EXPAT LIFE: When Mama C came to stay.

Hello, I’m Rachel and it’s been a long time since I posted on this littler piece of blogworld that I call mine. And the reason why? I’ve been doing that thing we call life and blogging ended up being pushed onto the back-burner and instead I’ve been spending weekends tubing on the river, enjoying the summer sunshine, taking a trip to Europe, catching up with friends and generally enjoying life!

So much so that Mama C headed across the pond for her annual visit to the Richter Hotel back in June and I still haven’t blogged about it! So, here it is!

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The Grand Re-Opening of the Richter Hotel 2015!

That’s right people, it’s that time of year again when the Richter Hotel opens its doors to its first guests of the year. And, as is now tradition in these parts, these guys will once again be doing the honors:

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My big bro Chris and sister-in-law Becky are heading back to the ATL today! Every year since our arrival in the States, they’ve been our first visitors. During their first trip, they were tasked with helping us to empty our container which arrived on Easter Sunday. Their second, during the summer months, was a little bit of a wash out weather-wise and they didn’t really make it to the pool, shocking, I know. And, their third trip, this time last year, was a short one before we all headed off to the bright lights and neon signs of Las Vegas!

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5 Things I Hate about being an Expat in America…Part 3

Expat Hate

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.

I sure do miss these peeps.

I sure do miss these peeps.

3. Traffic
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!

Being an expat isn’t always fun.

So usually my posts are about all the exciting things about being an expat and the exploring we’ve been up to in our new country, all of which is amazing!! Yep we can immerse ourselves in the American culture and check out the 4th of July parade and things like Braves, Hawks and Falcons games. (The last one we haven’t done yet but it’s on the list!) Yep we can explore the delights of Georgia and head to places like Stone Mountain, the Georgia Aquarium, the mountains and Lake Lanier that we would never have seen if we’d have stayed in the UK. Yep we can explore further afield in this amazing country and jump on a plane to places like Chicago, Vegas and New York and be there in a couple of hours or we can drive down the road for a few hours (well about 8!) and we get to the beautiful beaches of Florida and chow down on some of the most amazing American food ever! And I can’t complain when most days the weather is like this:

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Just beautiful!

Now don’t get me wrong all of this is the best experience ever and for that I am so very grateful but sometimes it’s not all plain sailing!

First of all I’m 4,000 miles away from my family and friends and I miss them so much! Yeah we FaceTime as often as possible and it’s fab that we can see their faces and feel like we’re sitting at home and having a chat but it’s not the same as a big hug! Nothing beats a hug! And you can’t just pop round for a coffee or head out shopping together or go out for dinner and drinks – things I used to take for granted with them. It’s my mum’s birthday next weekend and the fact I can’t celebrate with her in person and take her out for dinner or something makes me sad. We’ll FaceTime instead but it’s just not the same.  It does mean though that the time when I am back at home is that little bit more special!

Then there’s my best friend in the whole wide world who just gave birth to her first baby. When I moved over here she was 5 months pregnant and the baby was due on my birthday. Luckily I already had a trip back to the UK planned as I was celebrating the big 3-0 and the beautiful Lily was born exactly on time – well half an hour before her due date so I got to spend some time with both the bump and the new baby. Now though I’m watching her grow up through pictures and Skype calls – all of which are amazing but again they’re not the same as a big hug! Like I said nothing beats a hug! I wish we could bob out for a coffee together, go shopping and have lots of baby cuddles. I can’t wait to get home at Christmas to see them both again – Lily is already so much bigger than when I last saw her!

Oh and not forgetting the wedding planning! Yep we’re planning a wedding in Germany whilst living in the United States with 3 bridesmaids in the UK, a best man in Germany and parents in both countries! Believe me it’s tough! We have to work out where to get suits for the men from bearing in mind they’re in 3 different countries! We have to work out how we’re going to get things to the wedding like a cake, the all important dress (that I’ve bought in the States when my mum was here but I didn’t have my Aunty and bridesmaids with me – something that made the experience a little sad because I always thought they’d be with me when I made that big decision) and our guests who, again, are travelling from 3 different countries. I have to find someone to do my hair and make up for the big day and I probably won’t be able to have a trial run – something a lot of brides take for granted. I need to go bridesmaid dress shopping with my bridesmaids but I’m in the US and they’re in the UK! Thankfully we’re getting a lot of help from our friends and family who are checking out things like cars and DJs for us, my bridesmaids keep sending pictures of potential dresses to look at when I’m back and my mum is making our cake! But we still have so much to pack into our trip back to Europe for Christmas and New Year!!

Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining at all and I don’t regret moving to the States but sometimes you just want your home comforts and especially your family and friends! They’ve been there for as long as I can remember and they always will be – I just definitely don’t get to see them as often as I’d like and I know that it’s technically my own fault and my choice but it’s still hard. Thankfully I have the German who keeps me smiling everyday and always manages to perk me up when I’m feeling a little down like the other day when he came home with a beautiful bunch of flowers for me!