How to make nice and be Friends with the British

I had an email from a reader expressing her frustration at being an American expat. I was thrilled and touched, of course, so I emailed her back. She had questions. She was also a bit confused about not having made any friends in the UK yet.

But she is from the Midwest like me, and, like me,  she Is So Friendly.

Brits, are you seeing the huge problem here?

I didn’t when I moved here. I was Super Fantastic and Friendly All Of The Time! Why didn’t they want to talk to me? Why did they seem to visibly shrink when I greeted them? Why didn’t they want a hug for Christ’s sake!

Now, clearly this girl isn’t as bad as I was. I was bad.

I would go on the dreaded school run and try and..ya know…talk to people. Introduce myself, ask them about their kids, ask about their lives, tell them about mine. This is how I had spent my entire life in the US interacting with other humans.

This is not how you interact as an American ‘Off the Boat’ and trying to make friends in the UK. Not if you want friends, that is.

Over several years of reading Expat blogs from both sides of the pond, experimenting with British-life-forms and talking to my husband and his circle of friends, I came up with the following fool-proof method of ‘cracking the ice’ in the UK.

Mind, this takes 6-8 months not minutes. (in the US it might not be even that many minutes!)

Here’s the tip:
The first six months of ‘knowing’ someone, The Weather is the only acceptable subject for you to talk about. 
Pro Tip: The Brits LURVE hearing about how awesome we (Americans) find the weather here. 
example: 
Scene: School Run/Bus Stop/Neighbours/delivery guy
“Wow, it is a bit rainy/sunny/cloudy/windy today! (smile)”
Then the brit grumbles or agrees
“sure was better/worse/same yesterday! Hope it is better/same tomorrow!” (smile)
Brit grumbles or agrees
 
 After you have known them for a bit,  add on the following;
 
“But, I  think the UK has the best weather in the world! I love it here! Really, I would never leave! “(grin)
They will then stare at you, trying to decide if an American is smart enough to be taking the piss. They might even raise an Eyebrow and say…Really?
Then you say
“yeah my mum has 3 feet of snow/tornadoes/hail/heatwave/mosquitoes/sharp shower of frogs!” (basic midwest suck-weather)
 
 
then just shrug and say, yeah, best weather in the world. (no exclamation. this is important.) (smile)
You may find that they even talk to YOU next time!
The thing is, the British ARE friendly. You won’t find better friends. They are extremely loyal, forgiving, funny and inclusive. Once you find yourself inside their bubble and under their wing, you will not be disappointed. You will feel included in ways that you never thought that you could.
Don’t give up if you are an Expat anywhere. Just keep trying, but get as much advice as you can. After 5 years here I have found my best-est friend evar and I am truly blessed.
As always, feel free to leave your experiences in the comments, or just to me. Ask me anything.  I get it, I really do.
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I think I may have committed a dog crime. I need advice.

By now you all know that I was trapped in the USA for almost four months. Yeah, there are rules for immigrants to the UK. (As long as you are American that is) Many , many rules.

Anyway, so I was minding my own  wine business when a hound happened. It was a Saturday and my kids and adopted dog were out playing. suddenly a hound appeared. It had a shock collar on, but apparently it gave zero fucks about that and had just run through the pain. It seemed entirely pleased with life and was happily playing with the other dogs and kids.

Except there are no stray dogs in my mothers gated community. This was now A Problem.

Take off shock collar. Check the hound’s collar. Has a number. Call number several times. Wait.  Leave msg. Wait. Have more wine. Call the pound. Wait.  Call Animal Control. Wait and wine. Use Google maps to find the hound’s house. Tap fingers. (meanwhile, hound is either running around the house eating cats or locked in the garage destroying everything)

So naturally I say to my mother “I’ll just walk it home then, shall I?” Seams reasonable. I can at least put it back in its yard and hope for the best?

This hound is not leash trained. And by Not Leash Trained I mean it is trying to kill itself on a lead. This hound acted like it was on a hunt and needed to Go Faster and/or was a sled dog and needed to Pull All Of The Things. We both nearly died walking down the damn driveway. I am so sure we are never going to make it the three blocks. (this was after the raccoon so I am expecting the worst, people)

One of my mother’s neighbors drives by. She owns many hounds. She sees me basically flailing a hound down the road and stops. I explain and she offers to drive me to the house. With her hounds in the car as well. I am now officially in insaneville and wishing I had either more or less wine. We get to the house. Car in the driveway, garage open. No one home.

