Monday 31 January 2011

Enquiring minds want to know: Why the Orange Face?

The difficulty with writing a blog which often points out "differences" between two places is that (as most expats soon find out with surprising disappointment) one can only live in one place at a time. When I notice something that seems unusual or new, I often assume it is unique to Britain, when I really have no way of knowing since I no longer know the current goings-on in America. (Note to future expats: the day you realize this is probably the topic of a whole other, much more useful post, so let's not dwell too much on that at the moment).

Here's the thing... any readers outside the UK, can you please tell me - have your towns and cities also been invaded by Oompa Loompas?

Willy and his Oompas
I can only speak for Southern England, but the Oompa Loompas are everywhere!

There seems to be a fashion statement trending for girls of a certain age (seems like maybe teens to late-twenties) to wear orange make up. Its not just fake tan, its seriously orange foundation and bronzer that often doesnt match their neck, and is generally accompanied by lighter-than-nude lips and mascara that would make Tammy Faye Baker take a second look (if she can see through those globby eyelashes of hers).

I can't seem to post the photo due to copywrite issues, but you can see a fashion victim here.

What is this!? Do they know they look like this?  I demand to know where these girls' mothers/aunts/older sisters/etc are to teach them the fine art of matching the proper foundation shade to your skin tone and blending evenly past your jaw line. Is this a failure of British female role models or a global problem?

Either way, I'm certainly not the first to notice. Sometime last year, just when I started to think it was me - maybe I'm too old, maybe I'm not cool, maybe skin tone matching makeup is so last year - I was introduced to POD (the Personal Overhaul Device) and Snog Marry Avoid, a BBC show which takes overly made-up girls (and sometimes boys) and gives them a make-under to reveal their "natural beauty", all while taking jabs at their shabby make up application and dreadful overall apperance. Quality televion.  Highly recommended viewing.

Oh and if you are a young girl who even for a split second mistook that Oompa Loompa photo for a "girls night out" pic on your Facebook, Auntie Lady Liberty suggests a quick viewing of this Ehow video and Loreal True Match Liquid Foundation (not the roll on stuff, but the liquid in a bottle). It's good stuff. 

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Comparing Like For Like

Thinking of a move to the UK? 

I've just come across this very interesting website that offers some direct comparisons between various countries.  This link has it set up to compare living in the US to living in the UK, but you can play around with different country combinations (or reverse so you compare if you are already living in the UK).    No major surprises there (except I think I have way more than 8.85% more free time in the UK than I did in the US), but interesting none the less.

Ugh.. now I have the GoCompare song in my head.

Friday 21 January 2011

George v Cheryl

Disclaimer:  I am not at all implying this is a cultural, UK v US difference, just a Cheryl Cole v George Clooney difference. 

Pop Quiz: What do George Clooney and Cheryl Cole have in common?

No, George hasnt punched a bathroom attendant and been charged with racially aggravated assault, and "The Nation's Sweetheart", Cheryl certainly hasn't won any humanitarian awards, but they both have contracted malaria and spoken to Piers Morgan about it.

After seeing George's interview, I couldn't help but notice the juxtaposition between their (and Piers') very different reactions  ...  Pick up Cheryl's interview at 6:25 for the malaria bit.

On a related note:  On behalf of the British people, I would like to apologize to the American people as word has it that Cheryl (Geordie accent and all) is about to "break America".

Get well soon George.

Monday 17 January 2011

Can you keep a secret?

Seriously, can you keep a secret?  If not, stop reading this instant (yeah, right as if you would)...

Here's the secret: I (well, my husband actually) have found real (Americanized) Mexican food in London.  None of this Wahaca stuff or this "modern Mexican" tapas type junk that seems to be cropping up everywhere, but the stuff I am used to back home.  I'm talking free chips and (super good!) salsa on your table the second you sit down and enchiladas with cheese and onion, smothered with red sauce and cheese, served with rice and refried beans on the side.  I don't like tequila, but rumour has it, they have fantastic margaritas as well.

Now, I know I have switched geographical alliances from Mexico in Bangladesh, but after a long disappointing search this delicious find still thrilled me beyond belief, earned my husband major bonus points and definitely wins the LadyLiberty award for best Mexican-ish food in Southern England (who knows what they have "up there" in the North).

