5 Things I Hate about being an Expat in America…Part 4

Expat Hate

We’ve had another installment of 5 Things I Love about being an Expat in America so, it’s now time for 5 Things I Hate. As always, these aren’t things I necessarily hate, just things that I find different/weird/annoying about life here in the States. Ready? Here goes!

1. Cracks in toilet doors.
You weren’t expecting me to write that one now were you? It seems the people who build toilet cubicles in America can’t get their measurements right, ever. Just about every single toilet you go in has a crack between the door and the cubicle frame. Sometimes, they’re so big that if you look at the wrong time, you might actually make eye contact with the person who’s in there. Shocking. Hideous. Just plain wrong. Why would I want to see someone while they are on the toilet? Why would I want someone to see me while I’m on the toilet? Talk about an invasion of privacy. I’m pretty sure it isn’t for safety reasons seen as though the gaps both above and below the cubicle are also huge. Sort it out America, I don’t want to have to accidentally make awkward eye contact with another person whilst they’re having a pee again.

2. Credit card security…of the lack of it.
Using a credit card is as popular and normal as taking a shower here in America. I hardly ever have any cash on me (which can cause some evil looks when I go to the nail salon and have to tip on the card receipt!) and use my cards for absolutely everything, I even use it to buy a coke from a vending machine! However, when it comes to credit card security, America is still living in the dark ages. Nobody ever checks my signature when I pay for things. Occasionally I’ll get asked for my ID which they check against my card but that is very, very rare. My credit card doesn’t have a chip on it or a PIN number (which causes me a shed load of problems when I’m back in Europe, the land of chip and PIN!) sometimes I don’t even have to sign for a purchase. It basically means anybody could use my card to pay for anything, anywhere. Scary. Take note from Europe America and get some PIN numbers installed, or at least check my signature!

3. Sweet bread.
What is it with America and it’s obsession to have everything so sweet? Cakes are laden with sugar, so much so that sometimes I can’t finish a piece and we all know that is a crime! I have to ask for my drinks at Starbucks to have half the regular amount of syrup. First world problems people. But, the thing that gets me the most is the sweetness of the bread here. Seriously, a slice of white bread is super sweet compared to a good old slice of Hovis or Warburtons back home.It’s upsetting when you’re so excited for a slice of toast (it’s a sad life I lead, I know) and when you bite into it expecting some savory, buttery goodness you get some sort of buttery sweet ickyness that is just not nice. Why, America? Why?

4. Shop assistants.
Ok, so I’m a Brit (in case you didn’t know!) and us Brits like to keep ourselves to ourselves. What we don’t like is to be pestered, and America shop assistants certainly know how to pester. I walked into a store just the other day and was, of course, greeted with “Welcome to …” which is all fine and dandy, but, she went on, and on, and on. She asked me if I was looking for anything in particular to which my reply was no, I’m just looking. That didn’t deter her. She then went on to ask me if I’d shopped here before. My reply, yes. Even the one word answer didn’t stop her, or the fact I was rummaging in the rails and only half looking/listening to her. She then asked when I was last in the store! I literally had no idea so answered with a while ago and started to move away from the rack and onto another. Then she asked me my name, which, reluctantly I had to tell her, before she finally gave up, told me her name and said to ask her if I needed anything. Now, I’m all of this good customer service but that was just a little over the top. When I shop, I like to look at stuff without being interrupted. If I need help, I’ll search out a shop assistant and ask them. Maybe it’s just my Britishness but I really don’t like being pestered in a shop.

5. Loud Americans.
Now, I know every nationality is different. I know every person is different. In America though, there seems to be a lot of loud people. Seriously. I definitely don’t need to listen to your whole, big conversation about how you’re going to Florida for the weekend or how you’re about to send an important email that will triple your workload, how you’re planning to stuff your face with Mexican food this evening or that hot date you have planned whilst I’m trying to get some work done. I’m sure I know every aspect of some people’s lives just from sitting in Starbucks for an hour. I know I’m working in a public place and I do expect some noise but I expect it from the person next to me, not the person at the other end of the coffee house! I guess it could annoy me because us Brits are a little more reserved and like to keep ourselves to ourselves. It definitely doesn’t help when you want to concentrate on something though!