The hound is clearly excited to be home! (the hound is excited by everything) There is a similar shock collar in the garage. There are fucking cabbage patch dolls and collectible ‘dolls’  all over the inside of the house. I know, I banged on every door and yelled at every window. No one is home. I check to see if the door is locked. It isn’t.  I put the hound in the house. I leave.

Just to re-cap here: I have put a dog inside of someones house. I realistically have no idea if this house belongs to this dog. I mean, sure, it was an educated guess, but still a guess. I am wondering if this is an actual crime. I still have no idea if these people got home and said “huh. I put the dog out this morning and now all of my dolls have been eaten” or perhaps “Oh good! Benji is HOME!” or worse, “WHAT?!!? Who put this motherfucking dog in my motherfucking house!”

Well? What would you have done? Please, please tell me. I am sure someone out there would have had less wine  is more sensible than me.

The one where we had a Raccoon. And many police.

I have an amazing story to tell you. I have been holding onto this one for months. I think this might have been the most astounding and surreal thing that happened to me while I was trapped in the USA.

So it is a normal morning. For a given value of normal. My kids are outside playing and my step-dad is outside working in the yard. (garden, whatever. I can not translate everything for you. I kinda can not translate anything anymore. shuddup)

There are many dogs barking. Step-daddy (hereafter known as Pat-Pat) goes to investigate. There is a raccoon.

For my British readers; I guess you will just have to think of this as a fox. It is fine to feed it, but only if you know that it is totally possible that the cute little bugger might decide at any given moment that it would rather eat your face than the treats in your hands. Meh.

There is a raccoon in the bushes. It is being all friendly and…oddly thirsty. It is not afraid of the dogs or people. This is a bit strange, but not overly worrying. The Pat-Pat tries to run it off. It just moves into the next yard. All of the barking brings out the neighborhood kids. There are now twenty-hundred kids surrounding the ‘friendly’ raccoon, either poking it with sticks or throwing food at it, depending on the gender of the kid.

This is when I bring my kids in the house. I am sorry, but I do not let my kids play with wild animals that are mysteriously active during the day and wandering around looking both high and sniffy. My kids were FURIOUS about my decision. “But the other kids get to play with it!! It’s *cute*! The raccoon is hungry mumma! ” Yeah. No.

That raccoon wandered around the neighborhood trying to die for about two hours. Where does it decide to live out it’s last few hours? Yep. On our front lawn. Of course. My parents decide to take a nap.

There are many  man-folk in the neighborhood. One plaid-wearing man says ” Welp, i would help you, but i left my guns up in the cabin.” One man-folk sits on his fancy-porch-extension and says “gosh you should do something!”  One man drives buy and shouts: “call this number!” This number  belonged to the local police. I have now called the police on myself. Wonderful.

I am frightened, confused and pissed off. Why is it up to ME to do this? I do not even live here! Do these kids not have parents?

“Oh Hello! Um, i know you can not do anything about this, um.  But I have a dying and probably diseased raccoon in my front yard and there are a tone of kids poking it with sticks, and um, do you know whom I should call about this?”

RRRRuuuuuuRRRRRuuuuu  rrrrruuuurrrr…The Police show up. All 90 of them. At least, in America, you now that when you call the police, they will show up, in force and within minutes.

Now I have 90 police in front of my parent’s yard. I DO NOT EVEN LIVE HERE. I am wearing sweatpants and a Detroit Lions T-shirt. I could have been a front for a robbery.  I did not look like I belonged in front of that house. They never questioned the fact that a white trash girl was taking control of  a high-class neighborhood.

I want you to take particular care reading these DIRECT quotes from the police;

Do you have a shovel?

(uh yeah) Yes,  yes I do. I think we know where this is going. I give the policeman the shovel .

Do you have a box?

(uh…) Let me look. *much looking happens. My parents are still asleep* No, no i do not have any kind of box or pet carrier. I am so sorry.

I need to call my Sargent. He might have a K-9 carrier.

WoooooooooWooRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrWoop

29 hundred police and one Sargent show up. I am astounded that we do not have fire trucks. yet.

The Sargent looks at the dying, diseased raccoon, lying on the lawn of a million dollar housing gated community surrounded by 20 hundred kids  and says  (and I quote..all of this is real) AND SAYS:

Shoot it.

The policeman looks at me, the kids, the big houses and then slowly, back at his Sargent. Then he says, with conviction;  ” NO, *you* Shoot It! ”

I have to admit that I laughed (in my ever crumpling mind) at this foolishness at this point.  NO, YOU SHOOT IT! bwahhaaaaa

They managed to call a k-9 unit with a cage for the poor raccoon. They used the shovel to urge it into the cage. The poor policeman on the scene managed to step in much dog poop during this ordeal. Mr. porch extension offered his help at this point. ” I have a hose if your shoes are dirty”  Yeah, they blanked him.

