Archive for December, 2005

End-of-year reflections

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

The year draws to a close and I should summarise our emigration experiences.

Keep a journal. It saves on stamps and you can’t offend easily offend people by not personally keeping them up to date. If people inquire, directly them to the journal. Similarly, be responsible for the increased uptake of Skype and force them to buy a webcam. A journal is a great way of offloading all your frustrations onto everybody else.

Bring money. Lots of it. Pack it all into a suitcase and physically carry it with you. You will need to spend all of it once you are here.
Clear off your credit cards before you arrive. You’ll be needing to use them once you run out of money from your suitcase. Make sure you tell the credit card companies that you will be making a lot of transactions in another country otherwise you’ll be causing a queue in Best Buy.

Don’t expect any favours because you are British. We may have been America’s favourite ally in the war against terror but President Bush’s personal feelings hold no sway over the banks or credit agencies. Remember, you do not exist.

Get a migration agent. Don’t hand-bake your migration. Without informed information, you will be stumbling through six months from one frustration to another. The anecdotal evidence from colleagues is invaluable but remember that most of them either married into America or they migrated years ago so they are happily established. They are watching you with a knowing smile remembering the fun times they had going through everything you are. An understanding employer is a bonus in this situation.

Make sure that you know about US electrics. They use 110v here (which is apparently to stop themselves from being shot to the other side of the room every time they lick a cable to see if it’s live). Before you leave, check everything will work on 110v even if it means you have to buy adapter plugs. 110v is half of 220v which means that the Christmas lights you got shipped at great expense with the rest of your furniture will be pretty dim when plugged into a wall socket. I think we’re currently the only family that is using a step-up transformer just so the tree looks bright.

Book yourself a driving test as soon as possible so that you don’t have to carry your passport as ID. Once you’ve passed your test, buy a car as soon as possible. This helps you to stop haemorrhaging money to car rental firms.

Don’t leave the country until you know that your furniture is due to arrive at your destination. This saves you a trip to IKEA (believe me you’ll thank me for that one) where you will buy the exact duplicate of everything that is currently in the shipping container. Again, saving money is the key although you can probably recoup some of the money by selling most of it on Craigslist. If you don’t sell it, make sure you rent a house with a big garage.

Consumer electronic stores haven’t heard of multi-region DVD players, SCART sockets or the (frankly superior) PAL TV standard. This is important. Your whole collection of Region 2 DVDs is useless if you buy a $36 DVD player from WalMart. You will need to make sure your UK DVD player can handle region 1 disks or order on-line. As SCART is a European standard, it’s not implemented on any US TV or DVD player. It’s also likely that the $999 LCD TV you bought from Best Buy won’t even display a PAL signal so, bring your UK TV but make sure it can display a NTSC signal. Alternatively, buy a plasma screen as soon as you can. This will handle a PAL signal. Be warned that your PlayStation 2 will also not play US-purchased PS2 games without some (slightly-dubious) assistance from various sources. The moral of this story is, nothing works. Quite how we get from this state of affairs to the all-encompassing United Fedaration of Planets in Star Trek, without someone deciding that a single TV/voltage/region standard is required, I do not know.

Consider yourself cut of from the UK. You will find that the BBC will stream video at a lower bit rate, that Radio 5 Live do not have the rights for any of England’s competitive matches to be broadcast ou
tside of the UK and Angel Delight costs $3.59 a packet. Sausages and chocolate are not quite the same but, at least, Rice Krispies Treats taste the same. Before you leave, make sure you have arrangements with colleagues that episodes of Doctor Who will be made available at DVB quality on easily accessible servers. EastEnders is at least 2 years behind. Nobody here has heard of proper mincemeat or Christmas puddings. Quality Street is available but at overly-inflated prices.

Finally, at all times, try to maintain an air of moral superiority. Remember, you are British. There should be no excuse for saying the word tom-ay-to under any circumstances. A biscuit is a biscuit not a cookie. Anybody you encounter should be politely referred to the website www.effingpot.com.

