22 June 2012

British-isms That Breed Confusion and Hilarity

Since I’ve moved here, I’ve come across more than my fair share of words and phrases that cause a great number of misunderstandings between myself, my British friends and even strangers on the streets. These are a few of my personal faves:

‘Pants’ means undies over here. What we call ‘pants’, they call ‘trousers’.

“It’s too cold for her not to be wearing pants today”.
“How can you tell?”
“Just look at her. She’s not wearing any pants”.

18 June 2012

Coping With Homesickness While Living Abroad

In July, I'll have been in England for a year; however, that doesn't make being away from home any easier. Every so often, I get a twinge of homesickness which turns into a fit of tears. It's not just missing home; it's  also feeling alone and unwanted (what a wuss, right?). I thought I'd get over it eventually, but homesickness never really seems to go away - at least, in my case. However, I'm not discouraging anyone from moving abroad; it just might be a bit difficult at times, and I want to share a few things I have discovered help when it comes to coping with homesickness.

16 June 2012

My Favourite Places in Florence

So, I've recently returned from a 3-day trip to Florence. While I've enjoyed all of my adventures, Florence is very close to topping the list of my best trips. Amazing food, friendly people and lots of shopping - totally my kind of holiday.

I stayed in a lovely apartment in the Oltrano, referred to by the landlord as the "authentic Florence". There are few tourists in this part of town, but the locals are not averse to dealing with bumbling foreigners like myself. There were several inexpensive but great restaurants, art galleries and vintage shops - so, totally up my alley.

16 May 2012

Things You Shouldn’t Worry About When Applying for YMS

I’m a worrier. It’s a well-known fact amongst my friends and family. I don't think that things are going to work out just fine; my brain is preoccupied with the endless possibilities of what could go wrong. So, when it came to applying for my Youth Mobility Scheme VISA, I dug deep into the corners of my mind to dredge up hypothetical situations in which my application would be rejected. 
Applying for an international VISA is a huge undertaking, so I want to use my paranoia for something productive. In case you happen to come upon a particular worry in the process of your VISA application, I hope this post can help put it to rest.

10 May 2012

Tea Time: Drinking My Body Weight in Steeped Leaves

I’ve consumed more tea in 10 months than I have in the previous 24 years of my life. I thought Brits just swapped tea for coffee in the morning, but they swap it for every other drink at any other time of day. When you think of tea, I’m sure you think of a couple of delicate old women sitting huddled around around teapot on a doily-laden table. But, that’s not the case. Most people drink tea at any time of day, regardless of what activity they are engaging in or how hot it is outside.

21 April 2012

Tales of a PubFly: My First Impression of English Pub Culture

 Since I’ve moved to England, I would have to say that I have spent about equal parts of my time in my bedroom, at Sean’s house and in various pubs. I live in a small town and there is pretty much one pub to every person here. There are no restaurants, so if I don’t feel like cooking, I have two options: buy a ready-meal from Tesco (roast chicken soaked in red wine and loneliness reduction) or go to a pub and eat some underwhelming but affordable grub. 

15 April 2012

Bravery, and Traveling Alone As A Woman

I have never been described as ‘brave’. I’m the kind of person who rehearses all of her conversations in advance. I only rode my first upside-down roller coaster after about 12 years of persuasion. I have to get a second opinion on everything. As such, I’ve always demonstrated characteristics that are the opposite of what it takes to make a person courageous.  
I've always aspired to live life like this internet meme character. 

07 April 2012

British Summer: A Week of Sun

When I arrived in the UK last year in July, I was under the impression that I had come at just the right time to have some fun summer adventures. I couldn’t have been more wrong, as I was a few months late for British Summer, the rare few weeks when the weather is consistently beautiful. 

Last week, we had British Summer (the equivalent of Daylight Savings’ “Spring Ahead”). It was as though the collective process of the country setting its clocks back created some shift in the weather systems to bring on the rarity of sunlight and heat.

28 March 2012

Culture Shock: Being Black in England

I’ve never defined myself by my skin colour. I came from a place where I never had to. Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, and race never seemed to be a big issue. Everyone managed to blend into the mosaic without compromising their own identities, and I feel like I may have taken this for granted. When I moved to England, I expected things to be similar, since I was under the impression that it was an equally-multicultural country – but that has not been my experience.
I live in a small town called Long Eaton, about a half hour away from the Nottingham city centre. On occasion, I see one or two people of colour, but I’m basically the only Black person around. When I go out in public, I’ve never been made to feel so out of place. People passing me in the street stare me straight in the face, silently interrogating me, trying to figure me out. When I try to start a friendly conversation or ask for help in a store, I am dismissed immediately. A woman clutched her purse as I walked past the other day.

21 March 2012

Spending Abroad: UK Living Expenses

This isn’t my first time living on my own, but it certainly feels like it. I find that the UK requires a lot more in terms of taxation and living expenses. A few of them came as a shock to me, but I got used to them. This is my experience with living expenses in the UK thus far, and how I've managed them.  

17 March 2012

St. Patrick’s Day in the UK

I must be pretty naïve. I told myself I wanted to get in and out of town before 4pm because it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I didn’t want to be pulled into the festivities. Who would go out drinking at midday anyways?

But, if there are two things I’ve learned about British people, they are:
[1] Brits love to drink.
[2] They love to dress up.

So, I should have known better. If there is holiday set aside to do both, you’d better believe they would take advantage of it. We celebrate the occasion in Toronto. A few pubs will sell green beer and encourage patrons to wear green. The few authentic Irish pubs in the city will have line-ups outside that span the entire block. But, I was not at all prepared to witness St. Patrick's Day on a British scale. 

15 March 2012

Meeting New People Abroad

I made my first British friend today!
It's not just someone I met once and I stalked on Facebook for a month, or made light conversation with and now believe we're BFFs. It's a friend I met in September, and we've been hanging out for a while - but I feel like we've now reached 'good friend' status! This is a huge accomplishment for me, since I feel like making friends as an adult is nearly as difficult as it was when I was in 3rd grade and wore braces and snowpants all year 'round.

13 March 2012

NHS and NI on YMS, OMG

That's quite a lot of acronyms you got there, England.
And, it can be quite daunting when you're planning your trip, not knowing what any of them stand for. Well, NHS is National Health Service (sort of like OHIP) and NI is National Insurance (like Social Insurance). Having personal numbers for each is essential to starting your life in the UK, but figuring out how to register can be a bit of a maze.

10 March 2012

Maintenance Funds for YMS

One of the major requirements for the UK Youth Mobility Visa is proving your maintenance funds. It was actually the part that caused the most trouble for me in an otherwise easy process. So, this is my take on getting this done right the first time!