I went back and forth deciding if I should mention this on the blog since, well...basically,  I'm selfish and like to keep good discoveries to myself, but since I only have 30 readers, let's consider it a perk of being one.  I haven't even told my Facebook "friends" since I don't really like most of them. (oh yeah, that's a secret too, ok?)

The place is: Cafe Pacifico near Covent Garden (down a small side street away from most of the tourists).

Tell only who you must - the restaurant is small and busy and we don't want to create extra wait time for ourselves do we?

Sunday 16 January 2011

A little help?

I would like to publicly apologize to my mom (aka doggie babysitter) for taking her doggy baby sitting services for granted.  It wasn't until I moved away from her that I realized how difficult (and expensive!!) it can be to find someone you trust to watch your dog, even just for a night.  It took me over a year to find a good pet-sitter, but she will come if we are going to be gone for at least three nights.  Very useful (and did I mention expensive!) for trips back to America, but not at all useful for little weekend or overnight trips.  Oh and before you say it, no, I will not put my dog in a kennel...if you knew me or my dog, this wouldn't need any further explanation. 

My dog is spoiled and I'm over-protective, so without a go-to baby sitter, she now tags along for the overnight trips.  However, I quickly learned the first time we tried to plan a little trip to the coast that finding dog friendly accommodation is easier said than done.  You'd think with Google at your fingertips you could easily find a dog friendly hotel or B&B in just about any area, but the lack of information really disappointed me. A cursory search will give you hundreds of caravan parks (not really my thing) and self-catering places which must be rented for a week at a time starting only a Wednesday or something, but a one-night stay in an actual hotel, B&B or pub takes a bit more research. 

Then there is the matter of the just how friendly is friendly...  I naively assumed when I booked our first "dog friendly" B&B in Chichester for a bit of sea air and relaxation that the B&B owner would be just as friendly to my dog as she was to the humans, and was surprised when she said the dog couldn't come in the house (only the room which had been built as an extension with its own entrance) and couldn't sleep on the bed.  Couldn't sleep on the bed or eat breakfast and a bed and breakfast?  Hmph.  This was no way to treat my best friend! 

Sadly, she wasn't alone in her dog friendly guidelines.  I have since spent ages looking for other places to go with dog in tow and have heard the same rules many times over.  Truly dog friendly hotels and B&Bs are difficult to find, even in country which I think is more accommodating to those on four legs than most others. 

I have decided to put together a directory of sorts of the friendliest dog friendly places in the UK and need your help.  Have you travelled in the UK with your dog? Have you managed to find any places that allow doggie to sleep on the bed AND eat breakfast with you?  Those are my criteria and here is my very infantile website.  Share your reviews please! 

Thursday 13 January 2011

What a Tease!

I read a headline in a newspaper today that claimed the lovely, unbeatable, perfect-partner-for-a-grilled-cheese-sandwich Campbell's Tomato Soup was coming back to the UK after an apparent two-year absence. I began to salivate and dream of steaming lunches on cold snowy days... and then was smacked into reality...

The truth is that Campbell's-branded Tomato Soup will soon be available in UK grocery stores in a what the article described as "in a dessicated can-free form".  One can only assume this means either a sachet full of power pretending to be the ingredients of tomato soup or a cup-o-soup which will produce a watery red-ish liquid in a red Campbell's-branded plastic tub not at all worthy of my grilled cheese sandwich.

What a disappointment.

Seriously, Campbell's, if you can't do it right, don't do it at all.  Please try again.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

2010 Expat Milestones

Is it too late for a New Year's related post?

I am sure there is a rule somewhere that states any self-respecting blogger would have their New Year's post written and posted by at the 4th of January at the latest, so as lover of rules and order, I do apologize for my tardiness, but on to the post....

I'm sure there are many expats who mark traditional milestones of assimilation such as the first time you called your new country "home", or your first celebration of a holiday unique to your new country. I could bore you with my own stories of these and maybe that time I had my first royal spotting (no less than the Queen herself!), but really, who needs another one of those blog posts?

Instead, as we welcome a new year, I'm looking back to on a few of my own less-conventional expat assimilation milestones in 2010. (please share some of your own too!)

Farnham Castle
March 26, 2010 - I had a friend come to visit and took her around to "see the sights" including a short stop in Farnham, where she very astutely noticed a rather impressive building on the top of a hill and asked what it was. Not even giving it a second look, I said "oh, that's just a castle". Just a castle?! Farnham Castle may not be the grandest castle in the land, but I never would have thought before living in England that any castle would be viewed by me as "just a castle".