5 Things I Love About being an Expat in America…Part 4

Expat Love

It seems you guys like to read about what I love and hate about life as an expat in America, so, for your reading pleasure, here is the latest installment.

1. The Long Hot Summer.
It’s nearly November and I’m still wearing sandals. Seriously. The weather here is one of the major plus points of being an expat, especially when you’ve moved from the dull, grey, constantly rainy place that is northern England! Atlanta boasts amazing weather practically 8 months of the year. From about mid-April to mid-October jeans are literally nowhere to be seen. Temperatures are in the 70s and higher and shorts, skirts and dresses are the only clothes you will need. It’s great to finally have and use a summer and winter wardrobe instead of a summer wardrobe on a 2 week holiday to Europe. The sun shines nearly every single day and you can more often than not make plans outside and they won’t be cancelled because of the weather. Back in good old Blightly though, summer usually turns up for one weekend a year, if you’re lucky, in extreme cases, that gets stretched out for 2 weeks. The country goes mad as people make the most of the couple of days of summer. The shorts are on, supermarkets sell out of BBQ food and everyone walks around sporting strap marks and sunburn – hey, we might not see the sun for another 12 months! Here though, I can take things a little slower knowing that the sunshine and warm temperatures will be around for months, although most of the time that doesn’t happen and the German has to remind me that the sun isn’t going away! I think it’s the British girl inside me that’s convinced it will disappear pretty soon!

2. The Mailboxes.
Ok, so this one is pretty silly but hey, I’m living in a different country and it’s sometimes the little things that make me smile! I love the mailboxes around here, standing at the end of driveways waiting for the mailman to come and pop some letters in from his little truck. This is probably because the only time I have ever seen the is, of course, in the movies, and now that they’re a reality for me it’s pretty weird. It’s a bit like the school bus situation I mentioned before, I’m still in awe when I see one! Sadly, I don’t have an American mailbox yet. Living on an apartment complex means we have a tiny box in the middle of many others at a mail center. One day though, when we (hopefully) get our big American house I’ll be making sure one of those beasts is standing proudly at the end of my driveway!

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3. Target

This place kicks some serious butt. So, for you readers that have never heard of Target before, let me explain. Target is a supermarket here in America but it literally has everything you can think of, and I mean everything. There’s food, clothes, electrical stuff, baby stuff, shoes and home accessories like furniture and every other piece of accent stuff you can imagine for your home. Now, I often say, I’m just popping into Target for something and end up spending hours in that place. Seriously, it sucks you in. You go in for one product and end up doing the whole I’ll just look at this, I’ll just look at that and before you know it you’ve hit up every section in the store and have an overflowing trolley, probably with stuff you don’t really need. I’m a sucker for that dollar section at times and don’t even get me started on the shoes, home accessories and candles…! The German’s face goes a whiter shade of pale when I tell him I’m headed Target’s way!

4. The Thunderstorms
When it rains here, it rains! There’s none of that constant drizzle stuff you get back in England that lasts all day and gets you soaking wet without you realizing it, this stuff is the real thing. We’re talking rain that is bouncing a foot off the floor and gets you soaked to the bone within seconds, the type that means you have to stay in the car/house/shop you’re in until it stops because it’s not worth heading out in. I love listening to it and watching it, the claps of thunder are so loud you think the windows could break, there are big flashes of lightening and any car that is on the road has to drive at literally 2 mph to stay safe. Although many American drivers don’t think this is necessary and still drive at their usual high speeds. Safety first people! Water runs down the street like a stream, and, still to this day despite seeing many storms since moving over here, I’m mesmerized by them and could watch them all day! We also can’t forget the major storms that involve tornado warnings too. We have a siren at our apartment complex to warn us but the German and I had no idea what it was when we first moved in and carried on with our plans. It wasn’t until we got in the car and heard the tornado warning on the radio that everything clicked! Whoops!

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5. Shopping.
Who doesn’t like shopping? Well, apart from most of the men in the world! Ladies, this one is aimed at you. Shopping here in America is so good! Most things are cheaper than they are back in Europe and, if you head to the outlet stores, you’re guaranteed to find a good bargain. Whenever we have visitors, shopping is always on the agenda, which the German isn’t too keen on because that usually means I will spend money too! They come over with empty suitcases and return with cases they’ve had to sit on to get closed! Some of the prices are unbelievable – the other day, I got a pair of Converse for $12. Seriously! You couldn’t make it up! We can’t forget Black Friday either – the day designer goods are at more than affordable prices! I’m already writing up my hit list for this years trip!

