Monday, January 13, 2014

Lesson Learned - Expat Faux Pas

There is no How To manual for moving to a foreign country.  Sure, there is help to get the kids into school, find a place to live, etc.  However, the day-to-day tasks are a learn on the job type of situation.

I was lucky enough to experience two in the same day.

Quick back story:
If you want to watch television in Britain, you have to pay for a TV license.  For the annual cost of £145.50 for color TVs and £49 for black & white TVs (they still exist?), you have access to over fifty Freeview channels via an aerial antenna.  Funny that it's called Freeview, yet you still pay for a license.  Our aerial did not pick up the channels so we had an installer out to the house to replace the bum antenna that was left for us.

My first faux pas was upon opening the door.  He asked if I had a parking permit he could use.  We have not purchased a parking permit as we do not have a car.  Mr. Installer was not pleased with that answer.

"You should really have a permit for the contractors that come to your house.  If I get a ticket it's on you to pay for it," says Mr. Installer.

I don't think I responded to his declarative statement, yet my mouth opened as if my brain had a response to share.  Truthfully I have not seen a traffic officer on our street, but that's not to say today wouldn't be the day they decide to check permits.  He did bring up a valid point.  If you have someone out to the house and live in a parking-restricted area, what are you to do?

The next one took me by surprise when Mr. Installer requested a "cuppa tea."  First of all, that is quite forward when I'm used to the host offering the beverages instead of the guest.  Secondly, I'm paying Mr. Installer to do work and not drink a cuppa.  To dissapoint Mr. Installer once again, I had to break it to him that I had no tea in the house.

His response was much the same as I had when he told me I'd pay for his ticket.  He shook his head and said something about how I should have tea for my contractors as well.  I shared that we had just moved into the house and I did not have a fully stocked pantry as of yet.  He did not need to know we've been here for a month.

Mind you this whole situation is taking place in about three minutes.

Over the course of his one-hour installation, he brought up wanting/needing/how I should provide tea at least three times.   By the last time he brought it up, I sternly told him that if I had tea I would gladly make it for him.  Since I don't have any tea I can't.  He sensed the annoyance in my voice and surprisingly became really nice for the last bit of time he was here.  Possibly because he knew he could leave and get tea somewhere else?

Lessons learned:
Our local council sells temporary parking permits on a perforated sheet of 10 cards.  When needed I am to scratch off the date and time and the contractor places it on his dash.

I did a search to see if it is really necessary to provide tea for the contractors that come to your house.  The overwhelming answer was yes.  Some go as far as making meals & snacks, but mostly just tea.  I'm still not on board with this.  Having a cuppa keeps them from doing the job I'm paying them to do, but I guess it's part of the culture.  Now I have a box of tea in the pantry so I don't disappoint again.

You can be most assured that there will be more faux pas to come.


  1. Have you learned how to make the proper cuppa tea? I know the Irish have a certain way of making their tea not sure about the English.

    1. It may sound stupid, but I did have to look it up. It was just as easy as I thought. I figure if in that situation again, I'll boil the water and let the person take care of it from there. Wouldn't want to make a bad cup!

  2. Holly, you are having quite the adventures and I love how you are documenting it! I'm just now catching up on your blog and really enjoying reading about all the mishaps. I'm certain you will acclimate quickly, especially given your "humour" and knack for delivering it in true British fashion :)
    From my time there studying while in college- bring wine to any dinner invite at someone's home, and you will get along just fine;)
    Hope things continue to go well! Can't wait to hear about your experiences with the schools. Take care!!

    1. Thank you so much! We are really enjoying our time, and I hope to keep sharing it! Thanks for the tip about wine. It makes everything so much better, doesn't it!