Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Things Done Differently in the UK

I promised I would post about some of the differences we have encountered here. I enlisted the help of some of my American Expat friends to point out some of the differences (some things don't come to mind, some things just seem 'normal' now). They were very helpful and came up with so many things I could not post them all at once. I will give you a little taste now, and post more later.


The funniest thing I have heard is the rhyming slang. I cannot wrap my mind around it. The only sense it makes is that it rhymes. Some things don't even rhyme, unless you know where the term originally came from. Here are some examples:

'plates of meat' = feet
'dog and bone' = phone
'jam jar' = car
'septics' = Americans (from septic tank/yank
'syrup' = wig (from syrup of figs)
'Sweeney' = flying squad (specialist police unit) (from Sweeney Todd)


First of all, one does not go on 'vacation.' Once would go on 'holiday.' When I serve Americans at Starbuck I ask "Are you on holiday?" Holidays are quite extensive here. You can expect 4 weeks of paid holiday in your first year on the job. School kids have 6 weeks of holiday in the summer, but they also have 2 weeks at Christmas and 2 weeks at Easter, as well at 1 week in the middle of each term.
As unbelievable as it may sound, they do not celebrate Thanksgiving here. They do, however, celebrate Boxing Day (day after Christmas) and bonfire night or Guy Fawkes night, where they put off fireworks that rival our Fourth of July! New Year's Eve is called Hogmanay and it is celebrated BIG. Here is a link about Hogmanay and here is the Edinburgh Hogmanay link One more thing: it is ok to say 'Happy Christmas' here.


Most homes are made of brick or stone.
There is not electricity in the toilets (bathroom). It is considered unsafe and illegal. I have to blow dry my hair in the living room.
It is common to turn the heat off at night. Not good for me when the heat comes on 15 minutes after I wake up on my work days!
'Mixer taps' are not common. Sinks usually have separate faucets for hot and cold.
No screens on windows.
The washing machine and drier is located in the kitchen.
It is common to dry your clothes either outside or on a clothes horse indoors.
No closets!
Sockets have to be switched off and on. It took me a few times of wondering why the kettle was not heating up to remember this!

I am really enjoying my day in today. I will have to go out later to meet with a friend (at Starbucks!). It is gloomy and threatening rain, but I am sipping cider (thanks to mom), listening to the 'smooooth classical' station (nothing like WFMT though) and enjoying the strong scent of cinnamon (thanks to Sarah and Chris who sent us scented pine cones and other goodies!).

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Snow capped mountains

How much beauty will we wake up to? This morning was fairly clear, so we were able to see across the Firth. We were awed by the beauty of the snow that remained on the mountains. I know it will be hard to see it in the picture, but I hoped to give you a glimpse

Friday, November 25, 2005

Snow! Christkindlmarkt, and (day after) Thanksgiving menu

We were suprised today to look out our window and snow! And not just little flurries. It looked like a white out! It changed from little tiny flakes, to big fluffy flakes, to light flurries, to heavy snow storm. In the end though, it did not accumulate and, later mixed with sleet it made for very slushy, slippery roads.

Josh gave himself a holiday today as we would have had in the States and we went to go check out the christkindlmarkt (the German market). They started all of the holiday festivities in Edinburgh last night with the market, winterwonderland, ice skating, and turning on the Christmas lights. Josh was hoping for some brats at the German market, but there were none to be found and he settled for a pork steak sandwich. I spotted a big jar of pickles and became hopeful. Could they be dill? I asked what kind of pickles they were. In a German accent the lady told me, "I just learned yesterday that you call them 'gherkins' here." She assured me that they were sweet and sour and not dill. "Oh"

Yesterday we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving with a bunch of Americans from the University. There were about 25 adults and 15 kids at this potluck gathering where we were in someway connected to someone there. While I had the pleasure of making mashed potatoes for 40 people, I still wanted to cook a dinner for us. We celebrated our own Thanksgiving tonight. While I had most of it planned, some of it I made up along the way from whatever I had in the fridge and cupboard. Here is what we had (for anyone interested):

Brown sugar ham (I cooked this yesterday)
Scalloped potatoes with chipotle pepper (and LOTS of cheese for my husband)
Green beans and cherry tomatoes with red wine vineger and basil
Sautees mushrooms and courgettes (zuchini) with Italian seasoning (thanks to mom)
Cheddar and jalapeno scones (Josh's personal favorite)
Pumpkin pie (haven't actually eaten this yet)

I roasted my own pumpkin for the first time. We will see how the pie turns out. I know it will be stringy as I do not have anything to puree the pulp. It was an adventure, though. I saved the seeds and made Mexican spiced pumpkin seeds. Very good, if anyone is interested. I am hoping to make pumpkin bread tomorrow and take some to our friends who have never had pumpkin flavored foods.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Food, Glorious Food