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Stay tuned for the next installment of 5 Things I Hate about being an Expat in America – it’s coming up next week!

I cried at a Christmas advert.

Yes people, you read that right.

My name is Rachel and I cried at a Christmas advert, or two, or maybe even three.

There. I said it. I confess. But, let me just show you which advert actually made me cry and you tell me whether or not this thing made you tear up:

No, just me. Oh dear.

You see, I might have mentioned this one before, I bloody love Christmas! Christmas is the BEST time of the year. It’s magical, Santa comes down the chimney (hopefully he’ll realize I’ll be in England this year), you can watch Elf and Home Alone endless times without feeling bad, Christmas trees are everywhere and, back in the UK, Christmas adverts appear on the TV.

I remember writing a post about this last year, (click here to read more), and this year, things are just the same. Adverts in America just don’t cut it as well as the British ones do when it comes to the Holidays!

So, back to me crying at a Christmas ad. So, I didn’t just cry a couple of tears, I was practically in floods of them. The German looked at me with a strange, puzzled look on his face before saying ‘It’s just an advert! Do you want a coffee?’ You’ve got to love his care and compassion for his wife there!

I cried at this one too:

Bad I know. Why on earth am I confessing this to you people?!

Here is my reasoning for crying. I love Christmas, it’s a time for family and friends to get together, eat too much, drink too much, wear bad jumpers and generally have a bloody good time. Watching these ads makes me think of Christmas back in England with my friends and family and I can’t bloody wait! This girl is so excited, the German had better brace himself for that 9 hour flight back to Blighty…he’s probably not going to get much sleep with his excited wife sitting next to him, unable to sit still and prodding him constantly!

And then this one got thrown in the mix from British supermarket, Sainsbury’s:

I was in pieces. The mix of British and German, those thousands of soldiers who lost their lives during World War I and every other war that has followed for us, the sacrifices they made should never be forgotten. Imagine what it must have been like to be in those trenches and away from your family. Heartbreaking.

These adverts remind me just how far away from my family I am, especially the one where all the family gets together. They bring it home a little that I am 4,000 miles away and I can’t just bob round for a coffee anymore. Being an expat is often pretty tough. I think it’s turned me into an emotional wreck sometimes. Hence the crying at the adverts. I’m un-controllable. I can cry at the smallest of things and have tears streaming down my face. Oh dear.

And that people, was my explanation as to why I cry at Christmas adverts. Stupid expat.

Trailing Spouse Stories – The First Voyage

As I am officially a trailing spouse, after packing up and moving 4 thousand miles with the German to America, I thought I would get involved with this great blog crawl with D for Delicious and Tala. They’ve basically come up with a series of clever prompts for trailing spouses like me to write about every month, to share my story of life as a wife who has followed her man.

Trailing Spouse Nov

I left the UK to start my American journey at the end of January, 2013, just 2 days after a very tearful goodbye party with my family and friends. Ma and Pa Cook drove us to the airport, with Ma Cook crying at every opportunity she got. I wasn’t much further behind her though.

I’d already waved goodbye to all our possessions that were being shipped stateside a couple of weeks before when I watched the lovely removal men pack it all into boxes whilst I sat with my feet up and made them the odd cup of tea. It was the easiest, and strangest move ever! I felt so wrong watching them do all my packing! Still, it made life a lot easier for me. They packed our furniture, kitchenware, books, pictures, ornaments and anything else that we didn’t really need as soon as we arrived. I didn’t realize it would take another 3 months until I saw it again though. That’s a whole different story!

We rocked up to the check-in desk with 3 suitcases each, 2 mini-suitcases, a rucksack and a handbag. It was obvious we weren’t just nipping across the pond for a two week holiday, especially with Ma Cook sniffling behind us. I was pretty worried we’d be overweight, we were moving countries after all but thankfully, they were all successfully checked-in, I think we even had room to spare! I’d love to say those suitcases were packed with exciting things, but, sadly they weren’t! We’re just talking clothes, shoes, some paperwork, socks and pants. Like I said, the essentials! We watched them travel down the conveyer belt, next stop Atlanta.