I managed to assure the kids that THEY WILL TAKE THE RACCOON TO A VET AND HE WILL BE FINE! RIGHT POLICEMEN? They said yes and they were awesome. They made it down to the end of the street and I swear I could hear the gunshots. So, no, then.

I then walked the half mile to a shop/store and bought some wine. I was so done with all of the foolery. The kids came with me. We braved the no-sidewalk/pavement half mile death-walk of the USA. I even bought them snax and ice creams. Believe me when I say that I was done and had laid my burdens down.

I walk in the house. I have a back-pack full of wine and bubble-gum. My lovely posh parents say:

“hey, have you seen that raccoon?”

I fell out. And when I tell you that I fell out, I am not making that up. I CACKLED people. I hit the floor, laughed the laugh where you cannot speak, and just walked (crawled) away with my wine.

I met Mr. Raccoon Policeman at the library a week later. I am thankful for their help. I am also slightly ashamed.

Next up; the one where I put a hound in someone’s house at random. kinda. At least it is policeman free.

.

I’m back, and I am Never Leaving the UK again. (the top seven things I hate about living in the US)

I just spent three months in America. I am here to tell you that I am never going back. Holy Crap, America! You suck even more than you did when I left! Get your shit together! Here are my top seven reasons that living in the US is awful and impossible.

GUNS

They are everywhere. All of the time. NO REALLY. I stayed in a super-posh suburb of D-town and still…everywhere. Boom, boom, crack, boom, bang! If you are not hearing gunshots you are hearing sirens. It is a mess. Even the kids have them. I had to call my children inside because…brace yourselves…one of the kids had A GUN on THE TRAMPOLINE that my kids were playing on. Read that again.

NEWS

There isn’t any. You get local news, and I kinda miss that, but actual news?  There is none. I made a joke about PSY meeting Ban Ki Moon and not one soul had any idea. “ya’ know? he is, like…in   charge    of    the UN…no? no. ok. ”  People in America are just ignorant about the world. And they don’t wanna be. They want to know. But they do not get to. It is stupid. (Pay your License fee and shut up Brits!)

SCHOOLS

My kids got to go to an American school for three months. I think they came out dumber than when they went in. NO REALLY. My kids were  at least two full grades above in everything. They delighted the teachers. My kids were horrified by the way that the students and the teachers acted. So was I. American schools=full of Assclowns. I shit you not.

POLITICS

Nah. No Sir and No Ma’am. I was in the US for the election and I am here to testify that the whole thing is level-crazy. The only way I was able to deal was to stay off facebook and hide under a box’o’wine and/or a table. You have no idea. Give me anyone from Eton to vote for and i am FINE. I am actually amazed that only a few people were killed during that mess.

TRANSPORTATION

You can go Nowhere in the US on foot. I mean this. The first month that I was there I tried to walk to the shops. I gave it up for several reasons. There are no pavements/sidewalks. You must walk on a gravel shoulder and hope to live. One of my kids was sick at school and I was powerless to go and get her because the silly mile walk was impossible. I had to wait for someone to drive me. Not just that one time but every time that i wanted to go anywhere.  (for three months)

NATIONALISM

While I am happy that my kids know all of the “Fifty Nifty United States” and the Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful and This Land is Our land and The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Pledge of Allegiance…Jesus, you guys! America has taken Nationalism and ratched it the fuck up to 11. I was embarrassed several times. I am American and I grew up there and I was still embarrassed by it. WOW.

STRANGER DANGER

I used to think my mum was a bit crazy when she freaked out when my children were not in my sight or within my reach. Not anymore. In the US kids go missing all the time. Every day, and not just missing, not just runaways or parental disputes. JUST GONE. Every damn day. I am not exaggerating. America has a BIG problem with kids ‘going missing’. In the UK my kids can walk down the block with a reasonable expectation of getting home safely. Not in the US.

I am going to write about all of the things that I love about living in The States. I am going to expand on many of these topics. I still love you America! I had to get some of these things out because I am so glad to be home in the UK.

I promise not to ever leave the UK again, and I promise that I will bring the funny back to my posts soon!

Got anything to tell me about living in the US or the UK? Would you choose differently than I did? Tell me what you think.

I get to be embarrassed to be American today. (Thanks) Subtitled: Why there are Slugs in my Pants

Seriously? I just don’t get Americans sometimes. It is on days like today that I can side-eye the people who say ‘why do you want to live here in the UK?’

OMFG YOU GUYS ARE TRYING TO do what ABOUT HEALTHCARE?

