.

    So yes, to answer your question, the cat is absolutely on the "posh" side. Not that she appreciates it.

  8. I'm still an American and have access to American products so if you really need the Secret deodorant, let me know and I will send some.
    On a related note, sort of, even moving to a different state sometimes is weird. I remember living with you those 2 months in CO and not feeling "on vacation" anymore. I actually started to get used to the mountain views and not STARE at them in awe anymore. I just started to live life like you said.
    I don't think you are complaining and I enjoy hearing about the differences in living. The pictures are great!


    P. S. You look beautiful even with water shooting out of your head.

  9. BH: One of these days I'm going to compose a list of things that I want from the States and send it to everyone. Sadly, the list grows daily.

    I know what you mean about the mountains. I think I'm at the point where I would stare at them in awe again but there definitely comes a point where they are just there in the background...

  10. I know what you mean. I feel like my friends in the US expect me to be having elevensies with the Queen every day, but instead I'm blogging about grocery shopping and my quest for quality sweet gherkins and tortilla chips. Cities always seem so much more fun and glamorous until you move there and have to deal with everyday tasks that seemed much less complicated in the states (for example, WHY do I need a certified copy of my passport just to become an authorized user of my fiance's credit card?)

  11. Renee: And why is nothing open on Sunday?

  12. Yes! If you're going to watch the Super Bowl at 11 p.m. on BBC 1, get your snacks by 11 a.m. or all the stores will be closed!