Tuesday, July 27, 2010

London Weekend Part III: Sunday

So, after my unsuccessful Match date on Saturday night, I woke up on Sunday morning feeling a bit lonely and looking for some distraction.

Luckily, my sexy single friend A texted me and invited me for brunch. I totally recommend Megan’s on King’s Road. They have the BEST English breakfast ever!

Unfortunately, I could not convince A to join me on the rest of the day’s adventures. And as there was no one else around, I decided to go on a London date by myself!

After lunch I took the bus to Embankment and got off. From there I started my journey. I walked down the Thames on the north side all the way to London Bridge and then all the way back home to Chelsea on the south side. This is a long walk! I had plenty of time to catch up with myself. No, I’m serious I had an internal conversation running with myself the entire time. I couldn't get myself to shut up. It was kind of annoying.

But all in all, I did have a nice day. I think everyone should date themselves once in awhile. It’s better than going on an awkward date and struggling to make conversation. You don’t have to worry about what you look like. You can eat ice cream and not try to look sophisticated and cute while doing it and inevitably fail as no one looks sophisticated and cute while eating ice cream. You can walk at your own pace. You can stop whenever you want. No one complains when you have to find a bathroom. The benefits of dating yourself go on and on.

My walk took me through some historic London spots. I thought that since I didn’t get to share the actual day with anyone, I thought that maybe I could share with you now and that will be kind the same. Almost the same. Ok - not at all the same but just look at the pictures below try to just imagine how much fun it would be to take a 6 hour walk with me along the Thames! If you are lucky, I might even let you hold my hand and buy me ice cream!

Westminster Abby                                                       Big Ben 

The London Eye

The pub where I had a pint by myself  (that was kind of lonely)

I watched some street artists - this one was cool - this little guy's dance movements seemed so human!

I listened to music at a Colombian street festival

See. That wasn't too bad. Don't you wish you were there with me?

Ok enough. As you can see from my most recent blog posts, I had a rather uneventful London weekend (although I did my best to turn it into a story). But never fear my friends, the International Woman of Mystery is about to embark on another global adventure. And it’s a big one this time!

Tomorrow evening, I fly to Stockholm and meet up with the Swedish girl group. On Thursday ,the 8 of us girls will rent a van and drive down to the west coast in the south of Sweden to a place called Smögen where we have rented a house for the weekend.

So, let me tell you one thing. I have the best girl group ever in Sweden! Not only are they hot girls, they all kind of rock and are totally fun. Every summer 8 of us rent a house together. We usually rent a house in Visby in Gotland and those trips make up some of my best memories ever. Thanks to my Swedish gals, I have also experienced some of the craziest parties ever in Visby during Stockholm’s veckan (week).

This year we decided to shake things up a bit and journey to a new destination that we hope will be just as fun! Smögen is a small harbour town. And wikipedia says: It is one of the liveliest "summer towns" of the Swedish West Coast. I hear there is good seafood there. But make no mistake, we are going for the party. Rumor has it that hot boys drive there on boats to dock and party and we want to check it out.

So, I’m off the grid for the next days. If you need me you’ll find me in Smögen wearing cute summer dresses, drinking lots of rose, sipping champagne, catching up with my girlfriends, listening to fun Euro-pop summer songs, playing drinking games card games with the girls (it’s a tradition), meeting my future Swedish husband meeting and flirting with cute boys and partying on their boats, eating yummy seafood, having fika... oh and the girls have a mysterious birthday activity planned for me - they are so awesome. I’m totally looking forward to the trip and I can’t wait to catch up with the girls.

But that’s not all that lies ahead for the International Woman of Mystery. Oh no! It gets even crazier. On Sunday we drive the 6 hours back to Stockholm and I will attempt to fly back to London on Sunday night or Monday morning (I really should sort this out). Then I must re-pack and make an appearance in the office and then get back to the airport cuz I’m going to SOUTH AFRICA!

My job is kind of awesome sometimes and I get to do cool things like go to South Africa. I AM going there for work. I swear. I even have serious stuff like meetings planned. But I won’t bore you with those details. The exciting thing is that after working from the office for a week, I’m GOING TO GO ON A SAFARI! How cool is that? I want to meet an African bushman see a Lion!

So stay tuned for the next crazy travel stories from the International Woman of Mystery. Try not to miss me too much when I’m gone!


Monday, July 26, 2010

London Weekend Part II: Saturday

Before I tell you all about my Saturday in London and my Match date! I ask that you my fellow blog readers please click on the “follow” button on the right-hand side of my blog. This will hopefully help show that I have a cool blog that is worth readingg and maybe will help me to attract more followers. And I then hope you will tune in on a regular basis! And oh yeah - spread the word. If you like what you read, send to friends! Thanks for the support!