This is silly. Stop it. You are embarrassing yourselves. And Me.

What is it that you think will happen if ‘Obamacare’ happens? Even the BBC cannot make sense of your attitude. I do not know if you have noticed, America, but there is a Whole Wide World out side of your little red-white-and-blue bubble and there are bigger issues than whether or not some poor kid gets to go to the doctor. Jesus Wept.

I hope it stays as Obamacare. I think that is a fitting tribute, even though it is  ment to be an insult. I live every day with ‘socialized-nazi-care’ and I haven’t been sent to the death camps yet. Y’all  crazy. Please go have a seat… \_… on the crazy train.

The thing that affects me personally is that i am like the ‘Lone Ethnic In The Room’ here. People will ask me to speak for all Americans. I …I …I JUST CAN NOT defend you this time guys. The next time someone says ‘Gosh, what IS the problem with healthcare?’ I am just going to say ‘You know what? I have no fucking Idea. Americans are Assholes, but you knew that already.’ Christ was a Roman on a Popsicle stick.

Is it too much to ask, that the last remaining sane super-power act less like a toddler and more like an emerging adult? Get It Together America.

Ok, rant over. In other news; we went to the dentist. (OMFG AND IT WAS FREE FOR THE KIDS I KNOW THIS IS SO TERRIBLE) I have to go back. I do so hate dentists. We are getting ready to watch the Euro 2012 finals on Sunday. I have no idea who to support. I guess Italy. I defrosted the freezer again. I hung out my laundry and it rained and then it got all covered in slugs and I had to wash it all twice. I found out that Little Stormbringer can spell ‘fucking’ perfectly. I win at parenting.

Now all i have to do is explain to my kids why america (lowercase) is in the news today. I BET they will be just as clueless as me.

The ‘Special Relationship’ explained (no sub-titles required)

So I have been asked recently to explain the weird thing that British people do, when they put down Americans. I think I can help make some sense of this.

All of the stereotypes! “yea! WOO! nice monocle dude! ” (sigh)

Your average american on the street loves ‘The English’ with extra loves. They cannot understand why this is not enthusiastically reciprocated. Allow me to shed some light on this.

America, to the Brits, is like a 13-year-old daughter. Annoying, pompous, silly, and so totally convinced that they are cooler than everyone. (yes, i know we are, but still…) I am not sure if Americans are aware of this but let me tell you a little secret…they think that…they blame us for…they feel that it is America’s  FAULT that they no longer have an empire.

Yes, you may say, but we DID win those 2 wars for them! Uh, yeah we did, but they seem to take offense at this, and we DID kinda make them give up the odd country or so…and pay us for the privilege of saving their dumb asses from Germany TWICE, but…DO NOT SAY ANY OF THE ABOVE TO ANYONE IN THE UK EVER.

Manboy would like to point out that he agrees with Al Murray, Britain is the undefeated WW champions, because if you are not in it from the start, you’re not in it at all. (what-ever)

Also, America likes to make fun of the ‘English’ whenever possible as well. No, we do. Let me give you an example from the ever-loving-hell that is the Disney Channel. Said about the one Brit kid in the ‘american-high-school-laugh-track-show’ : “Cricket? wicket? let’s tell him where to stick it!” Um…..

Also, isn’t it just great to have every villain ever be British? Yeah, we do that too.

So it isn’t fair to think that the Brits are all hating on the US. Americans do it right back. I think that it is best to think of the two countries like siblings. The UK is the sensible older brother, the US is the annoying little sister. We love each other, but we show it by punching and tickling and the-pulling-of-the-pigtails.

THAT is our special relationship.

Mice in my Ukulele, Americans are (not) stupid, JUBILEE!!!!!!

These three things have something in common, I promise.

You know how cats think that a Closed Door is the entrance to Narnia? Well Manboy and I thought it was adorable that Sharp kitty thought that Narnia was inside a ukulele. For a half an hour. Then I went to get another Jubilee Beer and saw her face. “WHAT is IN there?” I said, shaking it. meeeeeee said a little mouse.  The mouse was let go safely away from the doom cats. Hopefully Camalot the mousie will be as lucky as the horse that I failed to bet on today.

Yeah, also I cannot figure out what side I am on, being Mid-Atlantic and everything. I am both American and British.

I cannot rembemer the words to God Save The Queen, because it is so mixed up in my head. In America, I know that i knew the  American words to this song. Here, I sing a mixture that i mumble to the tune of ‘England the Star-Spangled-Save Our Glorious Queen’. I know that none of this is right. I still sing it better than Wayne Rooney.

