While I am writing this from London, I believe I just completed my longest travel-free stint as a Northern Ireland resident, so I can finally write a post without any whingeing about airports or taxis. This does mean that I have a lot more daily life whinges than you may have thought possible in a single month, so I'll just set your expectations there.
Speaking less American
I usually reserve my OCD nitpicking for the end, but I like messing with the [complete lack of a] formula to entertain myself. As my wife and I attempt to use the English that people can understand while we are home, I continue getting strange looks when I discuss my "pants" (because they're trousers), but most of our learnings are a little more subtle:
- It is almost expected that kerbs will be lower here, so you always have to look for signs through your windscreen to avoid wrecking a tyre.
- I have yet to see any dishes containing shrimp, but my sea bass dinner last night was served with small prawn.
- We ordered a delicious aubergine appetizer recently without knowing it was made with eggplant.
- I get a lot of blank stares when I tell taxis "I live a few blocks south on Malone", but they immediately accelerate when I say "up the Malone Road".
- Can anyone please explain what "disabling giddiness" is? It is a health concern listed on driver licence applications.
It is not always easy, but our daughters have enough challenges learning to speak English without us screwing it up by throwing in American terms at home, so we'll keep trying.
I am not sure if I was just missing out on the phenomenon in the States, but when US college students are busy crawling through filthy New Orleans streets in search of beads and their forgotten hotels, the UK is enjoying Pancake Tuesday. I frequently mention sample sizes here, but I have experienced each once and my thin pancake with the perfect amount of back bacon and (real maple) syrup on the pancake is now my annual goal for the occasion. A highly unrelated, but happy surprise for me is that UK shoe sizes are perfectly shifted from the US: I never know if I will be a twelve or thirteen until I learn the brand, but in the UK, size twelve shoes are roughly between the two and always a perfect fit.
Somehow, in the US, we have reached the point where we just expect every consumer "bonus" to be the bare minimum. If you have a loyalty card, it often states the maximum priced coffee the tenth purchase rewards you; if you see a sign saying $1 coffee, it has fine print explaining all of the exclusions. I use these examples because the coffee chain with which I have a loyalty card in Belfast, Clements, always tries to give me a large cappuccino for the free one. I actually have to tell them I want the small one. And coffee for £1? Well, at Arthur's Coffee House, this can be filter coffee, an americano, cappuccino, flat white, made-up-coffee-type, it doesn't matter. I mean, really, why would you have so much fine print for your loyal customers?
I am now convinced the combination of egg and bacon is shamefully difficult to obtain in the US. Similarly, you need to learn how to use FFS - as a hashtag, as a response to my comments, or just when you watch the news. Thanks to our placement students, I also located a new, higher quality streaming site for Archer. We'll see how long this one remains online.
I finally had the opportunity to attend a second Belfast Beer Club meeting and I am excited to say that craft beer is just about to explode here. Without a doubt, my brewery is currently fermenting a major step down the right path. And while I nearly ate Burger King on my walk home from our mostly Beavertown tasting, I resisted the urge and opted for some delicious, un-Americanized Chinese food.
It might sound like more endless whingeing, but I thoroughly do not understand why people still build brand new bathrooms with distinct hot and cold taps. When I saw this in our townhouse, I assumed it was just old plumbing, but Pure Gym's two-month old locker room forces me to scald my left hand while freezing the right (as I refuse to fill the sink just to wash my hands).
A lot of events occur during any ten-month period of time, but it feels like the extent is rarely recognized until our current combination of physical distance and instant communication are introduced. I recently lost an uncle and, while I certainly have not attended every funeral in my life, it never really felt like a possibility to attend his celebration in the States. Despite occasionally travelling across the Atlantic, it seems impossible on short notice. I guess I never thought about how much planning goes into international travel.
Payment card logic
As a continuation of the running gag of using payment cards with modern chips that still require an antiquated, inconvenient, and useless signature, my US credit card company (that finally sent credit cards after inexplicably cancelling them) has now demonstrated the thoroughly logical rule of declining every transaction that comes within too few minutes of two others. This led to my lovely discovery that my UK debit card incurs a fee when used in the Republic of Ireland, surely because the imaginary line between nations charges a sizable fee. Do banks ever audit their fraud rules?
I just got a social insurance number (so I'm being tracked more) and noticed how differently Americans and Europeans view privacy. I have always been jealous of the increased online privacy here, but it is strange just how much is recorded on video. I know some states have cameras for speeding tickets, but when a coworker got fined for averaging 36 in a 30 between two cameras in Northern Ireland, it reminded me of the ban on the same use of technology to catch speeders in Massachusetts. Speeding can be a little confusing, too, when you can cross an imaginary line and suddenly change from travelling at 80 to 128. On our aforementioned shopping trip to the Republic, it was a lovely nineteen degrees (C), but we couldn't really enjoy it because of gale force winds.
All about timing
For twenty years, I went to the gym in the evening, but since my US coworkers (read: bosses) are just hitting their strides then, I have adjusted to visiting the gym before lunch. With the March Equinox about to hit, the sun is already waking our daughters earlier, but the crazy US decision to change the clocks three weeks before the rest of the world has already been confusing for our office and some of our vendors. I just brought my family on another exploration Sunday to Mount Stewart, which happened to be the national Mother's Day - the different dates internationally had the unintentional result of some of us failing to properly appreciate mothers twice in a year.
The Belfast office is in the middle of pretty major hiring binge, so random days are chaotic with interviews and visitors from the States, but with the World Cyber Security Technology Research Summit this week, BelTech 2015 in late April, and both BSides Belfast and ABV Fest coming in May, it is a great time to be here.