Anglo Adventure

Travel with a sense of humor


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My Impossible-to-Escape Turkey Day Tradition

Turkey Day, Seattle

This is what November looks like here. Isn’t it pretty?

I did it. I finally made a turkey. Ok, my husband did most of, ok all of the gross stuff like stuffing it with apples and herbs to make it aromatic and piercing the thigh with a meat thermometer every hour. I participated by inspecting the meat to make sure we weren’t giving all of our friends food poisoning.

I know what you’re thinking…Thanksgiving is a couple days away.

Being nomads, we’ve never done a true Thanksgiving. We spent our first Thanksgiving married in a Shari’s Diner eating half-frozen turkey sandwiches with blobs of cranberry sauce on the side. I cried.

I vowed never to let that happen again, so for the next few years we found a fancy restaurant and dined there. Still didn’t feel right. No football, no drunk cousins, no Cool Whip? Something about the white-linen tablecloth made me feel awkward making a mashed-potato volcano. Too fancy, no family. And I cry again.

Thankfully, a friend took me in the next year, when The Husband was in Quebec and I was in Seattle. No crying and I am still grateful. Be supportive to your Thanksgiving strays, they’ll remember it.

Canadian Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Poutine

Poutine and plastic fork. Even Elwood realized it wasn’t Thanksgiving.

Then came the Quebec year. Thanksgiving isn’t a big to-do in Quebec like it is here.

First, their Thanksgiving (L’action de Grace) takes place before Halloween. That’s strange. It’s like eating dessert before dinner. And most people, at least in Quebec see Thanksgiving as a day off to cover their pools and construct their carports. Most people I knew didn’t even eat turkey.

That’s right: Thanksgiving in Belle Province is pretty much relegated to a labor-day type of holiday. Which is fine, they have plenty of awesome holidays and at the time, I thought I could use a break from American-style gorging. Continue reading

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Be Magellan, Not Columbus: Treat People Right When Traveling

overseas travel tips culture expat french learning

I love you all for realz.

I spent the past year and a half in intensive French class, in a classroom that acted as a patchwork quilt of countries. I learned the language with people who were very different from me. People who had never even seen one episode of the Daily Show or Desperate Housewives or Mad Men. People who preferred veggies to cheese and chocolate.

How the f was I ever going to find Common Ground?

Some of my fellow immigrants (the term applies loosely to me, I know this) hailed from the kind of countries where food is a luxury. And there I was with my Honda CRV and Betsey Johnston wallet. They weren’t learning French for funsies; they had to do it to get jobs, so that they could feed their families.

I have never met more beautiful, humble people. I say that without an ounce of exaggeration. Or naiveness. People suck all over. I get that. My classmates didn’t suck.

My French teacher lectured me long before the first day.

“They are not you. They are immigrants, but it’s not the same. They are refugees. You live here by choice. You’re not struggling. We have people here from everywhere. You have to be very respectful. It is not hard for you. You understand?”

I nodded when she said it but left her office defensive.Who was she to tell me that I’ve never struggled?  I was raised by a single mom with five kids in a house with only one bathroom in a neighborhood where garbage bags blew down the street like tumbleweeds. Sure, I could walk to 7-11. But you should have seen the dandelions springing up from the sidewalk cracks! The chain-link fences! Those mean boys who hurled rocks and insults at us.

She was 100% correct, that’s who she was.  Continue reading


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Reverse Culture Shock? 5 Things to Remember

quebec city, new france, place royale

From New France

To

central park

The Good Old’ USA

I should mention that I don’t live in New York or on a Central Park bench the way this picture would have you believe. A month ago, I moved back to Seattle where I write in my pjs and dream of more travel.

The repat experience goes like this: You have a favorite pair concert tee-shirt that you haven’t worn since high school (for me – the band Rancid is a perfect example). You pull it over your head only to find out that your body has changed. And you’re now questioning the band’s logo: are they still cool? Am I still way into them?

The answer is both Yes and No. Because you have changed. You no longer live for punk, identify yourself as a punk, you just like it. You’ve found new bands and even though you can still recite all the words to Timebomb, your mohawk has turned into a faux-hawk and you’ve traded in those combat boots for chuck taylors.

Quebec might be cold, but the people are warm. There’s no pressure to buy, less pressure to work, and everyone is really polite and soft-spoken. It contrasts sharply with the U.S. even though it’s on the same continent.

I love America, I love being an American, but when I went back, I felt a wave of reverse culture shock. Everyone seemed so loud and in a hurry. No more quaint epicuries. No more watching street circus acts in the middle of the afternoon. No more charming outdoor terraces.

Repatriot Tips:

1. Don’t talk about your experience abroad unless people ask. It’s boring. No one really wants to know what kind of cookies they have in your host country and how you can’t find them here. They really don’t understand and you come across as that pretentious-live-abroad asshole. Trust me. I’ve been on the other side of this many times.

2. Don’t bring a lot of stuff back. I moved back to Seattle and I am still sorting through the boxes, plus all that junk I put in storage. Purchase one or two cool souvenirs – a rug, a painting, something you can look at everyday, and bring it back. Don’t go crazy trying to make your contemporary apartment look like a London flat.  Continue reading


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Making Friends Abroad for the Emotionally Challenged

making friends abroad

Thanks Bro.

 

Friends.

I’ve never been that good at making them. I was that weird girl who basically ate alone until I was nine and made my first best friend – a girl by the name of Maggie O’Malley who had a black pony she’d let me ride sometimes. The problem? She wasn’t available enough because she existed completely in my fervent imagination.

I am still more shy than the summer in Quebec: it takes me awhile to open up, especially to other women. I am not sure why, it could be because women friendships are more intimiate while the male ones basically consist of hanging out, joking, and drinking. I can do that.

The inevitable disappointment comes when I  expect my platonic male friends to act like women and dish about their relationship problems or patiently let me divulge about my  husband’s silent protest against washing the dishes. Or when they expect me to be a guy and go on and on about “the hot girl” while I sit there wondering if the dryer shrunk my skinny jeans or whether I am just steadily getting fatter.

At our college orientation weekend, a woman openly wept in front of a circle of complete strangers. The others raced to comfort her, while I stood there, nibbling on the free cookies. I moved on to the guys, who wanted me to introduce them to the prettiest girl in the group. I spent the whole weekend worrying college was going to be awful.

Sigh.

If you’re emotionally disabled challenged like me, and you move to another country, like me, you’re going to have to make friends.

Where to meet new people:

Expat groups: Whether you’re in Qatar or Tanzania, your country probably has one and they probably have meet ups. Meetup.com is the best resource for this – it’s also a good resource for finding a foreign-language conversation group when (if) you move back. Continue reading


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10 Tips for Living Abroad

 

The fountain outside parliment.

Here are 10 tips for easy livin’ abroad:

1. Know that the magic is going to where off one day. You’re romance with Rome will turn into “I hate this dirty fucking crowded hot place.” You aren’t studying abroad, you’re living there. You have to work, you have to eat, you have to live. Your king-size washer and dryer will shrink to a shaky clothesline and drying rack.  Your dishwasher and car will be traded in for …life experience.

2. Don’t get defensive. Cruel remarks about your country will be tossed at you like a hot potato. We’re not loved all over the world. We’re the despised, head-cheerleader who’s in everyone’s business. And yes, it happens even in Canada. I’m far from a flag-waving freedom fighter and it still annoys me whenever the locals say things like, “Americans don’t read. American girls are fat.” Easy, there. That’s my country you’re bashing. Don’t turn into Mr. Hyper Defensive and you’ll be fine.

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