Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Song of the Immigrant

Happy 4th of July to all my American friends!  Hope you had a good day waving the flag, as did the Canadians just a few days earlier.

All this national patriotism made me think about my own situation, about being an immigrant.  I moved to England in 1996, so I have been here 16 years with only one visit back to Vancouver.  We decided to move here June 21, the first day of summer.

 I vividly remember on arrival the biggest and fullest of my suitcases had popped open when it came down the conveyor belt at the airport and one of my shoes was travelling solo next to the case! 

Our move was a bit of a palava, as most moves are.  I packed and packed and packed.  Gorgeous Husband didn't want to know.  We had 5 yard sales to divest ourselves of our treasures.  The last day, I remember leaving a pile of "good stuff" on the front porch after arranging for a charity to collect it.  I hope they did.

I discovered the thing about packing was that once we had been here for some time and finally got the boxes out of storage, I was aghast at what I had brought across the world.  "Why did I pack THAT? " I said to GH, who very kindly said, "Well, it must have been important at the time."  Talk about diplomacy!

Anyway, about being an immigrant, I got to thinking and realized:
I am an immigrant (Canada to Britain)
Gorgeous Husband was an immigrant (Britain to Canada)
My father was an immigrant (Norway to Canada)
My maternal grandparents were immigrants (Sweden to USA)
Two of my teachers were immigrants (Wales and Ireland to Canada)
My godparents were immigrants (Norway to Canada)

So, there has been a lot of "upping sticks" and moving to pastures new in my background. Maybe that's why I didn't find it to be such an inconceivable thing to do.  Do I regret it?  No, never. 

I had a crazy notion the very first time that I saw England that I wanted to live here.  It was a gut feeling, based on nothing at all.  Maybe that's why it has worked out for me. 

This is what I have found different about living in Britain.  How I see things, using my North American eyes:

In Britain, it is common to have the washing machine in the kitchen.

Not many people have driers, so they hang clothes out on the line.  But interestingly, hardly anybody has a covered area outside where the washing line is, so you hear people at work look at the rain and say, "Oh, no!  I've got washing out!"

British women are obsessed with ironing.  Most of them hate it, but it is a guaranteed topic of conversation.  "Oh, I've got all this ironing to do."  Honestly, they save it up in baskets.  I have even heard of women ironing bath towels.  (I swear this is true.)    I just iron what I need, when I need it (slob that I am!)

I have heard people talk about throwing litter "on the floor" when they mean the ground.  Even in media, I have heard of a jockey being thrown from his horse "onto the floor".  At first I used to wonder what building they were in, until I realized they were talking about the ground.

In real estate, they have what they call "chains".  I had no idea what this was until it was explained to me.  It goes like this:  I will buy your house as soon as I sell mine, and then my buyer will buy mine as soon as his buyer buys his, etc.  Hence a chain of people, each dependent on the other to sell their property.  It's madness!  British people also agree that it is madness, but it comes from people not being willing or able to find a place to rent while the deal goes through.  You often hear that the deal fell through because someone down the chain "lost" their buyer.    I think this needs to be changed, but I don't know how, and I'm not the person to do it.

Houses in Britain are made of brick.  There is a real prejudice against wooden houses, and almost no one has one.  I have heard (not sure if this is still true) that you can't get a mortgage on a wooden house.  To be honest, that is one thing I do miss about North America: the wooden houses.  I guess they are inclined to build things to last for centuries here.

So, all in all, would I ever be an immigrant again?  I don't know.  As I have often said, only if I have a really sweet deal on offer and a guarantee that it will work out.  I must be getting old and unadventurous!


Kathleen Lisson, CSW said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

How interesting the prejudice against wood houses? Wonder if it has something to do with the climate.

Izzywizz said...

Hia Rosemary,

Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving such a sweet comment. Im living in Stavanger, a city to the southwest of Norway. However I have lived for three years in your fathers hometown, attended University there som Im very familiar with the city. The scenery there is breathtaking, in my mind the most beautiful city in Norway. You should definitely visit if you havent already. :) How exciting you being an immigrant, I guess it runs in the family. :)

The Style Crone said...

Your writing always fascinates me and learning more about your immigrant story was a window into your life, of course with the accessory of humor.

In the city of Denver most of the houses are brick. I've heard that there was a major fire long ago, and after that brick house became the norm. I would have to research that for accuracy, but that's the urban myth.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Rosemary the Shopper said...

I think the prejudice against wooden houses stems back to the days when England was running out of wood as a natural resource. Also, the Great Fire of London in 1666 probably had something to do with it, and the fact that most British house are so close together that a fire would spread through many properties, as it did in London.

Many thanks for all your comments. It keeps me going!


Vix said...

I love reading immigrants impressions on their adopted country.
You're right, you can't get a mortgage on wooden structures, it's not really prejudice, us Brits like wood houses but in our climate practical they ain't!
I've never met a woman obsessed with ironing, I'm obviously hanging around with too many domestic slatterns like myself! x

Rosemary the Shopper said...

Thanks for your comment Vix! Actually, where I used to live (Vancouver) is even wetter than Britain, so no, I don't think that's it. I really think the Great Fire of London put people off for centuries.

As far as ironing, yes I have heard it a lot, and it always mystifies me. Just iron what you need! Some people look at me as if I have 2 heads when I say that.


Loo xx from Jumbles and Pompoms said...

Hi Rosemary, thank you for dropping by my blog and for your lovely comment.

I enjoyed having a rummage through your excellent blog.

I, for one, NEVER iron. I'm always horrified when other mums moan about having a pile of ironing to get through. Why bother is what I say. Bath towels? Ridiculous. Oh, and underwear too. Bonkers.


Style Sud-Est said...

Hi Rosemary!

Thank you for your comment- It was a splendid wedding -

I read your facts about the UK- the ironing made me smile, you know what Rosemary, if they had a drier they would not iron that much - this is how us North American spare ourselves of a lot of ironing- Like you i will iron only what i need and if necessary -
Interesting the insurance you can not get if you have woodden houses, now i know why reading the other comments -

take care lovely


Rosemary the Shopper said...

Aaah, ironing comments! I love it. Maybe it is just where I live that women grouse about ironing. Maybe it's not a national thing.

I thought after I had finished my blog, I should have asked if anyone else would ever consider leaving their home country. Maybe I will tackle that in another post at a later date.