Thank you to everyone who took the time to leave a comment on my entry for the Expats Blog Awards. I think this entry was a true representation of what is like for me as an American living abroad in England. I am pleased to announce that The Fly Away American took the Gold, as Top Expat Blog in England. I definitely couldn’t have done it without all of you, so thank you, thank you, thank you. I was joined by Meghan Fenn of the blog Bringing up Brits who took Silver and Muriel of French Yummy Mummy who took the Bronze. They are both terrific expat blogs, and equally deserving of the top prize. Do check them out and send a deserved congrats their way. Here is my prize winning entry post that brought home the Gold. (Although honestly, that was just all of you.)
Having lived abroad for about five years now, first in The Netherlands and now in England, I have certainly had my fair share of awkward moments. There was the time I ate freshly smoked eel in The Netherlands, only to gag (and almost barf) in front of a room full of disappointed Dutch folk. Or the time where I confused the term ‘grote boodschap’ for the word ‘boodschappen’- the difference of going grocery shopping or taking a giant dump. While England certainly shares more similarities with my home turf than The Netherlands did, I have still found myself in many awkward moments.
My Top Ten Most Awkward Moments as an American Expat in England
1. Celebrating the 4th of July
Ah, yes. Inviting all of your British friends over for a Budweiser and burger in celebration of your independence from their control. It is impossible to celebrate the 4th of July in England without many awkward jokes and a sinking feeling that the founding fathers of America are rolling over in their graves knowing about my repatriation. Although the Brits tend to keep their mouths shut while they are eating their far superior American BBQ, the remainder of my holiday is always full of mockery without the fireworks to dull the pain.
2. Figuring out there is no dryer
Moving into our tiny little house that first day, I thought maybe our dryer was hiding in a special utility closet I was not yet aware of. The washer was weirdly in the kitchen, and the dryer was nowhere to be found. After a call to our letting agent, I was forced to accept that the line in our backyard was, in fact, the dryer. It wasn’t so bad on the off day when the sun was shining, but the remainder of our time living there our house was covered floor to ceiling in drying clothing.
3. Trying Marmite for the first time
It took me a few months in England before I finally bought some Marmite at the grocery store. As we didn’t have any English friends or family, we learned about the culture of our new country slowly- mostly through many episodes of The Inbetweeners. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but since I generally like everything I didn’t forsee any issues. When I arrived home, I spread a healthy dose on a slice of bread with some cheese and went to town. This is awkward England, but your beloved brown food paste is the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted.
4. Not understanding British humor
I have always had a tough time with British humor. Monty Python annoys the hell out of me, and most everything else is just painful for me to watch. I had many preconceptions about English people based on my hatred of British humor alone, which luckily didn’t translate into real life. After almost three years in England, I am almost embarrassed by the fact that I still don’t get it. Please stop asking me if I have seen some certain episode of ‘Spaced’ or the latest Simon Pegg film, I haven’t. The only thing more awkward is the blank stares and serious responses to my sarcastic American jokes.
5. Explaining that Florida and NYC are not the only places in America
Yes, I do have an accent. Yes, I am American, not Canadian. I’m from Texas actually. No, it isn’t that close to Orlando. Oh, you have been to America, where to? Florida, yes, of course. Disney World is very nice indeed. And so goes every conversation I ever have with a new person in England. I understand that America is a big place, and if you haven’t experienced the vast distances for yourself, it may be hard to grasp. Seriously though people, Mickey Mouse is not the only thing happening stateside. Please stop making every introduction in this country awkward, go and see Montana (or Texas!) on your next trip to America so we can discuss something about my country not created by Walt Disney.
6. Being served beans for breakfast.
That first English breakfast which consisted of fried eggs, sausage, fried tomatoes, bacon, fried bread, and beans was weird to say the least. Beans for breakfast? These people are nuts. The only truly awkward thing about beans for breakfast, is how much I now love them to start my day. (Beans on toast anyone?)
7. Cars honking at me for not looking the right way.
I know, rookie mistake. But honestly, I still heavily rely on the ‘look left’ and ‘look right’ signs painted for tourists on the streets. You would think I would have caught on by now, but it hard to shake rules you have followed your entire life. I hope that the people of my town never get tired of honking at the American who can’t remember which way the cars drive, I’d hate for something so embarrassingly awkward to go on my epitaph.
8. My over-obsession with the Royal family.
As a kid growing up in small town America, I had every intention in the world of changing my name from Jessica to Diana Elizabeth when I became a grown-up. I loved reading about England’s royal family, and dreamt that one day I would see the crown jewels in real life. I am happy to report that since living in England I have not only seen the Queen in person, but the entire royal family. (All the important ones anyway, except for Baby George.) My usual cool demeanor is lost in the presence of royalty and I become that crazy fangirl of my nightmares. You would think this small obsession would help me fit in, but my English friends could actually care less about Princess Kate. Although this awkward Jessica factoid resulted in an amazing Royal themed Hen party, mostly I am just mocked for my silly ways.
9. Mispronouncing Downton Abbey as Downtown Abbey
Don’t ever use a British television show as a conversation point at a party full of English people if you can’t correctly pronounce it. It turns out Downton Abbey is nowhere near a downtown, and trust me- I will never, ever forget it. Awkward.
10. Finding my place in England
Did you know that England could fit into the state of Texas almost 3 times? I sometimes forget just how small of a nation England truly is. As a former Texan, it seems like some kind of blasphemy to go smaller rather than bigger, but despite its size- England has grown on me in a big way. I may constantly embarrass myself and be the butt of an occasional joke, but this country has become a home to me. I will gladly provide a few laughs along the way if it means having amazing friends to amuse. I don’t anticipate my family and I will live in this beautiful country forever, but for now I plan on taking advantage of every day I am given here- no matter how awkward that day may be.