This week marks 2 years since we got on the great big iron bird that brought us all the way to Atlanta, GA to start our new lives. Thankfully, the weather is being much kinder to us than this time last year when our first anniversary was marked with snowmageddon but it still got me thinking of how the past 2 years have changed me into the person I am today.
And that is my view right now.
Turkey day is here which can only mean a morning of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! This has pretty much become a Thanksgiving day tradition in the Richter household, well, it’s our second Thanksgiving in the states and this is how we’ve spent both of them, on the sofa, in our comfy pants watching the parade! The German is also doing is homework ahead of Black Friday tomorrow – that guy loves a bargain!
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!
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.
Speaking British English can often lead to some mis-understandings when you’re living in the States. We may speak the same language but our slightly different words and pronunciations can leave people with blank faces.Let’s face it, we’re divided by a common language.
There are some words that, despite constantly trying, I just can’t get my head around. I often stumble over them and correct myself the second after the word has fallen out of my mouth. Want to know the latest words that are causing me some problems? Here goes:
Back in the UK, the part of the street you walk on next to the road is called a pavement, always has been, always will be. Now though, I have to switch to it being a sidewalk and I cannot get my head around it! It’s tough when you’ve been using the same word for 30 years! This one caused me a problem just the other night.We went to an event but got there before the road was closed and people were struggling to pass each other on the pavement. I described this to my friend who arrived a little later and she looked at me with a blank face and the words ‘what’s a pavement?’ I quickly answered with ‘oh, sidewalk, I mean sidewalk!’
We’ve all done it, we head to the supermarket and pick up a trolley to put our groceries in, or as they’re called in America, a cart. I actually think the American word is better in this situation, I mean, a cart seems to describe the aim of the device better than a trolley, right? But, my brain is so used to the word trolley that I can’t seem to change it. A shopping trolley will always be a shopping trolley to me!
In the UK, we fill our cars up with petrol, here in the US they fill their cars up with gas. It’s the same stuff, just with a different name and a word that I struggle with. 18 months in and I’m attempting to get the hang of going to the gas station instead of the petrol station and I do often use gas instead of petrol but I still struggle and the word doesn’t come out of my mouth as easily as petrol does. I also want to put on a dodgy American accent when I say it too which definitely does not work! There’s also the fact that I’m putting petroleum into my car so surely petrol is a more logical word to use?
This is more a pronunciation thing, you know the song, right? To-may-to, to-mar-to? Well, this is definitely a difficult one for my British brain and mouth to deal with. I often order a to-mar-to and basil soup and go on to correct myself and say to-may-to straight after! Most of the time I’m met with a ‘I understood you the first time’ answer or look, which kind of makes me feel like I shouldn’t try to fit in because I’m insulting people, others go on to ask me where I’m from and give me the ‘I love your accent!’ reply.
In the UK, we go on holiday. In the US, they go on vacation. I still go on holiday and have the German correcting me, saying we’re going on vacation. It’s hard when you’ve used the same words for so long! The ‘Where are you going on holiday?’ question in the hairdressers just doesn’t cut it in America.
So, we’ve had the third installment of 5 Things I Love about being an Expat in America, so now it’s time for 5 things I hate. Remember I don’t necessarily hate these things, it’s more things that annoy me or things that I miss from good old Blighty. Here goes:
1. Errands taking 3 hours
In America, and especially in Atlanta, running a couple of little errands like popping to the supermarket and the post office, can take a LOT longer than you expect. I usually estimate an hour for things like this then when I’ve finished, realise that about 3 hours have passed since I started and my plans for the day are ruined. I think this is because everything is a drive away even if they’re close together. You get caught in traffic, you’re on a strip mall and spot somewhere else you just have to bob into (ok, that’s an added extra that I don’t really need), the stores are so huge they take ages to make your way around, something you think is around the corner is actually about 5 miles away and takes longer to get to than you think. I’m still shocked by the amount of time it takes me and annoyed when I don’t get everything done that I wanted to!
2. Friends and family being so far away.
This is obviously a given when you’re an expat but some days they feel further away and you miss them more. Yes, there are things like Facetime, Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook and good old text messages to keep you up to date but they can also highlight the fact you’re not with them and you are actually 4,000 miles away. Life goes on without you back home, people’s lives don’t go on hold just because you’re not there. I hate the fact I don’t get to see my friends as much as I’d like, don’t get to see their babies and bond with them like I would if I was living close by but it’s something I have to deal with. I chose to come here, I have to deal with the consequences. It makes you appreciate the time you actually do spend with them a lot more.
Atlanta is the city of traffic and it is hell on earth. Rush hour doesn’t last an hour, it lasts 3 hours in both the morning and the evening. I try to avoid leaving the house before 10am and making sure I’m home by 4pm at the latest, if not my journey time is about to double and I’ll probably spend most of it bumper to bumper with the car in front, my foot constantly poised over the brake…not fun at all. Add to that the bad drivers in Atlanta, squeezing in front of you when there really isn’t room, switching lanes at the last minute without using their indicator (turn signal if you’re American) and there are car wrecks everywhere. Not a day goes by without a huge wreck on one of the main roads in this city and, when that does happen, you may aswell go ahead and triple your journey time! In fact, I probably need to get a wriggle on and get back home soon or I’ll be bumper to bumper and in a foul mood when I walk through the door!
