So I was going to show off the goodies I got at the Stitch & Craft show and that was about it, but for some reason I’ve decided to share a bit more of my life with you instead, while showing you pics of what I bought. Because you guys did say you wanted to know more about me, although I can’t remember when so I don’t have a link. Here’s a link to this week’s Manic Monday Linky Party instead. WARNING: This is a long post, so if you don’t want to know more about me, you could totally spend your time more fruitfully elsewhere. I won’t even be offended. And I mean no offence to any fellow Yanks or Brits. 🙂
Most of you know I’m an American living in Southampton, England. I married a wonderful Englishman in 2003 and the plan was always to stay here in England for his job. I know this may sound shocking, but I don’t want to live in America. I don’t fit in there. (I was going to get on my soapbox about universal health care, but you probably don’t care and I don’t want too much kerfuffle over this post.)
The weird thing is that even though I’ve been here 10 years, I”m still an outsider, an interloper. Every time I leave the house at least one person asks me how long I’m here for, as though I could only logically be here on holiday. My accent marks me out and when I speak in a shop, people do triple takes. Sometimes it gets on my nerves and I stare back imperiously or if I’m with Savi, I’ll casually say to her ‘Be more quiet dear, people are getting very confused by our accents.’ But most of the time I try to be aware of the fact that everything I do in public will colour how people think of America. If I act like an asshole, that just confirms their view of us as uncouth savages. If I am dignified, it surprises them and they remember it. Or at least I don’t confirm a negative stereotype.
So, yes, despite the fact that I like living in the UK and have been here a decade, I am probably more aware of being American than most Americans are. Everything I do reflects on our country. Even when I’m just ordering a coffee, I’m representing America. If the English person in front of me acts like a jerk, no one really remembers. If I act or am perceived to act like a jerk, everyone around me remembers it forever, even subconsciously. My bad hearing has gotten me in trouble a few times.
Sometimes people can be very nasty. Out at local pubs, I’ve had ignorant drunk asswipes blame me for foreign policy decisions made before I was born. (Like seriously, what am I supposed to do about stuff that happened in WWII?) I try to be nice in those kinds of situations. Some people are even less pleasant than that. Frankly, they’re xenophobic-bordering-on-racist. Once I was in a shop in Romsey and some lady paid for something and started a convo with the shop owner (both women) about going on holiday. The lady was complaining about how truly awful it was that their plane and hotel had so many Americans in it. God how she hates going on holiday with Americans. They do this, they do that, they’re so annoying and loud. And the shop owner sat there agreeing. It took every ounce of self control to remain silent. If, for example, she’d been bitching about how truly awful it is to take a holiday with black people…well, actually she wouldn’t be saying it publicly like that as it’s bloody intolerable. But bitch about Americans? No problem. But I didn’t bring up the racist point with the 2 hateful ladies. I put down what I was going to buy and walked out. I’ll never, ever spend a penny in there.
My daughter has also had to suffer for people’s prejudiced views on Americans, which is pretty despicable of an adult to do, as a 12 year old kid hasn’t the ability to properly defend herself and instead ends up feeling ashamed of who she is, which is completely intolerable. We might love living here, but we’re still Americans, dammit. In her first year at Mountbatten, other students treated her like a performing dog. You know, ‘Say this, say that, OMG it’s the American girl.’ Things are better this year – they’re over the novelty factor now of her being the only Yank.
But sometimes it’s funny. People always ask ‘What part of America are you from?’ And I say ‘Illinois.’ Sometimes they know exactly where IL is, sometimes they’re in the ballpark. Some of the time, they ask, ‘Is that near Florida?’ And I say, ‘Yes, in the relative scheme of the universe, it is close.’ (I should point out here that I’m fairly ignorant of English geography, unless it was an important place in the 1500s or I’ve been there.) Florida is the main American holiday destination of English people. They go to Orlando to Disney and all that stuff. (No comment here.)
However, a great majority of the English people I meet are simply curious about America and Americans. Obviously, their personal interests colour the types of questions I get asked. Some people ask about food. I love the food here and they’re always surprised. They’re surprised when Savi and I praise the education system in our area. Savi was in a very poor, very rural small town school and in comparison, Mountbatten is like attending the most expensive private school in America. I like the NHS, I love London, Romsey, Southampton, Winchester and the huge amount of culture that comes along with living here. The history, the ability to go see a different play or concert every night if I wanted to without driving more than 30 miles. And of course, entwined with my feelings about the UK are my very strong feelings for my husband. So, yeah, I love living here. That is in no way derogatory to the States, or a claim that the US is sans culture. But there wasn’t much to do in the small farming town I grew up in, so for me this is a paradise. Esp as I’m an English royal history geek.
I’ve been asked if I know where the town is which apparently provides the best view for the next eclipse (it’s somewhere in Kentucky I’ve never heard of). I’ve been asked if people really eat at McDonald’s every day (I answer that only an elite few are granted that privilege. LOL). I’ve been asked how the nomination process works for presidential candidates (Ha – try explaining that!). I’ve been asked why Sarah Palin gets any attention paid to her at all, as she’s clearly an idiot (I have no idea.). I get asked if I’m still able to vote in US elections and how the logistics works (Yes, and it’s complicated). I get asked about Watergate (which is not a short convo, is it…). Knowledgeable people ask about their favourite president. I get asked about the gun culture a lot. UK police don’t all carry firearms like US police do, and many Brits have very strong anti-gun feelings. There is no right to bear arms here, and very little gun crime.
Sometimes people think I’m Canadian, Australian, or a Kiwi, and I’ve even been asked if I’m Scottish or from Yorkshire. If you’ve seen my videos you’ve probably noticed I have a pretty odd hybrid accent. That confuses the hell out of people. I’ve noticed that even when I’m reading, my brain has changed the pronunciation of some words, which is super weird.
All in all, living here is pretty sweet. I have a few good friends and I get to do pretty much whatever I want, including buy stupid amounts of quilt fabric and supplies and have a sewing/quilting website thingy. I’ve made a lot of good friends through that, too. I’m happy enough here that I don’t often miss ‘home’, although I do miss my family terribly. (There’s an occasional pang for Dairy Queen and Sonic, I admit.) I haven’t seen my fam in over 3 years. Since that time, my sister Serena has gotten married and had a baby, my parents have moved from IL to Texas, and my sister Nina has had some pretty momentous things happen with her kids that I haven’t been able to help with. I’m hoping to go see everyone this summer, so I’m saving up my teaching money.
I don’t know if that answered your curiosity, so I guess if you have other or more specific questions, ask away and maybe I’ll do another post to answer them. I do realise I’m in a strange and rare position – there aren’t too many of us American bloggers living here in the UK, and I get asked just as many questions from Americans about the UK when I’m ‘home’. As for the food thing, the only thing I don’t like is peas. I hate peas and they seem to come with everything. They feel disgusting and taste even worse. The only thing worse than a pea is two of them.
P.S. Because the Google Overlords want to force the entire planet into using their crappy social application, my Google Friend Connect has been cancelled. But you can still get me in your Google Reader (or any other reader) by pushing the Feedburner (RSS) button below. 🙂