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming....

So, after my Friday night out in Clapham, Saturday morning arrived along with an uninvited hangover. I am one of those people who gets hangovers very easily and tend to spend an awful lot of weekends suffering through. I wish I could say that stops me from drinking... but it unfortunately, it doesn’t...

Nor does it stop me from taking tequila shots with M. Every time I go out with her (although I do think that I am really getting too old for shots). It’s like we feel the need to relive our early twenties spent drinking shots and Long Island Ice Tea’s on Mao Ming Lu in Shanghai. But that’s a story or another day.

Now back to Saturday. I wake up. I am grumpy with a hangover. I wander around Chelsea a bit and get something to eat. I think about going to the park but end up going to lay back down in bed and taking a small nap instead. Luckily, when I wake up from the small nap, the hangover is almost gone so I decide to go for a long run on the Thames to kill the hangover once and for all.

When I get back from the run, I realize that it is Saturday night and sadly  I have absolutely nothing at all to do. I start to feel a bit sorry for myself. For whatever reason,. on this Saturday night, I was not content to stay at home alone! I really wanted to go out and do something. For the first time, I start to realize that I'm lonely in London!

So, when in need of something to do or more accurately, someone to do it with, why not turn to Match.com. I mean isn't this why I'm paying for the subscription? So, that’s what I did. And in fact one of the men (a Scottish man so let’s call him the Scotsman) had been talking to had nothing to do either. So, we decided that we should meet up for an impromptu date.

I’m pretty sure that it the fastest that I have ever arranged a date. I usually write back and forth to guys for ages and then stress about the date for days in advance. This was was quick and easy to arrange - other than the fact that I had to explain to the Scotsman where Sloane Square is (when by the way he lives in Fulham - right next door to Chelsea) - which should have kind of set off immediate alarm bells.

So, we met outside the Subway stop at Sloane Square. And I was there first even though I was at least a fashionable 8 minutes later. Second bad sign. I want the guy to wait for me.

As he walked out of the subway, I could already tell that the Scotsman and I weren’t going to hit it off. What is it about chemistry? Why does one second of looking at someone tell you “yes” or “no?” It wasn’t that he wasn’t attractive... in fact, he was pretty good looking although at 6’1 he wasn’t quite as tall as I would like. But it was something about they way he moved that told me right away that unless he really turned on the charm, our relationship would be limited to a first date only.

I had suggested we go to the Botanist but it was a bit crowded. I wouldn’t have minded getting a drink there anyway, but I could see that he was kind of freaking out about the crowd. So, I asked him if he wanted to go somewhere else and he jumped at the chance to leave. The problem was that it was about 10 pm and bars were starting to close and the closest place I could think of to go was a 10 min walk.

I could tell he was annoyed by the walk. Which made me annoyed as I was the one in high heels! I kept joking with him that at least he got to see more of Chelsea... But, I don’t think he found it all that funny. Damn. He was definitely lacking a sense of humor and adventure and I was already finding it a bit tough to keep the conversation going.

We ended up at the Trafalagar on King’s Road. It’s not my favorite place but it’s ok. It’s a pub that is open until midnight though (most close at 11 pm) and since it was late, that was good. We ordered a round of drinks. I ordered Rose and he ordered cider - which I thought was a bit girly of him.

It wasn’t that anything was exactly wrong with him... He just seemed kind of bland and I didn’t feel that “spark” nor a good camaraderie. I felt like I was doing all the work to keep the conversation going. Its no fun when a date feels like work! And while I liked his Scottish accent, he was very soft spoken and I was having trouble hearing him. Especially since a huge party of about 15 loud and drunk people came in right after us and for some reason decided to all stand around the sofa we were sitting on. In fact two rather large women were literally sitting on the back of the sofa! It was really distracting trying to talk to this guy while trying to ignore the butts of these two women that were right in our faces.

In case you were wondering, ass in face = not good on a date.

We decided to get a second round and also to move location to get away from the big butt women. However, the second location didn’t prove to be much better. For some reason a guy at the table behind us was yelling “shut up” over again at the top of his lungs.* It was actually distracting the entire bar and eventually the bar staff had to tell him to stop. The whole thing was definitely annoying but the Scotsman was annoyed and upset by it to the point of complete distraction. Despite my best efforts not to focus on the shouting guy (and just ignore him and continue on with our already strained conversation) the Scotsman was not to be put off. He went on and on about what a jerk the shouting guy was. In general, the Scotsman seemed to just be annoyed about everything: the crowded bar, the long walk to the next bar, the ass in the face women, the loud man... I just couldn’t please him and I started to get the feeling that he just wasn’t all that much fun. I mean admittedly, all those things WERE slightly annoying but not really a big deal especially on a Saturday night where expectations were low and the alternative for both of us (need I remind you) was sitting at home alone. In fact, the events of the night could be viewed as rather amusing... That’s how I viewed them at least (I did think about telling him he should start to write a blog so that when you experience annoying things, at least you know it will be a good story).

