Saturday, 24 May 2014

#PlayInMay - Feel a Thing: One Year in England

Hey y'all!

Yesterday marked exactly one year since a girl and her dog set foot in England for goodsies.  The time has moved incredibly fast, and my life is SO MUCH DIFFERENT than it was when I left Texas.  This weekend, the Axis of Ineptitude wants me to Feel a Thing, and somehow it seemed appropriate that I tell you some of my feelings about this past year.  

The final days before the move are kind of a blur to me now.  While I had given notice at work for my last day to be the end of April, circumstances led to me having to work almost two more full weeks to train my replacement.  This seriously cut into the time I had intended to spend with my mom before leaving, and in getting all my things packed and ready in an orderly, calm fashion.  Losing those two weeks sort of sent everything into a headspin, trying to get all of my belongings as well as Isis' into 5 suitcases (the bulk of my stuff had been sent via container ship in March so I was down to bare essentials anyway) and everything I'd planned to have 3 weeks to do suddenly wound up condensed to only one week.  I had to finish moving out of my apartment and playing the "pack, donate, or trash" game with the remaining items in my possession.  I had a lot of last minute running around to do to get the dog certified to be able to fly with me, including vet visits and trips downtown to get all of her paperwork endorsed by the USDA.  I had a LOT of people to meet for lunches and dinners followed by misty-eyed goodbyes.  Mom really got shafted in the end, because I feel like I was able to spend any time with her at all and then, suddenly I was 5,000 miles and 6 time zones away.

Because Isis and I were on the same flight, I didn't want to have to make a connection, putting her on two traumatic flights, so my best friend, my dog, and I drove to Houston the night before our flight.  It was a Tuesday evening when we set off, and I've never seen Mom look so miserable.  Leaving her for this move was the hardest thing I've ever done.  As we set off, it occurred to me that it was probably the last big road trip that my bestie and I would be making together for a long while, and that set me into a melancholy mood for most of the ride, although we tried to make the best of it with a lot of singing and revisiting shared memories, and having one last inside joke at the expensive of a barbeque drive-thru employee who will never make it into management (and I don't feel bad for him because he was kind of an ass).

I definitely don't remember anything about that last morning in Texas beyond dropping the dog off at her terminal and then having to say goodbye to my best friend in front of mine.  That loss was tempered though, knowing that she would be flying over the following month for our wedding.

The first month here was definitely the most trying, as both myself and the dog became acclimated to English life.  Surprisingly, Isis did really well and the move doesn't seem to have phased her very much at all, except possibly making her separation anxiety a little bit worse, but that is really a drop in a very large bucket anyway.  Getting married almost seemed like an afterthought, after having spent the 6 months beforehand having to fill out SO MANY FORMS and pay out so much money just to get here with my dog and my stuff.  I think Mr. Faff and I both were more relieved just to have it over with, and one less thing to worry about.

There were still a few things left that had to be done even after the wedding, mostly involving getting my visa status sorted and then waiting it out for me to be eligible to work and see doctors and drive, and the mountains of paperwork involved with each of those things.  Now looking back it seems like it all flew by, but in the moments, it felt interminable, as though we'd never be done with the paperwork.  All in all, I'm glad it's over, because I know that I'm where I'm supposed to be, and I know that I've found the person I was meant to be with.  It hasn't been an easy year, but it has been a good one, and that's what important, I suppose.

I thought I'd finish this off with a list of the 10 most surprisingly hard things about moving to England (or possibly any foreign country).  These are of course based solely on my experience and YMMV.