The more important stuff was in my hand luggage. I had my laptop, visa paperwork and the jewelry my gran had left me in her will. I had cards and presents given to us at our leaving party, all ready to be displayed in our new apartment, a great way to remind me of all the special people who were supporting our move abroad. Of course there was a travel pillow in there, I was about to go on a 9 hour flight where I was hoping I would get some shut eye! The usual phone chargers and my kindle were also stored inside.

Before we headed up the escalator to departures, Ma and Pa Cook handed me a present, not to be opened until we made it to the gate. That, was of course, popped into my handbag until we made it through security. We said some very tearful goodbyes, walked up the escalator and made our way through security. I opened the present as soon as we were through, it was a charm for my Pandora bracelet, obviously the tears started falling again. I placed it safely in my suitcase before boarding the plane.

Had I have known the stuff we’d had shipped would have taken so long I may have packed differently, maybe taking some photos of friends and family with me and packing some little things that reminded me of home. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, something you can definitely learn from. Next time, I’ll know what to expect and maybe pack a little differently.

Are you a trailing spouse? What advice do you have for somebody about to make that big leap and move to a new country?

Life is Good. {October’s Happy Moments}

Life is Good...

If only it was as warm as the picture on the beach up there! Wow, what a month October was. Things just do not seem to slow down for this expat! And just how quick did the month pass by? Thanks to visitors at the Richter Hotel it seems October was a blink and you miss it month! I can’t believe I’m already writing this post looking back on the month.

{October’s Happy Moments}

My best friend and goddaughter came to stay
October was, by far, one of the best months yet when it comes to Hotel Richter guests – my best friend in the whole wide world and her beautiful daughter (who is also my beautiful goddaughter) came to stay for the first time since we moved over to the States. The fact that Clare was pregnant when we left the UK, the arrival of Lily, oh and our wedding meant a trip over wasn’t possible before now. But she made it and it was amazing! My excitement at the airport was a little much and I ran towards them as soon as I saw them! We spent the week laughing and gossiping just like the old times. We explored the mountains and stayed in a cabin, went shopping, visited many a playground, went to the zoo and a pumpkin patch. I got to spend loads of time with Lily which was just amazing, even if she did leave shoes all over the house! I miss those two beauties so much.

October 1

 

It’s amazing how much fun one little girl can have with a cooler!

The German and I did some exploring
Just before Clare and Lily came to stay the German had a well deserved week off work so, we seized the opportunity and did what every good expat does, we went exploring! This time it was just a short trip to Warm Springs, Georgia. Yep, you guessed it there are warm springs in Warm Springs! It’s where President Franklin D. Roosevelt spent a lot of time as he found the springs helped him with his polio. He even built a little White House there which we obviously checked out! We stopped off for a spot of lunch at Pine Mountain and pretty much had a lovely day!

November 2

I did a spot of upcycling
A farmhouse table has been on my wish list for so long, but, as we only bought our dining table and chairs when we moved to the States last year (and before I discovered Pinterest, huge fail!) buying a new table and chairs wasn’t justified just because I wanted a farmhouse style. But, thankfully we bought a table and chairs that could easily be transformed into a farmhouse table with a lick of paint and some dark stain, so I did just that. I started by painting the legs white, sanding parts off to give them that rustic, old look and then stained them. They turned out so well that I figured the chairs would look just as good with the same transformation. I think it turned out pretty well:

October 3

Before and after! What do you reckon? I am now pretty  much in love with my new-look, upcycled farmhouse table! I think I now have the upcycling bug and I’m already casting my eye over the rest of the furniture in the house to see which pieces could get a new lease of life…if only I had a yard or garage to do it all in.

Apple picking is now a fall tradition
You may remember last year we went apple picking up in the North Georgia mountains? Well, it seems apple picking is now a fall tradition in the Richter House! This year we headed to Ellijay and to BJ Reece Orchards where we filled our bag to the brim with some freshly picked apples. It was the most stunning day, with temperatures hitting and unseasonable 80 degrees (I know! 80 degrees in October! Madness!) which pretty much caught us by surprise, heading out in jeans when we could have so easily donned our shorts! The apples were so high up in the tree though that the German had to take drastic measures:

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Yep, he went back to his youth and climbed into the tree! It meant we got some lovely, big apples though that others couldn’t reach! The day was topped off with a fried apple pie…delicious! You can’t go apple picking without tucking into a fried apple pie at the end of it all!