Here is where I get REALLY conflicted though. The Brits do not seem to be able to enjoy any major event without putting Americans down in some small way. I know that this is hurtful and inexplicible to my friends in the US who would no more do this than burn our own flag while wearing it. But it is SO TEMPTING.

I saw a video of an American asking “Why did they build Windsor Castle so close to Heath-row Airport?” And I wanted to cry. Take a minute.

THE JUBILEE IS SO AWESOME ALREADY THAT I HAVE BEEN SNIFFY ALL DAY. Every time I see the Queen i start tearing up and whimpering the only words that I know to her song. I feel so very lucky to be here for this you guys. And this is only the first day. Everyone here has turned friendly and happy and there are flags out and everything! It is AMAZING!

I think everyone is enjoying this weekend and celebrating. I hope you are too.  God Save our Glorious Queen! 

I’m one of ‘those immigrants’

I am. I emigrated to the UK. I am here to ‘take your jobs’ and ‘ruin your culture’.

I get where this aversion is coming from. I do. It isn’t cool when you feel like you are being diluted and that places are being taken up and your kids don’t get the same benefits. I’m sorry.

Even though, as a U.S. citizen, I get no benefits here. (it’s stamped on my passport y’all) I still feel the sting when I hear this said in front of me.

It feels really yucky when I hear people chatting about ‘those immigrants’ and then they see my face, and then say…”oh, well not you…”

Is it because that I am white? Or not Polish? Or..(i don’t even know how to be an intolerant asshole, loss for words)

Or is it because I am an American and ‘that’s OK then’?

I am from Detroit. South-eastern Michigan boasts the  highest population of people from the middle-east, other than the middle-east. (33% y’all) I grew up with friends from Israel and Iraq. I grew up with friends that spoke Spanish or French as a first language. We all got along. But I never once thought; get out of my country you asshole.

My school bus was shot at by an Iraqi. His sister was one of my best friends.  I used to have a Jewish boyfriend. I taught my kids Spanish so that we could talk to our neighbors from Mexico, and our kids could play together. I never once thought, get out of my country, you asshole.

I lived through 9/11. And believe me, in Detroit, on 9/12, it was a whole new day when we all had to come out of our houses and face each other. The whites, the blacks, the Americans, the Iranians, the Iraqi’s, the Israelite’s , the shop keepers, the people on the street. We looked at each other with suspicion and dread. Then we remembered that we were friends before, and were still friends, the same people. I will never forget the look on the face of my local shop-keeper that day. He had an American flag in his window and he was afraid. But, no harm came to him and we just got on with it. (OK, Michigan is not Alabama, but still…)

You guys, it hurts my feelings when you say those nasty things about immigrants. Change your laws, restrict your building, do what you need to do. Just don’t hate us all. We are here for a better life. And we mean you no harm.

At least that’s what it felt like from the other side. Now I know both sides. I hope it is OK to call the UK my country. I hope it doesn’t offend you.

Life in the UK is Awesome

There are some definite advantages to living in England.

(Obviously, we have free health care. Including dental. This rocks y’all. Sort yourselves out.)

The weather is fine. Always. Most places in the U.S. have weather that can kill you. This is not the case here. It doesn’t even rain. I know, I know but hear me out. The air gets wet sometimes, and occationally water falls gently from the skies, but it never RAINS. There are no tornadoes, hurricanes, snow storms, earthquakes…nothing. There is no weather here. It is always just fine. It doesn’t even got hot. I don’t have air conditioning. No one does. I fucking love this lack of weather. I’m from Michigan, which means that it is either boiling or freezing or bug season, or a tornado is ripping up your lawn. Here? I don’t even own an umbrella.

There is no candy in the check out aisles. THIS IS SO BRILLIANT. There is nothing there at all. Just a line, and then a slow moving Brit to scan your groceries. This is a huge bonus. I used to make my brood repeat the mantra “nothing in the check-out aisle, nothing in the check-out aisle, we buy nothing in the check-out aisle” until we got out of the store. This means that I am totally unprepared for shopping when we visit the States. Write to your congress-person because this is something to unite every parent on the planet.

We have the BBC. I cannot stress how awesome this is. If you are British and you complain about paying the license fee, I hate you with extra pain. The “news” in the U.S. is making everyone hate everyone else and not even giving out news. That sucks. Y’all don’t get the kind of quality world view that we do. I know what is going on in every country, all day, everyday. I read news form the left and the right and then I go and see what the BBC has to say and then I feel all better. I wish I could give this gift to you, America.

So there you have it.

No weather + No Candy + Sanity-In-The-Media = RockingAwesome