16 November 2011

New Habits

So I had a momentous first this past weekend. Well, a first in the UK anyhow. On Saturday, Andy and I had taken Henry to the pub for lunch and a pint. As we were walking our way back home, a girl from one of the playgroup sessions I go to flagged me down to say hello. She and I had just gone for coffee earlier in the week so I was quite pleased she wanted to say hello, instead of hiding behind the table whispering to her husband, “is she gone yet? Tell me when she’s past.” This exchange prompted Andy to take the piss out me for the rest of the day – “Oooooo, look at Ms. Popular”, “You’ve got a friiiiiiiiiend”, “Well, we need to go to the grocery store. Should I be worried that you’ll run into more people you know?” Piss-taking aside, I was really chuffed about the whole thing. This girl and I might even go for coffee again tomorrow.

Running into people I know has always been a common occurrence for me since I tend to live in big small towns – basically suburbs of big cities where you can’t help but know people eventually. Usually after I move somewhere (which I’ve done a lot), this happens, and I mark it off as the point where I finally fit into my new town. As I’ve complained previously, this point of fitting in has never taken so long before; now that it has I feel a bit more relaxed about living here.

This made me start thinking about all the things I do now in the UK (that are almost second nature) that 10 months ago would have seemed so foreign to me. Because I know these things interest you to no end, I thought I’d list them off here.


I would never consider myself a coffee snob. In the States I bought my coffee from the Coffee Bean because they were good and they were convenient to buy beans for home since I was always in there for my daily fix during work hours. I did think Folgers was crap - because it is – same for Maxwell House for that matter – but I would drink a cup of it if someone offered it to me. I always drank the generic stuff pouring out of the machine at work. One thing I refused to do was buy instant coffee. I’ve owned a coffee maker consistently since I was 16 years old. I’ve owned a grinder since I was 28. There is no excuse for not taking the extra two minutes to brew a pot of fresh coffee….

…or so I thought until I moved here. It all started due to finances. We had a kettle that Andy’s mum donated to us. We figured we could live without a coffee maker until we were more flush. I begrudgingly bought some instant coffee and that is what I’ve been drinking since our time abroad. While at this point I’m sure I could convince Andy to get me a coffee maker, there almost seems no point anymore. Truthfully, I get a proper cup of drip coffee from Costa every now and again but it still doesn’t seem the same without the creamy goodness of half and half. Truthfully, instant coffee isn’t so bad if you add a scoop of Horlicks in there with it.



This happened almost immediately after I set foot in England. I think I had heard it so often from Andy that it snuck in the minute I was surrounded by ‘the accent of Andy’. ‘Cheers’ is primarily used when shopping. If you go to the newsagent and bought some chocolate, the transaction would be as such:

“That’s 65 p.”

“Here you go…cheers.”

I still don’t understand why we thank people or say ‘cheers’ to them in either country when purchasing items. What are we really saying? “Thank you for taking my money. You could have refused and gave it to me for free.” Perhaps we are thanking them for their cash register skills – that seems more of a “well done” then a “thanks” though. Perhaps in the UK, we are simply “cheers”-ing them for having their shop open. Since most shops are open for approximately 45 minutes every other Thursday, this would be legitimate appreciation.


I walk a lot. I might have mentioned previously that I don’t really care for walking but I think since it has become my main means of transport, I don’t mind it so much anymore. There used to be a time when I was living in the States (recently) that Andy and I would drive to the pub. If we got too drunk, we’d walk home. If we got really REALLY drunk, we would take a cab back home (only happened twice)(honestly). It embarrasses me to say that the pub in mention was 5 blocks from our house. They were long blocks, but we always took a short cut so it was less than that. I could argue that the US isn’t built for pedestrians (which is true), but it really is no excuse.

I now walk the same distance to get to the grocery store 4-5 times a week. I walk a mile further to feed the fucking ducks in the park – something I do for Henry’s benefit though he typically falls asleep on me before we get there. A mile! I walk from one end of Liverpool City Centre to the other AND BACK AGAIN because of the shops I’m going to and the spot where I catch the bus. I walk blocks and blocks and more blocks, pushing the damn stroller hoping to god that Henry will FALL THE FUCK ASLEEP (I should just take him to the ducks, shouldn’t I?). You get it right? I walk a lot. It’s not so bad.

 A pigeon could land on his nose right now and he wouldn't wake up.


OK, I’m not an expert on this but a few things have helped me along:

0 C = 32 F

10 C = 50 F

20 C = 68 F (England never gets warmer than this, so you can stop here)

200 C = 400 F (For cooking purposes, not gauging the temperature of hell while in the company of an European)

If you know those four conversions by heart, you can usually work out the rest. I could tell you that for every 5 degrees C, it works out to 9 degrees F (thus, if you know 10 C = 50 F, 30 C would be 86 F), but that’s all sorts of boring and math-like and I won’t have such nonsense on my blog.