I wanted to post about some of the thinks here that we Americans may find a little alien to us. In this post I will just mention a few of the differnt foods I have come across.

fried Mars bars: The battered and deep-fried candy bar is very popular at the chippies.
battered and fried sausage
battered and fried burgers (do I see a pattern here?)
eggs, lots of eggs
hard boiled eggs wrapped in ground sausage meat
meat wrapped with bacon (do they have high cholesteral or what? Good thing there's universal health care!)
long-life milk: Maybe it is available in America, I just never came across it. Refrigerate after opening.
crisp flavors (potato chips): peppered steak, prawn, sweet red pepper, chicken
tea with milk (I like this!)
jello is called jelly
blackcurrent (jam, starburst, etc)
marmite (yeast extract spread)
a traditional breakfast would include about 4 kinds of meat, sauteed mushrooms and stewed tomatoes, and possibly baked beans and toast
when someone asks for a tea at Starbucks, even though there are about 10 different flavors, they most likely mean English Breakfast
Oh, yes. Can't forget HAGGIS and black pudding

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Loch Lomond

We had the opportunity to do some hiking yesterday. We took advantage of an international students' trip to Loch Lomond in the Trossachs. It was a very cold day. If we couldn't feel it on our noses, it was proved by the patches of ice we had to step gingerly on as we were climbing.
While most of the students chose to browse the tiny town are walk around the loch, we wanted to get higher for a great view. We decided to take part of the West Highlandway
Unfortunately, it was very foggy during our entire climb, and the pictures show even less of what we were able to see. There were beautiful mountains on the horizon surrounding the loch. Despite the fog and cold, it was very beautiful and a great experience. Something we would definately enjoy doing again.

There are more pictures on the flickr site.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Moon setting over the Firth

We woke this morning to see a bright full moon setting over the Firth of Forth. We usually cannot see the Firth and the mountains this clearly.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A Couple of Pics

Last week Josh and I walked around the city a little. I took these pictures as we were walking through the Meadows. The first one shows the undulation I talked about in an earlier post. This is from the 10,000 plague victims buried here. The second picture is a view of Arthur's Seat.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Brrr....At least it's sunny

...for now anyway. It has been pretty cold the last couple of days (upper 40's I would say) and yesterday it rained all day. Today the sun is out in all it's radiance. On days like these I get a little torn about how to dress. I know I will be very cold when I step outside, but the hill walking warms me up quickly. The sun is very warm as well, but when I am walking in the shade and there comes a chilly blast of wind, I wish I had all of my winter gear on!


Well, they are still not my vlasic or claussen, but they can satisfy the craving. I have found that some things I cannot find in a regular supermarket may be available at the healthfood store (I was looking for black beans). This healthfood store seems to be the mother of healthfood stores here in Edinburgh. I stumbled across some pickles labled 'dill cucumbers' so I thought I would try them. They are still a little sweet and taste a bit like bread and butter pickles, but I haven't even had any pickles in months, so I probably can't tell the difference anymore!


Thank you for the birthday wishes. We didn't do anything special, but we celebrated my birthday all weekend. Josh and I just hung out together and walked around the city on Saturday. We wanted to go to the botanical garden, but typically, it was nice and sunny when we woke up, turned dark and rainy when we went out (so we decided to stick closer to home), then when we were too tired to walk more it got bright and sunny again. Josh had a small gift for me everyday from Friday to Monday. It was fun to open a present every day.


I am getting used to work now. I had a hard time for a couple of weeks because I was not confident enough to do my job without always asking for help. I am learning the ropes now and I am even starting to learn the regular customers. Some of them think it's great that I'm American and ask me how I am finding the weather. Sometimes it suprises me when people ask me where I am from because I forget that I sound different. I have noticed that I am picking up a little of their words and intonation. I find myself saying, "should I do a wee bus?" and asking "will this be sit in or take away?" by dropping my tone at the end of a sentence rather than raising it. I have some new words that I am learning, too. I will post them soon.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


I can't figure out the fashion here, but the one thing that really boggles my mind is the boots. It appears to be 'the bigger (and hairier) the better.' I was shocked to see women wearing mini skirts, tights, and HUGE boots! Some, I promise you, look as though they were stolen from the abominable snow man. Hee, hee. I don't mean to make fun, and maybe this has become the fashion in the States as well. I just can't get into it.


I just wanted to give props to my husband. He has been working hard on a paper on Origen for the end of the semester. He got it all put together yesterday and now he will be spending the next four weeks finalizing it.