4. Ready Meals
Ok, so I don’t and never have eaten that many ready meals, I like to whip up my own concoctions in the kitchen, but, there are some days when you really can’t be bothered and a ready meal works just fine…unless you live in America. The only ready meals available in this country and frozen ones. Now, I have nothing against frozen food (the German’s cakes are frozen, frozen food makes us pennies) but these meals are just not nice, or at least the one I’ve tried didn’t cut it. I miss the fresh ready meals you can get from the fridge in the mecca that is Marks & Spencer, the nutritious, fresh meals that taste delicious and not like they’ve been hanging around somewhere for months and have freezer burn. They were also pretty good when the German was working away, now I actually have to plan what to eat and cook it…cooking for 1 is not my forte!
5. Nightly news that actually gives you the days news.
Unless you watch CNN (and that’s pretty repetitive), the only news you’re going to learn about is the latest shooting, murder, deal at Krispy Kreme or car wreck in Atlanta. Seriously. The news here is local to the core which, is definitely acceptable, I used to work in local news back home and being truly local is definitely important, but not when it lasts for 2 hours in the evening, an hour and a half at night, containing just about 2 minutes of national news and literally no international news what-so-ever. It’s as if nothing goes on outside of Atlanta. Back in the UK we would have 30 minutes of national and international news followed by 30 minutes of local news – the perfect balance if you ask me. You need to know what’s going on in the rest of the world as well as around the corner, it’s ultimately going to have an impact on your life in some way, probably more than the latest shooting. Give me the BBC news anyday!
It’s that time again where I harp on about what I love about being an expat in America. It can be anything from food (that’s usually in there somewhere) to a trip I’ve been on or simply the way of life over here. So, without further ado, here’s my latest top 5:
America does burgers and America does bloody good burgers. The burgers here are the best I’ve ever tasted, I don’t think I’ve ever had a really bad one and I’ve tucked into a fair few since moving over here that’s for sure! They’re usually all hand-made, not like those disgusting frozen ones you get in some restaurants back in the UK. They’re ground to perfection, moulded and cooked to your liking, even in the chain restaurants where, back in the UK, the burgers can be pretty naff. They’re then topped with every topping imaginable that always work together. Even the fast food restaurants have got the burger down to a T, well, obviously not McDonald’s or Burger King, they’re the same around the world, but head to somewhere like Five Guys and you’ve got an amazing fast food burger that is out of this world! I never used to order burgers back at home unless we were somewhere like the Handmade Burger Co. or somewhere I knew the burgers were good, here I don’t hesitate. I usually opt for something with cheese and bacon (everything tastes better with cheese and bacon) and add some guacamole or fried pickles or pulled pork, or mushrooms…the list is endless!
I’ve definitely taken a big liking to this sport! When we came over to the States, we went to watch every new sport going, basketball, American football but baseball was my favourite. I love putting on my Braves t-shirt and heading to the ball game at Turner Field! It’s a relaxed game, you can spend time with friends, if you’re eyes aren’t on the field all the time it doesn’t matter, you unlikely to miss something if you’re looking away for a few minutes. You can kick back with a beer and some peanuts, tuck into a hot dog or some nachos and jump up and shout when there’s a home run! The German has made it his mission to catch a ball at one of the games, he literally jumps out of his seat and braces himself if the ball is ever heading somewhere near his direction! He’s yet to catch one but he once came pretty close! We can’t forget the 7th inning stretch either where everybody stands up, sways and sings ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game!’ A perfect Sunday afternoon can be had right there! Just remember to pack the sunscreen…
3. Holiday Celebrations
Let’s face it, American’s know how to celebrate a holiday. Whether it’s 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas or something simple like Labor Day or Memorial Day, there’s always something happening somewhere to celebrate, and it usually involves fireworks, especially on 4th of July! People decorate their homes with seasonal decor (pumpkins in fall, American flags for 4th of July), they have parties for every event imaginable and go the whole hog with the decor – Halloween is one of my favourite holidays, especially when it comes to the fancy dress! Valentines Day, St Patricks Day and any other day gets its fair share of celebrations, not like in the UK where they’re half celebrated and half not! Although, I think the UK is copying the States and heading towards this type of celebration now.
4. Coffee Creamer
If I had to leave the States I do not know what I would do without my, now beloved, coffee creamer! This is something that definitely needs to catch on back in the UK – it’s literally flavoured cream but it does wonders for your morning coffee! There’s every flavour imaginable from French vanilla (my personal favourite) and hazelnut to cinnamon roll and Bailey’s, yes you heard that right, Bailey’s. Some of them are a little too sweet for me but I’d definitely miss them if they weren’t there! It’s the simple things.
5. It’s a confidence thing.
Being an expat definitely helps to boost your confidence. I’ve always been a pretty shy person, hell, I used to hide behind my mum’s skirt when I was little and cry at men, but, moving to another country means I’ve had to be more confident. I’ve been forced to go out and make friends, they weren’t going to come to me. We had to put ourselves out there, make new contacts and build our new life. I do things now that I would never have done back in the UK all down to the fact I came here knowing one person, the German, and let’s face it, a life knowing just one person isn’t going to be that much fun is it? Now, just over 18 months into our adventure, we’ve built a life, have a good network of friends and have definitely become a lot more confident in ourselves. Now, we can take on the world…well maybe not the whole world but we’ll give it a good go!