Conversations with Americans Pt 2: In Defence of the Realm

Teabag caddy9 weeks into the rest of my life, I’m losing the knack of explaining my first 39 years. I don’t know how to paint Britain.

Rebecca and I have both been answering the “What’s Britain like?” question (to which I am on the verge of reversing –  what’s America like? What’s it like to live right here, every day. Is it good?) with “Cold. Wet. Gray.”

It gets a laugh, but they don’t get it. You don’t get it unless you go.  Rebecca’s ten years in the UK will never be understood by the locals; it’s barely understood by me. Her 2000s were in a different world.

Besides, does anyone here really need to know what Britain is like? A lot of them think they already know, with preconceptions ranging from “everyone living in castles” to “everyone living in castles and having bad teeth” – what entitles me to burst their bubble?

But the question doesn’t go away, and you only get one chance. While  I realise that some of the time there’s as much genuine curiosity behind it as with “how’re you?”, I still I want to get it right. Continue reading


Horses for courses (My first job)

Grill ventMy very first job as a permanent resident is something I am, with my “would you like baked or scalloped potatoes with that?” Masters degree in Hospitality Management, absolutely qualified for.

And when I say job, I don’t mean I’m getting paid. There’s a notion that if we make a profit, we split the dough.

But that is currently just a sweet fantasy designed to get us out of bed on 2 Saturday mornings every month.

Rebecca and I run the food concession at a local horse show, except when they’re cancelled due to bad weather. (Interestingly, bad weather in Tennessee means “rain”, it does not mean “hotter than hell” – that’s where, along with the definitions of “short drive” and “funny”, Tennessee and I agree to disagree).

I know what you’re thinking: That sounds…fantastic! I would love to be a part of something like that. I’m a team player, I don’t have (m)any criminal convictions…so where do I sign up?

Not so fast. Hold your horses.

There are some things you need to know about the horse-show-food-concession-business before you go jumping headfirst into it: Continue reading

Conversations with America Pt.1 (Winning and losing)


Image by bishib70 via Flickr

I was told way back when (1993) that there are taboo subjects in American conversation that I shouldn’t bring up. These subjects neatly coincided with the things I most wanted to talk about, so I found myself pretty quiet in America. Until I discovered shuffleboard, Twinkies and The Simpsons, and was officially declared safe to talk with.

In my new permanent resident guise, I have yet to have any taboo conversations with an American. So absent are these subjects from the typical conversation that most of the time I don’t notice we’re not talking about them. And yet if we turn on the news, they’re pretty much all there.

Most of the conversations I have, and are present for, with family members and friends in the US are blandly competitive; there is a tacitly understood angle that any conversation is batted up in the big blue sky to be caught, run with, and won. These issues are quick and easy wins, as they center around the everyday subjects you learn to speak first when learning a new language: how much, where can I, why didn’t you etc. Continue reading