10) Learning new road/street signage - It's very easy to take for granted things like automatically being able to spot the right exit sign or speed limit sign, or even be able to find the street names on cross streets when you're in your home country.  It is a long and difficult process to train your eyes to look in new places for different (and sometimes completely obscured) signage.
Seriously.  WTF?
9)  Learning new product branding - Again, I don't think anyone realizes until they're grocery shopping in a new country how much we rely on what we've always known when it comes to product brands.  For the first 6 months I was here, grocery shopping would take me HOURS because I would stand in front of the aisles, staring at shelves of the same products and having no idea how to choose the best quality vs price point.  I can find some of the same brands here when it comes to food, but even a year later I still haven't figured out what kind of pickles I'll actually like, and let's not even get me started on coffee.
I just spent 3 hours choosing a deodorant.  The smile only masks the inevitable mental breakdown over toilet cleaner.
8)  Currency - Bill notes are pretty easy because of the big bold numbers on the corners, but I still get a little anxious when I have to pay for something in coins.  First off, they're not the same denominations, and there's way more of the Sterling coins than there are US coins.  It's easy enough to work with 1p and 2p (pence) because they're copper colored like pennies, but 5p coins are the same size as US dimes, 10p coins are as big as US quarters, and the closest monetary equivalent to a quarter is a 20p coin, which is octagon shaped and smaller than the 10p!  Then on top of that, there's HUGE 50p coins, and just for fun, we're going to add in £1 and £2 COINS instead of bills.  Mr. Faff fussed at me for a long time because I kept spending bills and accumulating change, but my tiny little American brain just wasn't able to work out the coinage fast enough at the registers, and I really hate looking stupid in public.  I've gotten a LOT better, so at least I don't get the sighs and eye-rolls at the bakery anymore for paying for an 80p sausage roll with a £20 note.
Look, hunny!  I went shopping!  Also, we now have 14 jars of pickles.
7)  Date formatting - Still throws me off anytime I have to date something over here.  I got a lot of giggles for having to cross out my MM/DD/YY dates and rewrite them as DD/MM/YY.
I have no idea what day it is, most of the time.
6)  Turning "on/off" wall plugs - This literally sent me into a full blown crying fit within the first month of being over here.  Mr. Faff was in the habit of fussing at me for forgetting to turn off the outlet when I was done with them.  It's bad enough that he has a thing about unplugging All.The.Things All.The.Time, but one night after getting fussed at for using the water heater incorrectly (I mean seriously, I never realized how spoiled we Americans are by having water heaters that fill themselves automatically), but when he got onto me for leaving an outlet switch on, I broke down into big fat ugly tears for over an hour.  It was not pretty.
Is it safer?  Undoubtedly.  Does it come naturally?  Not even.
5)  Tiny, tiny roads (and everything else) - This one is a pretty common trope in the movies and on TV any time an American visits Britain, but it's there because it's true. Remember that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer adopts a stretch of highway and makes it "luxury" by widening the lanes?  Yeah, that's what driving in the States feels like to me now.  Also, any time I drive through the middle of the small town in which we live (as opposed to the nearest city where I do most of my shopping) I literally hold my breath when I pass a cross-flow of traffic.  It's nerve-wracking.
British luxury sedan (actual size)
4)  Paying for parking - I don't mean event parking, or even street parking meters in the city.  I mean I literally have to pay 40p in the "car park" when I go to the dentist, and usually £2 in the multi-stories (that is, parking garages) any time I want to go shopping in the city.  There are a few places that have dedicated lots, but these are stores on the outskirts of the city.  The worst bit?  Forgetting to bring coins for said parking.
I just wanted to buy some freaking flip-flops!
3)  Shared language, difficult communication - It's really sadly unfortunate how often I have to ask people to repeat themselves, and I used to think I had a good ear for British accents.  Unfortunately in this part of England, the locals do a lot of really fast mumbling, and my poor Texan brain can't keep up.  Then when you add in local idiomatic expressions that make no contextual sense, I get lost pretty quickly.  Also, at least twice a month, Mr. Faff and I discover another word that has two completely different meanings in our respective countries.
No, I asked for a pair of PANTS, not panties.
2)  Recognizing new cop cars - On a recent trip to Cardiff, I kept passing these big bulky vans about the same size as a small ambulance.  They were all parked along the side of the highway in different areas (meaning only one was at each spot, not like a mess of them having a roadside party).  My heart sank and my pulse sped up when Mr. Faff informed me that these were in fact speed camera vans.  What. The. Frak?  There's like 70 million speed cameras set up on poles all over the place over here, and now you're telling me they've got gorram MOBILE UNITS?  Geezus, you Brits sure know how to make money off lead-foots.
Now you're just screwing with me.
1)  Paying for cart rentals -Getting past the fact that Brits call their shopping carts "trolleys", at certain supermarkets, the stores have devised an evil way to ensure that everyone returns their carts to the proper upright and locked position when they're done shopping - rental locks.  This essentially means that you have to rent your shopping cart for £1 when you get your groceries.  Now, my usual store doesn't do this, and for that I am thankful, but once in a while I'm running errands on a different side of town and decide to get my groceries over there as well.  This becomes a problem when, once again, I forget to bring the proper coinage with me.  I've driven away from grocery stores in disgust more times than I care to count for these evil contraptions.  However, I've recently learned that I can buy a keychain with a coin attached to use in these circumstances.  Ebay, here I come!

I'm not entirely certain how many feelz this post contains, but there you have it.

Axis of Ineptitude
Looking for the whole list of prompts? They are in text form and image so you can Come Play In May!


  1. Congratulations on being in the UK have you visited Scotland yet? If not you are in for a treat hehe,
    I'm glad everything is sorted and you are settled here :) and I hope you have many more happy years here if a little confusing

    1. Not yet Roz, but I'm hoping this summer we will take a trip up there. Fingers crossed.

      Thank you so much for your support and encouragement!

  2. I totally feel you on #9 - I just spent HOURS at CostCo in Mexico City

  3. Oh man, being British these things seem to come naturally to me and I guess it is really interesting to see things from the other side of the scope. I am sure there are a lot of things I would find hard to handle if I moved to America as well. I am glad you are enjoying it here though, and I hope you have many more good years ahead!

    Check out my post about Finding Nemo:


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