Expat life and preconceptions

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a coffee-lover, full stop. I don’t know that it’s actually the drug part of it at all; the caffeine is less a factor than the pleasure of sipping coffee out of a mug. The move to England encouraged me to drink more tea, but my heart’s not in it. I have a nice coffee maker for the morning, but I have not been too averse to drinking the ubiquitous instant coffee found everywhere here in the UK-land-of-tea-kettles. However, I did learn an important expat lesson this week. I had a jar of instant regular coffee, but realized that sometimes I wish for a mug of a warm beverage before bed. I seem to have lost my high school affinity for hot cocoa, and have not been able to embrace the UK’s other alternatives. Although I’m norwegian and my norsk relatives drink regular coffee at 10 pm (Uncle Gary!) I wanted decaf. So I walked to my local grocer earlier this week, and I bought a jar of instant, in a nice bottle with a green label. I tried it, only to discover on reflection the following morning that in the UK it is not a clear-cut code that green = decaf the way it is in the US. I went back later in the week to get decaf and ended up with a jar with a black label and the word “decaf” spelled in red. So, although I had a few sleepless nights before I realized this, now I am happily cozied up with my new decaf blend (with milk, of course!) But an important lesson was learned about label codes and colors. My decaf UK coffee is red, the code for “fully leaded” in the US, and I have to read the labels more carefully and not rely on my US-based color scheme.

I had an interesting, and very different, shock earlier this week when I ran into someone here in the UK who went to my American elementary school, same grade, same special program, only a few years after me. We had the same teachers, even. When I was in the US, before I moved here, I would not have been surprised for this to have happened. I was living only a few hundred miles from said elementary school and I quite expected that someday I might meet someone from the same program. But to have that happen in the UK was a coincidence of epic proportions, and probably the best such story that I have to tell of my life thus far. My prior best was running into someone AT THAT SAME SCHOOL when I was ten, that had been my diaper playmate halfway across the US in another state. But I’m thinking this might trump that. I also discovered that one of my high school classmates is now in London (thanks, facebook!) so it’s been quite an interesting week.

And a good one. I know I’ve had some frustrations in the last few months, and my blog posts about life in the UK were at times fairly negative. At the moment, I’m feeling quite good about the world, and quite positive about my life here. I think my preconceived notions about my life were unrealistic, and it’s taken some time, perspective (and therapy!) to get past that and into a new routine and attitude. But I’m happy that I’m happy. The year of my being 31 was not great, but it was a learning experience, and from next week I get to start fresh with a new age and a new fiscal-me year.

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One response to “Expat life and preconceptions

  1. I found this post through a Google Alert for “expat” and thoroughly enjoyed this. I’m an American expat in Italy and it’s always interesting to read other expats’ experiences–just seems that no matter what country we’re from and where we move to, there are always constants.

    I look forward to reading more 🙂

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