Luckily it was last call and he needed to catch the subway before it stopped running. So, we walked out together and said our goodbyes. And as I’m dong a quick mental review of the date I decide that although there is no spark between us but the date also wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was better than sitting at home. But just as I’m thinking this and telling him good-bye, he actually says out loud: “Really nice to meet you... it was better than being home alone.” I was thinking the same but I WOULDN'T HAVE SAID IT OUT LOUD! Hello?  Manners? I was laughing inside but outwardly I gave him a purposefully awkward “ummmm thanks...” followed by an almost eye roll and a look that meant I wanted to get away as fast as possible. I think that as soon as the words escaped his mouth, he was embarrassed as he scurried away pretty quick after awkwardly attempting to kiss my cheek as I went more for a reluctant hug.

But I have to say, I had a good laugh the rest of the way home. I actually don't think he meant to be rude. At the end of the day, I guess that was really the best way to sum up the date: “Better than sitting at home alone on a Saturday night” (although just barely).

Stay tuned for part III of the (lonely) London weekend. Since dating men wasn’t working out well, I decided to have a nice Sunday afternoon date with myself!

*Sorry UK but you guys have the loudest and most obnoxious drunks I have ever seen! Why do people yell so loudly in bar? Or sing loud obnoxious song,s or for that matter, pass out in the street covered in their own vomit? It's kind of gross!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

London Weekend: Part I - Friday

This has been a strange weekend. For the first time in longer than I can remember, I have had nothing to do yet wanting to do something! Hmm...that sentence probably needs some explanation. It is true that sometimes even an International Woman of Mystery like myself has nothing to do, but usually this is time of “nothing to do” is an event of my own creation born out of having way too many days/weeks/months of “too much to do.” Even I need my downtime and generally with my busy schedule, I really relish weekends with nothing to do but sleep and read.

However, this weekend I realized that I didn't want nor need a weekend of “nothing to do” since I essentially had such a weekend last weekend (aside from the boat trip and the Chuck Bass Swede). This weekend I was up for an adventure. But sadly, I realized that I was greatly lacking in any London-based adventuress co-conspirators. In fact, I it kind of dawned on me that I’m sadly am greatly lacking friends in London!

Since I moved here, I have obviously felt a big difference from Sweden in the sense that here in London I have approximately 4 friends versus the 20 + friends in Sweden (I’m using the friend term here rather loosely to imply people that I would make plans to go out with). But up until now, I have yet to feel too lonely since I’m either a). working and traveling for work too much to notice or care and needing my weekends to catch up on sleep b). traveling to Sweden to meet my Swedish girlfriends c). traveling to other places in Europe with friends or to meet friends cuz the rest of Europe is so accessible from London d). traveling back to the US to meet friends and family there. To put this in perspective for you in a total of 11 weekends from the end of May to the beginning of August, I will have spent 2 in London (this weekend and last).

But I approached this weekend with the knowledge that not a single one of my few friends was available (this has been made worse by the fact that some of my fellow colleagues and London transplants who I would hang with have left London). Basically, I was preparing myself for a lonely weekend.

Well now that I have painted that dreary and lonely picture for you.... I will say it’s not completely true. On Friday night, my favorite couple M and T were around and they invited me to meet them for drinks.

Before I explain the rest of the night, I need to explain that I live and work in Chelsea. It’s a rather posh part of London and a very nice place - if I do say so myself. I have often been accused of “not leaving Chelsea.” This is both true and not true. I will leave Chelsea if I’m invited to leave Chelsea. But if you want to hang with me and I’m the one making the plans,we will inevitably be hanging out in Chelsea or possibly South Kensington (which is essentially the same). Why? Well partly because I’m scared of the subway and refuse to take it lazy. And partly because at the end of the day, I like the scene in Chelsea. I feel most comfortable in the bars and clubs around here. When I go other places, I don’t have as much fun and I have to pay 20 - 30 GBP for a cab ride there and another for the cab ride back... Not worth it (although the friends who invite me are the reason I go and therefore it is actually always worth it).