Here’s to 2006.

Season’s Greetings

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la la la la la.

So, this is going to be our first December 25th in our new land.

I can’t call it by the C-word because it’s very non-PC for risk of offending other religions and cultures. Apparently, the whole world has gone completely crazy and decided that this is how it’s going to be. President Bush hasn’t sent out a single card which wishes the recipient a Merry C…….s. Even Cliff Richard is getting in on the act and complaining about how London will be switching on the Winter lights this year and not the C…….s lights.

I say: Right on, Cliff ! We’re behind you all the way with this one. Unless you sing Mistletoe and Wine again. If that happens, you will have lost any respect you may have garnered.

Throughout the year, PG&E (the gas and electricity company) have been on the radio urging people to keep their energy bills down by switching off air conditioning and lights when not required etc. but, because it’s yuletide, most of our street has taken complete leave of their senses and are generating more light pollution than San Francisco airport. It’s very pretty to see but, now, Sam has decided that I have nail some lights to the garage. So, we’ll go to the local hardware store and buy some animated reindeer and maybe a few icicles. I have no idea where we’re going to power them from. I checked some houses and most people are running extension cables from the garage to the grass where they have about 5 or 6 other cables spidering off that. There is no covering for the sockets and we’ve been having a little moisture in the air recently so I’m expecting blue sparks from most people’s houses in the near future.

I had a close shave this evening because Rachel came up to me and asked me if I believed in Father Christmas. Apparently, the other children at school say that it’s your Mum and Dad that puts the presents under the tree. I explained to Rachel that we couldn’t put all the presents out under the tree so somebody must do it and who writes a letter to Rachel and Joanna every year ? Who eats the mince pie and nibbles the carrot ? Who drinks the glass of milk ? It can’t be me or Sam so it must be someone else. Straight off the back of that question came another one about the tooth fairy. The other children at school, once again, say that it’s Mum and Dad that put a dollar under your pillow. I asked Rachel where she thought the tooth went if it was me or Sam that did it. No answer for that one so I think the crisis is averted for another year.

That bloody school is destroying the tissue of lies that I have taken nearly 8 years to carefully build up based upon the trust that a daughter has for her father to tell her the truth. How’s she going to believe me in the future that the biker she wants to go out with is a no good beatnik who isn’t even fit to shine her shoes ?

At work, we’re having an office party for the whole family. We’re going to be bringing in a gift and everybody will be taking part in a Yankee Swap. I don’t know if this is a genuine tradition but the US version of The Office has a funny example of it going completely wrong.

If my usual standard of keeping this journal up-to-date is maintained, I won’t be adding anything until the new year so I wish everybody felicitations.

Bollocks to being non-PC. Merry Christmas, one and all !!

Wheels

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

We finally picked up our car last week.

Those fine people at Addison Avenue gave us the money and we bought a Nissan Maxima. It’s a nice roomy car with a big gas guzzling engine. So, we’re official Americans now.

I shall take great delight in handing back the rental car to Enterprise but not before I’ve negotiated some kind of frequent flyer credit with them for spending nearly $9,000 with them, albeit some of the money was from Scalix. It may hold us in good stead when we come back to the UK for my brother’s wedding in June next year.

Sam drove to the shops and back in the new car. She’s still very nervous about making sure she’s on the right (in all senses of the word) side of the road. She’s going to get the hang of it but she really needs to play on the freeway. Still, every long journey begins with a single step.

We got our insurance set up. The phone jockey at Progressive was trying to get us to buy liability only (3rd Party) which seems a bit strange. We opted for fully comp because we can’t get roadside assistance with 3rd party cover. We now have to pay over-inflated prices for 18 months before we will be considered as careful drivers. After the rigmarole that was credit checks, I don’t have the energy or enthusiasm to fight them on this one.