The final Hotel Richter guests checked in
The Hotel Richter is now officially closed for business this year after the final guests checked and out last weekend. Our friends Björn and Sarah came to stay on their way to the Bahamas and Florida (lucky, lucky people!) and managed to bring the cold weather with them from Germany! Despite the 84 degree temperatures earlier in the week the weather changed massively this weekend and it was freezing, and when I say freezing, I mean literally freezing. I had to scrape ice off my car yesterday! Not something I signed up for when moving to Atlanta! We had a fab weekend though, taking them to the usual shopping spot (everything is so cheap in America compared to Europe we have to go there!), sampling some beers and The Stout Brothers beer market, taking in a college football game (or half of it because we were so cold!), lighting our first fire of the year and heading into the mountains to Amicalola Falls and for some wine tasting to celebrate Björn’s birthday! As much as they may have liked Atlanta and visiting us, I think they were glad to jump on that plane and head to warmer climes and a cruise around the Bahamas! I definitely don’t blame them!

October 5

So there you have it, October…done. I can’t believe we’re on to November and Thanksgiving! We’re actually heading to a Thanksgiving bash this weekend. The Holidays are definitely coming – I’ll be on that plane back to England for Christmas before I know it! Happy November everyone!

Food: Fox Bros. BBQ

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BBQ – it’s a southern staple and we have found the best place in Atlanta to sample it! If you live here and you’ve never eaten BBQ then you’re seriously missing out and if you’re a native, I think you would probably ousted by your friends. BBQ is a way of life and finding a good spot to indulge in it is heavenly. Our favorite spot – Fox Bros. BBQ.

Imagine the best ribs you’ve ever eaten and make them ten times better and you’re still not at the level of Fox Bros. I though we’d tried some amazing BBQ before heading here but I was totally and completely wrong, This place knocks it out of the park and seriously rocks!

As you drive up to the restaurant you can smell the meat that is being smoked and it smells heavenly. When you walk in, it’s a typical BBQ joint, nothing too fancy, no fancy chairs and tables, cool pictures and drawings on the walls and that all important kitchen roll on every table!

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The menu has your usual suspects on it – ribs, brisket, pulled pork, smoked chicken that can either be ordered as a plate or in some sort of sandwich. There’s a good selection of appetizers and of course the usual BBQ sides, we’re talking mac and cheese, collard greens, cornbread, coleslaw, brunswick stew – you know what I’m talking about.

We usually start with some wings and they are some of the BEST wings I have ever tasted! I don’t know what they do with them but they’re crispy on the outside and perfectly juicy inside. They’re obviously smoked BBQ style which makes them that little bit tastier. We usually get the BBQ sauce on the side along with some ranch – perfect! Sadly though, we tucked into them so quickly that I forgot to take a picture! Whoops!

Now, here’s my usual order – a combo plate with ribs and either pulled pork or brisket with mac and cheese and cornbread as my sides and let me tell you, it is heaven on a plate! The brisket literally falls apart as you try to cut it, the pulled pork has just the right amount of crispy-ness to it and the ribs, well, they are out of this world! The rub they put on is delicious. They’re the best ribs I’ve had in Atlanta so far.

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We have to talk about the sides too. Mac and cheese is one of my all time favorites, I mean, who does’t like pasta with a cheese based sauce covered in more cheese? Right? This one definitely doesn’t disappoint either. It has a good portion of cheese on top and just the right amount of creaminess, I could eat it by the bucket load! Then there’s the cornbread. Usually, I’m not a huge fan of this stuff, I find it pretty dry. But here, they put cream cheese in the middle along with some jalapeños which help keep it moist and add some extra flavor. It is the only place I ever order cornbread!

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After stuffing my face with these delights and pinching some from the German’s plate – hey, a girl has to try every side on the table – I usually waddle out of the restaurant with a take-out box in hand because I just couldn’t fit it all in and we wouldn’t want that tasty BBQ to go to waste now, would we?

So there you have it, our favorite spot for BBQ in Atlanta. Seriously, if you’re ever in the area, take a trip here, it’s definitely worth it!

Me, Myself and Atlanta is an unsponsored blog. I was in no way compensated for this review, I just wanted to show the place some love! All views are my own and those of my very grateful belly!

