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My Top Ten Most Awkward Moments as an American Expat in England
By: Jess of The Fly Away American
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.
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.
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Contest Comments » There are 43 comments
Bethany Powers wrote 9 years ago:
I love your writing and your willingness to share your embarrassing moments! I feel like I'm there with you!
Jessica Milling wrote 9 years ago:
My mother is British and I once spent an awkward July 4th in England, so I feel your pain! I love your perspective and its hard to be the "new girl" in town, especially in a foreign country! Thanks for sharing!
Meghan Fenn wrote 9 years ago:
Number 9 is so funny because I do that too. Drives my British husband nuts and he doesn't even watch show. And yes, even after 14 years of living here, I still sometimes look the wrong way and approach the wrong side of the car as a passenger AND as a driver AND I still drive down the wrong side of the road if there are no other cars to follow. Great blog post!
Lucy D wrote 9 years ago:
Brilliant brilliant brilliant. I'm glad you like beans on toast now... that's more important than liking marmite in my books. Stick on Mary Poppins next time you're tucking into your beany brekky and you'll have a taste of my life (everyday) from the age of 2 to 4! Now that I've been nice, may I have the recipe for those burgers? ;-)
Sarah Graddy wrote 9 years ago:
I love your blog! Visiting England is on my bucket list and I will be just as obsessed with anything royal.
Sarah wrote 9 years ago:
Love the Fly Away American!! Inspires me to travel all around the world!!
Jane Colquhoun wrote 9 years ago:
Really enjoy your comments about my country and county, so interesting to see it from an ex-pats eyes. Lucky to have enjoyed so many holidays in the US - loved Texas! ;)
Stephanie G wrote 9 years ago:
I can relate to most of those, being Dutch, having lived in the UK for a decade before now living in the US. In 10 years time you will laugh at these, and find only #3 to remain! PS, I have both Spaced seasons on DVD, if you want to borrow them ;)
Mandy H wrote 9 years ago:
Loved reading these! I can only imagine how different it is between here and there.
Clare Gosling wrote 9 years ago:
Awesome! Could not agree more about the Marmite, it really is a love it or hate it thing! Being a British citizen living in South Carolina (not Florida, or New York) this brought back many memories of home
Johannes wrote 9 years ago:
Great blog post. Numbers 2 and 3 are especially true to the mark. I just want to add I always enjoy reading your updates!
Nancy wrote 9 years ago:
This cracks me up , I probably will never get to see England sooo reading your blogs are very interesting .When you first got there I remember thinking all that meat ?? and eel ??? She isn't really a big meat eater ;) What's she gonna do ? haha
Pami wrote 9 years ago:
Never has a truer word been spoken than number 5. Entertaining and enlightening as always Jess!
Shannon K wrote 9 years ago:
Number 1 really made me laugh. I never thought about a holiday in that way. Thanks for sharing.
Rusja Foster wrote 9 years ago:
Haha I love the thing about the marmite! It's a love or have thing, but I think your mistake was the spreading of a 'healthy dose'...always just go for a very light layering. Try again I think you'll learn to love it!
Kasha wrote 9 years ago:
Jess, this post is brilliant! Absolutely love the way you write, you funny lady :) As a fellow expat in the UK, I can truly relate to this post. Those subtle differences between cultures are the most difficult things to learn, and I feel like I've done my fair bit of contributing to the awkwardness of social situations too. And I've said 'Downtown Abbey' too - more than once! But I do rather like Marmite ;)
Julie Romero wrote 9 years ago:
I love this, I thought I was the only one in the family to completely embarrass herself all the time! :)
Lida Rijken wrote 9 years ago:
Great writing! You write very lively, it was that I was almost there! Go girl!
BOL wrote 9 years ago:
This blog is great, I really enjoy the writing style and cultural insights
Emily Z wrote 9 years ago:
Love the writing! As an American Expat I can always relate to her experiences...I love reading about her travels/experiences within the UK - an excellent ambassador for domestic tourism in the UK! Visit Kent should hire her ;)
John Exell wrote 9 years ago:
As an English guy who has spent time in the US I find this a great insight into how our American cousins think, oh did I mention it's funny as well!