This one is going to bite me in the ass one day if we ever move back to the States. Imagine this – it’s Thursday night. As usual, all the networks have decided to put all the good shows on the same night in the same time slot. You haven’t had anything decent to watch since ‘Dr. Who’ was on on Saturday, but now you have to decide which two programs are more important to you to record on the DVR. You could watch the third, less important show live – but that goes against all your principles of never watching a commercial again. What do you do?

In the States you suck it up. In the UK, you record your 3rd and 4th less important shows (but still good enough that you must record them) and hour later on the plus one channels.

The plus one channels, you might not know, are the same channels that repeat the same program schedule and hour after it appeared on the regular channel. Here, it’s like this:

BBC One is showing ‘Frozen Planet’ at 8 PM, followed by ‘Case Histories’ at 9 PM
BBC One +1 is showing ‘Frozen Planet at 9 PM, followed by ‘Case Histories’ at 10 PM

When we first got our cable package, I was a bit put off that we had all these channels that were basically repeats of another channel, just an hour later. Now, I can’t live without it. Let’s say the baby is crying and won’t go to sleep. By the time you check the channel listings, you’ve missed the first half of some show that looks interesting (though not interesting enough to record). You simply wait a half hour, and blam, you can watch the entire show in its entirety. Brilliant – and also very useful for Thursdays.


I have more but I think this post has gone on far enough. I’ll come back to this topic later. I will let you know that I will probably be absent next week as my sister is in town to help me celebrate Thanksgiving UK style. In my absence, why don’t you check out a new blog – but obviously come back to me in two weeks like a faithful reader that I know you are. I have paid you to be a faithful reader, right?


  1. Confession - I asked my friend to bring me some decaf Kenco from Ireland this week. I was ecstatic that she brought me two jars! I started drinking it in the UK when everyone else would drink tea. I can recommend Whittard's instant hazelnut coffee. Delicious!

    Oh, and I never said 'cheers' in the 5 years I lived abroad. I felt like a total poser when I tried it.

  2. I'm running through all the coffee brands they have to see which one is the most tolerable. I'm on Clipper right now and have some Italian brand for the next one. I'll have to give Whittard's a go!

  3. Ooooh the instant coffee is hideous! I have found that most people here on a budge use a cafetiere (or French press, as us good ol' Americans say). They are astoundingly cheap and so much nicer than instant. Of course, we own a 30 quid coffee maker from Argos with a timer and alarm and such because honestly? I might be poor, but I'm no savage. Love your list of things that have changed! I've found that my biggest change has been a sing-songy quality to my voice which I find people here (Britain in general - I live in Nottingham) and a compulsive need to say 'Hiya!' in a bright singsong whenever I enter a store, get to a till, etc. I would never have said Hiya in America. Oh, and I also think the cheers thing here is part of the compulsion to politeness, like how when you take a bus it is normal to thank the driver as you get off. My (also American) husband thinks it is the dumbest thing ever, but I've completely assimilated. I also enjoy 'Sorry!' now, as you shove past people in the street. Apparently the act of feigning politeness by sorry-ing excuses all manner of social ills.

    Btw I've commented on here as anonymous a few times before. Also American in Britain (3 years now). Really enjoy your assimilation stories - it brings back all the trauma of Year 1!

  4. M: Thanks for reading and commenting! I might have to look into a French press though I dread the thought of cleaning it every day.

    That's funny that you say 'hiya' here and not back home. I used to say it pretty frequently when I was back in the States but never now as I never hear it. Or maybe I just don't notice. ;-)

  5. Men are silly. Sometimes the teasing is annoying. Happy for you that you have found someone that recognizes you and may be a possible friend.

    Instant coffee?! Never pegged you for that kind of person. Especially without cream!

    The other assimilation that got me thinking is the walking. I am in love with my car and as a current US citizen I would not dream of walking as I know you were like that too. I also wouldn't have been brave enough to bundle Thomas up for such walks. Kudos to you!! He looks super comfy by the way and awesome hat.

    Happy Early Thanksgiving!!!!


  6. Hey BH!

    Yes, instant coffee. I'm typically not that type of person but you know, when in Rome...

    I miss my car and driving more than should be allowed. But there's nothing I can do about it right now. I think you would bundle up Thomas for a hearty walk if it meant leaving the house for awhile if you couldn't drive. Anyhow, the day that photo was taken, he was still sleeping by the time we came home. I didn't want to wake him by taking him out of his layers, so I put him (still in the stroller) outside on the patio while I looked after him with a nice cup of coffee warm inside. I know, how Scandinavian of me.