Because I’m lacking in inspiration to come up with my own fantastical, thought inspiring, informative expat anniversary post, I’ve decided to answer in essay form Beth’s fantastical, thought inspiring and informative questions regarding being an expat.
BETH’S FIRST FANTASTICAL, THOUGHT-INSPIRING, INFORMATIVE QUESTION ABOUT BEING AN EXPAT: How have you assimilated into the culture?
The thing about assimilation is that unless you are held captive by war mongering aliens who inject you with a special alien serum via a skull cap with 2,565 pointy needles, assimilation happens very slowly and usually without you actually noticing it happening until someone points it out to you. As I’m currently the alien in this scenario and not of the war mongering type, I can confirm that quite a great deal of assimilation has occurred but I don’t really notice it. I’ll run through a few highlights as an example.
In the morning I wash the dishes by hand. I no longer think about dishwashers unless I’m in a pissy mood. I also load my laundry in the kitchen, which no longer seems strange to me. If it was warm out, I’d hang said laundry out on the line even though I currently have a tumble dryer. It really isn’t as much as a pain in the ass as it might sound like. Also, I use the word ‘tumble dryer’ instead of ‘clothes dryer’ or just ‘dryer’.
The kid watches CBeebies in the mornings. I can distinguish between the English, Scottish, Welsh and Australians accents the different cartoon characters have. The kid eats porridge instead of oatmeal. He gets his nappy changed, rides in a pram, and sleeps in a cot. I hate saying ‘nappy’ but I use the word so I don’t mess up when talking to other people. I personally think ‘cot’ is better than ‘crib’.
Don't get me started on Captain Barnacle.
Later in the day I’ll walk to the store, or the Children’s Centre, or the high street, or to the park. I don’t yearn to drive as what little I’ve done here is nerve racking with the tiny streets. I still miss the driving in the States though. My legs are used to walking and I only curse a little bit if I have to walk across cobblestones. I still think spelling ‘center’ as ‘centre’ looks weird.
I spend a lot of time in charity shops. Money is tight here and there is no point in buying new when you can buy used at a faction of the cost. I can’t remember the last time I bought something online that wasn’t food. I can’t remember when I last had a haircut. I need new shoes but I’ll wait until they’re falling apart. I’ll spend over an hour doing the online grocery shop comparing prices at three different stores and will get excited if I save 35p on tomatoes. Unless you work for the BBC, there is no such thing as disposal income. Not like there is in the States anyways. Thank fuck beer is cheap.
Later in the evening when the baby has been put to bed, I peruse the Radio Times to see what’s on. I’m very used to the fact that a television series could be only 2 episodes worth (sometimes more) but usually less than 8. That’s quality television – not 23 episodes per season with each episode containing 4 minutes of actual plot. If you don’t read the Radio Times, you might miss a great 3 episode show. Anyone see ‘Call the Midwife’ yet? If you have a vagina, this is a must-see.
BETH’S SECOND FANTASTICAL, THOUGHT-INSPIRING, INFORMATIVE QUESTION ABOUT BEING AN EXPAT: Do you take anything for granted yet?
I actually had to go outside for a cigarette to give this one a good think. The thing about taking something for granted is that you never actually think about it. After careful consideration (and I’m embarrassed to admit this) that the one thing I take for granted is the NHS. The NHS has its faults. My god, does it have its faults. But at the end of the day never have I given it a thought on what would happen if one of us got sick, or in an accident, or were returned by war mongering aliens with 2,565 holes in our head. In the past year I haven’t received one single medical bill. In the past year I never had to worry about deductibles or hit the ATM to grab some cash for a co-pay. I never had to ask the pharmacist for the cheaper generic brand. Like I said, the NHS isn’t perfect, far from it, but as a stay at home mother with a little child, it really great not having to worry about it.
BETH’S THIRD FANTASTICAL, THOUGHT-INSPIRING, INFORMATIVE QUESTION ABOUT BEING AN EXPAT: Do you find yourself with an accent sometimes?
No, I don’t have any hint of a British accent. Beth can actually attest to this as she saw me two weeks ago. I’m too old and set in my way of speech that my accent doesn’t morph like that anymore. Sadly, this is so true that even though I haven’t lived in Wisconsin for over 8 years, I still carry the long ‘O’ that is so prevalent for that area (“you knooow”).
What’s funny is that I hung around an old friend of mine when I was back home – he took me to a bar (of course) and both him and the bartender claimed that I had an accent. What Andy explained to me is that because so much British vernacular has slipped into my normal speech, it can appear that I have an accent when really I’m just saying British phrases in a regular American accent.
Beth actually caught me out on using ‘faffing’. It’s probably one of my favorite British words at the moment, meaning to intentionally or unintentionally waste time. I used to say “dilly-dallying” but that’s way too fucking long. By the way, you can also ‘faff about’ if you so choice.
This is one of the first images that came up when I did a Google image search for 'faffing'. You can draw your own conclusions.
BETH’S FOURTH FANTASTICAL, THOUGHT-INSPIRING, INFORMATIVE QUESTION ABOUT BEING AN EXPAT: Do you still consider yourself hooked on American things?
If my bulging suitcase last week is any sign to whether or not I’m hooked on American things, then yes, yes I am. This actually can fall into two categories – American things that I can’t get in England and American things that you can get a version of in England but they aren’t nearly as good.
American things that I can’t get in England (NOTE: You can get some AMERICAN products here in overpriced AMERICAN shops, but you can’t find them at Tesco): Kraft Mac & Cheese, Ibuprofen in 500 count bottles (pain killers are typically sold in packs of 24, no more), Toll House semi-sweet chocolate chips, Lucky Charms, lemonade mix, Nutter Butters, Cheetos, Bisquick, sloppy joe mix, sleeping pills containing doxylamine and Trident White gum.
American things that you can get a version of in England but they aren’t nearly as good: The big one – Q-tips. If I stick one more British ‘cotton swab’ in my ear thinking it will be anything more than a sickly piece of string wrapped around some flimsy plastic, it will be too soon. Q-tips are like fluffy clouds gently massaging the yellow wax away from your inner ear. Pure Ear-gasam.
My ears sing for you. Hard work considering they only know how to play the drums. Pa-dum-dum.
BETH’S FIFTH AND LAST FANTASTICAL, THOUGHT-INSPIRING, INFORMATIVE QUESTION ABOUT BEING AN EXPAT: If you could do it again, would you?
Hell yeah. Living abroad has always been a dream of mine. If I hadn’t done it I would have always wondered about it. I can’t say it was everything I thought it would be, but I don’t regret for a moment doing it.