Sunday, September 6, 2009

Two Years On

It’s been two years since I made the move across the pond, and what have I learned? Hmm, lots of things. I’ve learned that living in the UK is expensive on every level. I’ve learned to appreciate what socialized medicine can do for a country. I’ve learned that Brits like to analyze and discuss what it is to be British and they also like to analyze us, or at least the media does.

This has been an interesting year. It’s been a year of ups and downs with A at school insisting that she hates THIS school when I think she’d probably feel that way about any school. It’s been a fattening year with H cooking some excellent meals as he worked through his culinary program. At work it’s been a year of working together with the Americans which has brought about some interesting conversations. I have largely not said much back but there have been days I have left work furious at the way they size us up. As I type this, a television series where chef Jamie Oliver is travelling the U.S. on a culinary mission is being broadcast. When I saw it advertised I wanted to yell at the screen, ya’ll hate us, so just leave us alone and quit analyzing us for your entertainment! Yes, that sounds totally irrational. Yes, I know it is ironic that I am calling for them to stop analyzing us when I have been doing just that for the last two years on this blog, but my analysis hasn’t been in an effort to make fun of a different culture. And that’s not what Mr. Oliver is doing either. He actually said in an article for one of the newspapers before the series began that he wanted to explore the UK’s love/hate relationship with the U.S. So true!

When we were on vacation, H spotted a book review in the London Times that summed up one of my constant comments about my conversations with people here. It was a review on a book about snark and the whole review is here. But the quote that stuck out in my mind was this:

And yet our conversation, day to day, oozes with the stuff. To bitch, to gossip, to backstab, to slag off, to unfairly lampoon — this is the essence of basic British chat. –Hugo Rifkind

Don’t get me wrong, I like a little snark, but it needs to be tempered with some positivity now and again.

When my buddy C from Australia was visiting at the beginning of the summer, we were discussing the use of the word “brilliant” by Brits. We were both saying in our cultures, we would use that term very sparingly because we considered it high praise, yet it’s used here so often. So it’s either someone is brilliant, the highest praise or their torn to shreds, with not a lot in-between. Or, as I am typing this, I am wondering is the use of the word brilliant just another example of snark in British conversation?

Year three here we come...

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