Jaklien wrote 9 years ago:
You don't like beans for breakfast?? LOL. I think I will NEVER get used to having that on an empty stomach!!
Amanda wrote 9 years ago:
Love this! Working 100% with UK clients I've experienced a lot of this stuff first hand. "Oh weird, you don't celebrate our independence from you?" Also, Marmite and Vegimite....YUCK!
Mr. Nick wrote 9 years ago:
I can totally feel your pain - I've heard rumors that those dryers are awfully powerful, in comparison to American ones. Has anyone ever set the timer to high and shrunk their sneakers? Just asking.
Matthew wrote 9 years ago:
Engaging, useful and above all else always fun. I always enjoy reading your blogs but now I know you don't appreciate monty python... :-(
J. Folk wrote 9 years ago:
These are hilarious. I can relate to almost everything and have only been living here for a couple of months. Love The Fly Away American!
Chris wrote 9 years ago:
Amazing insight on some things most people either take for granted or wouldn't expect to be so differant. Well written as well, like always
Nimisha wrote 9 years ago:
I enjoy reading Jessica's blog. Although I was not born and raised I the US, having lived in the US for 7 years, I can relate to what she shares via her posts. Her views are frank and apt. I like her sense of humour and creativity expressed in her writing.
Nimisha wrote 9 years ago:
I enjoy reading Jessica\'s blog. Although I was not born and raised in the US, having lived in the US for 7 years, I can relate to what she shares via her posts. Her views are frank and apt. I like her sense of humour and creativity expressed in her writing.
Jessica Rapone wrote 9 years ago:
Love these! I also call it downtown abbey :) and say it in a British accent for an added bonus!
Mary Garvey wrote 9 years ago:
I love having a way to keep up with your oh so spontaneous lifestyle from across the world! Your writing never fails to impress me!
Liskje wrote 9 years ago:
I like reading Jessica' blog. When I heard that she was going to write I knew that is it for her. In Holland we say: het is haar op het lijf geschreven. Fantastic writing.
Lori Watson wrote 9 years ago:
I am not surprised that Jessica ended up in England as her mom I remember Jessica being completely in love with the royal family. number 8 brought all those memories back thanks Jessica : )
Sophie wrote 9 years ago:
Love this blog post! Numbers 8 and 9 made me chuckle! Long live queen Jessica ;)
Si wrote 9 years ago:
Jessica deserves to win a prize. This prize seems like a suitable one.
Gina wrote 9 years ago:
Love reading Jessica's blog and following along on her adventures. I can relate to so much of her expat experience and really enjoyed this post. Best wishes!
Brandy Knott wrote 9 years ago:
This all rings a very familiar bell to me. While reading it made me realize that my adjustment ot England is probably shared by many. I am the only American in my area and enjoy hearing form others. Hope you write more BLOGS
Jamie Gunter wrote 9 years ago:
Amen to all of these! I am right there with you (except the downton abbey one ;0)
Alison Chino wrote 9 years ago:
Oh my goodness! This made me laugh! Probably because I have had many of the EXACT same experiences. Um, I eat EVERYTHING and I had the same experience with Marmite. Yikes. Looking left. And DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED ABOUT THE DRYER!!
Amber wrote 9 years ago:
What a great post! I really enjoyed reading it, it really felt as if I was there.
Danielle Jenkins wrote 9 years ago:
This is such a great blog! I'm only just discovering it and its such a joy to read! You go girl!! :-)
Ben Baker wrote 9 years ago:
Watching my cousin Jessica fulfill her travel dreams inspired me to buckle down and make my own travel dreams happen. It's entirely possible that I wouldn't have wound up studying in Italy and Ireland if she hadn't shown me that it's possible if you put some work into it. Thanks Jess! Love the blog :)
Karen wrote 9 years ago:
Love this blog! Inspires me to travel and see the world. Eloquently written with the perfect amount of humor.