Reversepilgrims Blog

a northwest family moves to the UK

Snowdrops February 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — reversepilgrims @ 10:54 pm

All around, patches of these little pure white flowers are popping up. I’ve seen crocus, but these are new to me. They are called Snowdrops. It is nice to see that Spring is on it’s way, even if it won’t be here until next month. What a treat!


Mama bear pokes her head out

Filed under: Uncategorized — reversepilgrims @ 10:39 pm

Most of my posts are about the lighthearted side of being an uninvited guest in this country, but today I am sad, and a little mad. Just to be clear–I am not trying to start a debate, I’m just sharing with my friends and family back home the whole kit and kaboodle.

When I picked my seven year old up from school last week he told me something that broke my heart.  A teacher at his school was speaking to a group of children at an assembly and, in response to an apparently overly exuberant child, said quite forcefully “We aren’t American children, we don’t hoot and make wild noises when we clap”.

My son said several kids turned around and looked right at him, and one lad (who is definitely going on the nice list this year) actually leaned over to say, “don’t worry, I know that not all Americans are like that.” Clearly my son was not the only one who heard the comment and got the underlying negative message.

To the school’s credit, the head teacher took the matter seriously. When I talked with her about the incident, she apologized and explained that she saw it as a clear case of racism and would deal with it accordingly. She talked with my son right after I met with her the next day and she had the teacher apologize to him, too. It’s all been sorted, as they say here.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy to move to a foreign country. I expected some of the other kids to be a bit mean sometimes, to make fun of their accents and give them a hard time, but I didn’t think I’d have to worry about the teachers. With my experience here so far, however, it did not surprise me. It is not as if the wave of political correctness failed to wash ashore here–it is definitely considered a faux pas to ridicule minority, ethnic and social groups just like it is back home. However, it is as if Americans are somehow considered fair game. Even with the French, people still seem to look around with that “I know I shouldn’t say this, but…” before they toss out a zinger, but not so with Americans.

I’ve heard the little barbs on the radio, standing in lines, on TV, and in conversation. It’s usually a witty comment about how an attitude or action (like wasting energy or cutting corners or hooting and yelling wildly) is “so American”. Yes, I know we are far from perfect, but all three hundred million of us don’t drive hummers and idolize Homer Simpson.

The fact is that my son will probably never forget the way he felt that day. It is an awful experience to feel like you are on the outside looking in, but I also know that it is part of life. We all get through these experiences and learn something from them. After all, that is part of why we packed up and moved to a foreign country, to get a little perspective. It’s just that getting perspective isn’t always fun.

I can’t run around plugging his ears, but I can tell him how much I love him and treasure him for exactly who he is, an amazing, creative, kind, polite and also American boy. I can encourage him to have patience and tolerance–other people are not perfect and neither are we. Everyone makes mistakes and the nice ones even apologize, just like that teacher did. And who knows, we might all grow and learn a little bit.

Now, on with our adventure!


Bits and bobs and boots February 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — reversepilgrims @ 10:11 pm

I have a new all-time favorite difference between British & American English.

The use of the word ‘trolly’ for shopping cart amused me for weeks, and calling something ‘brilliant’ or ‘brill’ for short to describe something awesome or excellent was my favorite after that.  But, nothing has tickled my funny bone quite like this one.

I was just minding my own business at a birthday at the bowling alley when the  guest of honor showed me his new pair of shoes, which happened to be what we Americans call ‘high top’ tennis shoes. I said they were cool. He said they were basketball boots. What? I said, sure that I had misunderstood. Basketball boots, his mother confirmed. Seriously. Even the old classic Chuck Taylors? Yep. Basketball boots, the whole lot of them.

For some reason I found this completely hilarious. I laughed so hard my side hurt and it still brings a smile to my face when I think of it. It has the potential to be at the top for months, but I’ll keep you posted.

What’s next, soccer slippers?

Here are a few more of my favorites:

I do love the classics, like ‘torch’ for flashlight and ‘boot’ for the trunk of your car. And, of course, you call the things you pull on and zip up to cover your legs ‘trousers’ here–definitely not ‘pants’. Unless, of course, you’ve got your undergarments on over the top.

One that I find particularly descriptive is the use of the word ‘shattered’ for being totally worn out or exhausted, especially if it is stretched out and seems as if the word itself is almost too much to say.

A new friend invited my 7 year old over for “tea” after school one day and I thought, well, that’s a bit formal for a playdate, but when in Rome, right? I now know that “tea” is just their word for the evening meal. However, it doesn’t seem to matter how many times I hear it, I still envision people sitting around on fancy chairs drinking tea with their pinkies and backs perfectly straight.

I also giggled when a neighbor mum walked my son home from the play date. When they arrived at the door, she apologized for him getting a bump on his head and said she had put a “flannel” on it. Odd remedy, I thought, but I tried to keep an open mind. It obviously worked because he was fine. Thank goodness I then recalled a fellow blogger sharing that a “flannel” is what they call a washcloth, or I would have gone on thinking she had put an old shirt on his head.

They use the word “pavement” for sidewalk. This is particularly unsettling. When I hear parents telling their children to walk on the pavement I can’t help but think it is their version of the classic dismissive comment, ‘why don’t you go play in the street?’.

The phrase ‘bits and bobs’ or just ‘bits’ to describe small items or stuff in general is definitely in my top ten. For example, your ‘bits and bobs’ could be your hat and gloves, or that pile of things you need to put back where they belong, or the things rolling around in your pocket. I didn’t realize that I was missing a word for that stuff–thanks!

And if you ever want to feel right out of the loop, try calling to plan a kid’s birthday party at a farm park. I didn’t think the woman on the phone would ever stop being amazed at the fact that I didn’t know what the party game called “pass the parcel” was. If you can imagine her saying that with an English accent “poss the paahsul”, I thought for a moment that she was talking about a hands-on farm experience involving live opossums!

The fun never ends. I’ll keep you posted.


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