Goodbyes are just the worst.

Goodbyes

Airports to me signify two things – happiness and sadness. When I’m at an airport I’m usually either jumping on a plane home to see friends and family, which of course makes me super excited. Picking somebody up who has flown in to visit, again, super exciting. Or there’s the departures area which usually involves a heck of a lot of tears and sadness as goodbyes are said.

This past couple of weeks has seen me experience both those airport feelings. Just over a week ago my best friend Clare came to stay for a week with her little girl, also known as Lily, my goddaughter. As you can imagine my level of excitement for this trip was off the scale! It was her first trip out here since we moved as last year she was either preggers or had a new baby – not the best way to travel trans-atlantic! The poor German had to deal with a countdown for weeks, which then turned into days which eventually turned into hours. He was off work so came with me to the airport where I couldn’t keep still in excitement, waiting for those two beautiful ladies to walk through the doors and when they did I sprinted towards them, started crying and gave them a big hug! Happy days and happy tears – I love the arrivals lobby!

Once we’d stopped crying (Clare and I, not the German or Lily!), Lily had realized what was going on (she’s 14 months old and had just got off the longest flight of her life!) and the German had organized his new hareem of girls, we quickly headed home to start one of the best weeks in America so far! We hit up the playground on numerous occasions which Lily loved, went shopping which Lily pretty much hated and were ladies what lunched.

Goodbyes 1

We went to a cabin in the mountains for the weekend with the German, did some bear spotting but failed, relaxed in a hot tub, explored Blue Ridge and Ellijay and tucked into smores. We went to an apple festival and attempted to go apple picking but the weather soon put paid to that, stupid rain.

Goodbyes 2

We went to the zoo and checked out the animals. Fearless Lily went straight into the petting area and made friends with some goats – Aunty Rachel unsurprisingly stayed well clear of that endeavor! It would appear Lily is a massive animal lover, just like her mum! I also taught Lily what a gorilla does to add to her repertoire of animal noises – good work Aunty Rachel!

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We took Lily to her first pumpkin patch where some of the orange wonders were nearly as big as her! She wasn’t too down with sitting amongst the pumpkins and staying still for a picture but we managed to capture some whilst she was on the move! We picked out a beauty that I’ve since made into some tasty soup and Lily came away with a mini pumpkin of her own, which is also in the soup pot as she couldn’t really take it back on the plane.

Goodbyes 4

We had massive best friend catch ups, drank some wine and gossiped just like the old days. It’s probably the most time we’ve spent together non-stop since we last went on holiday together at the tender age of 18 and it was bloody brilliant. But, last Thursday, all good things had to come to an end and we had to go to the place I dread the most – airport departures.

Saying goodbye to loved ones is the WORST thing about living in America. I literally hate it. The thought of heading to the airport fills me with sadness, especially when you realize it will be a long time until you see these people again. As the day wears on I can feel the sadness at the thought of heading to the airport starting. The car journey is usually pretty quiet and once we get to check-in I’m usually silent. Then comes the actual moment when it’s time to head to security and you have to say goodbye.

I try to be strong but sometimes it just doesn’t work, like when Clare left the other day. I knew the tears would be flowing, they nearly were when I thought about it in the afternoon when we were at the playground. As soon as the hugging started the tears were flowing, like full on flowing, from both of us. We must have looked pretty bad because one woman actually asked us if we were ok! I

hate having to say goodbye and knowing that we won’t be able to have a coffee together or explore a playground until at least Christmas. I hate not seeing them both for months, by the time I see Lily again she’ll probably be so much bigger and chatting away. I feel like I miss out on so many things and this does make me sad. I called the German whilst I was driving home and had tears streaming down my cheeks, so much so they were practically dripping off the bottom of my chin, oh what a pretty picture I paint for you guys! When the German walked in the house I burst into tears, so upset at the thought of not seeing Clare and Lily for over 2 months.

But, that’s the price you pay for being an expat. I knew this would happen when I agreed to come and live out here. It’s just something you have to deal with. Yes, I miss all my friends and family lots but, being here with the German is what I chose to do. Things do go on without me back home, but thanks to the joys of social media, FaceTime and WhatsApp I’m kept in the loop, and when I do see people again, it’s like we’ve never been apart.

It’s just those blummin goodbyes that I hate.