End-of-year reflections

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

Here’s to 2006.

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