August 21, 2010 - This one makes me a bit uneasy... I had another friend visiting from America and was explaining some of the differences between life in England as life in the US and for the first time noticed that I was consistently confusing the "them" and "us" pronouns. I simply couldn't seem to keep straight if I was a "them" (the Brits) or an "us"(the Americans). Was I a "we" or a "they"?? I eventually ceased use of pronouns all together to solve my new identity crisis. I highly suggest this method if you find yourself in a similar situation.

October 13, 2010 - I got my driver's license in August of 2010, but was (ok, still kind of am) what I would consider a nervous driver, so the events of this October afternoon surprised and delighted me enough to be considered milestone #3. I was exiting the Tesco parking lot onto a large-ish roundabout and it wasn't until I had exited the roundabout that I realized what I'd just done - I'd been eating a ripped off piece of french stick whilst manoeuvring around the roundabout with no extra thought! I'd multi tasked while driving on the wrong side of the road and wrong side of the car for the first time!* Hooray for me!

December 30, 2010 - It was on this day that the The Unthinkable happened. My husband and I had reason to be over in East London (like waaay East London), which is considerably closer to the two Taco Bell locations which have recently popped up in Essex. Being the kind, caring man he is, my husband offered to take me to Taco Bell for a pre-new year's diet gorge. The Taco Bell menu began floating around in my head; I had visions of Nachos Bell Grande and shoving handfuls of brightly coloured sauces packets in my the purse and then, The Unthinkable.... I declined his invitation and asked to be taken to our local Indian (Bangladeshi to be precise) restaurant instead. Gasp! The horror! Could I actually prefer Indian food to the previously best food on earth (i.e Mexican food) or was it just a battle between Indian v Taco Bell?? I quickly realised it wasn't... I wasn't just choosing Indian over Taco Bell; I actually preferred Indian over ALL Mexican food. What has happened to me? This one is quite possibly less assimilation and more self-preservation, but a milestone either way.

If you too like Indian food (or variations thereof) and would like to try some of the best curry that England has to offer, The Independent claims these are the 50 best curry houses.

*I should probably mention that the Highway Code likely states you should concentrate only on driving when behind the wheel, and preforming any other actions concurrently may lead to death or grievous bodily harm.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Long Live the Pint

I love beer.

I miss Old Chicago Beer Tours; drinking beer after beer with my best friend surrounded by other beer lovers.

I remember first moving to the UK and suddenly feeling self concious about drinking beer in pubs - all the other girls were drinking wine and beer seemed like such a "boy" drink.   I quickly got over this silliness and appreciate at every opportunity that drinking a pint in a pub is (to me) such a wonderful "British" thing... which is why today's news that you can now buy beer and cider in a size other than a pint or half pint is some how distressing.

You see, before today there were very strict rules which said a publican (a pub owner) could only sell beer and cider in a pint or a half pint (although apparently a third of a pint was also ok, but very rare, so I'm ignoring it).  The rules were put in place to protect pub-goers to ensure they were served the same amount of beverage in every pub they visited, allowing them to accurately compare prices.  Sounds good, right?  Well, today the UK government has decided to toss tradition aside and and bring in the "schooner", which is 2/3 of a pint and a typically Australian measurement.  Why do our pubs need a schooner!?  Where is the respect for tradition?

Government will tell you they are waging war against binge drinking, but I say they need to keep their turned up noses out of my pub.  Don't they have more important things they should be sorting out, anyway?

Long Live the Pint!

Monday 3 January 2011

I Love Immigrants?

I've just been invited to join a group called 'I Love Immigrants' on Facebook...

This group says they are "a place for people who welcome immigrants and believe they contribute positively to Britain" which sounds well and good and clearly, as an immigrant, I would seem a likely candidate to be one who might "love" immigrants, but I have graciously declined the offer to join this group.

In addition to this invitation, due to the major changes taking place re: UK immigration regulations, I have been asked many times to sign petitions and write letters to my MP to urge them to keep paths of immigration open. I have rejected those requests as well and am feeling strangely guilty about not feeling guilty.  Even though I am an immigrant, I am of the opinion that immigration is not a right or even a privilege which can practically be extended to everyone who wishes to live in the UK and that restrictions are necessary.

I feel increasingly uncomfortable that as an immigrant, I am somehow expected to be an advocate for other immigrants.   Surely, I am not the only one who feels this way?  Or am I....?