But M and T invited me out of Chelsea, so I went. First to East London to a Pub on the water near Borough Market. The only problem was... I didn’t have M’s number (I forgot it at home) and T was a bit tipsy (to say the least) and didn’t have good control over his phone. So, I arrived and was standing on the street trying to contact M and T for close to 15 mins without knowing where to find them. It was a nice night and it really shouldn’t have been a problem. Except, that it was about 9 pm at night and I was a single gal in a skirt standing alone on the street in London. And I was therefore literally fresh meat for all the drunk British men exiting the pubs. I was harassed like crazy! What is it about a single girl standing alone that just invites men to comment on/talk to/hit on/approach? It’s not like if a guy was standing on the street alone I would find it acceptable to start to hit on him!

Anyway, I finally managed to find M and T and we had a nice time at the pub. They unfortunately declined my offer to continue the night in Chelsea and instead convinced me to follow them to their current London home: Clapham. So, I went with them. So, see all yee naysayers who claim that I can’t leave Chelsea. I rocked Clapham on a Friday night. Take that biatches!

Ok. I might have over-dramatized. I didn’t exactly rock Clapham. I went to Clapham reluctantly and wished I was in Chelsea. Don’t get me wrong, I approached Clapham with a positive attitude and in no way do I regret going. But a dinner of horrific tapas (kind of our only option at the late hour and in no way by the fault of M and T who in their defense did issue a strong warning that the food was bound to be crap), the under 25 crowd, and the trashy young women dressed in tragically cheap tight clothing got on my nerves after awhile and I found myself longing for the pretentious well-dressed investment banker crowd of Chelsea. However, I did appreciate the cheap drink and club entrance prices Clapham had to offer.

Also, let me note that hanging out with M and T anywhere in the world (and believe me our little threesome has hung out literally all over the world) is always awesome no matter where.

Anyway, it was an interesting night and I did see a bit more of London. Oh and in case you are wondering... there are no boys of note on this Friday night other than the drunken boys harassing me in the street. Too bad! Sorry to disappoint you but Clapham just didn’t bring it on this July Friday night.

Stay tuned for London Weekend Party II where I meet a boy from Match!

Off now for brunch with a friend (outside of Chelsea) an then to explore London! Laters...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Internet Dating Don'ts

So, all this free time has inevitably sent me flying back to Match.com. This is rather unfortunate since I’m still not really impressed with the men there. But what else is a girl to do. Does anyone have any recommendations for a better dating site?

In fact after just a two days of aimless browsing on the site, I’ve been inspired to write a dating profile DO NOT DO list. Boys please take note:

1. Do not choose a stupid username. Examples of stupid usernames are: artyfartymarty, joeybigmac, chunky_a, eating_p, bum_licker (I admit I made the last one up, but the rest are real)!

2. Do not post 10 pictures of you without your shirt on posing in front of the mirror. I DO NOT CARE if you’ve got abs like The Situation! It still feels like you are trying way too hard. I would rather be pleasantly surprised later on if it gets to that...

3. Please please do not write that Dan Brown is your favorite author. WTF! I swear that 2 out of every 10 guys swears that Dan Brown is their hero. Ugh. This tells me that they haven’t read any other books in their life. Might I also suggest that you do not list The Game as your favorite book?

4. Do not give excuses as to why you are on this site. We all know why you are here. Making excuses or offering any kind of explanation at all just makes you seem lame. Get some confidence and get on with it!

5. Do not post pictures of you with lots of other people so that you can’t tell which one you are.

6. Do not post more than one picture of your pet. It’s just weird.

7. Do not post only one picture. Especially if that one picture is of a well-known celebrity and OBVIOUSLY not a picture of you!

8. If you are ugly old and fat do not email girls like me. Seriously. I’m totally out of your league! I also specifically state in my profile that ugly old and fat men need not apply!

9. Do not post pictures of yourself holding a gun (and no I do not care if it’s a toy). It’s not macho -it’s just scary. You would be surprised at how many men do this!

10. Ok. I get it, you are a fun guy. You like to dress us and go to “fancy dress” parties as they call them here in London. That’s great. One picture, MAX two of you wearing some kind of costume show that you are down to earth, like to have fun and aren’t afraid to let loose and be silly. Any more than that start to hint at the fact that you might have some serious issues. And let me add - there is never ever any reason for you to put up a picture of yourself in an animal suit. Sorry boys. Just don’t do it.

11. Do not write me emails that say that even though you do not meet a single one of my requirements (i.e. you are fat old and ugly) you still can’t help but feel that we are actually soul mates and I should give you a chance anyway. Let me tell you: Not. Going. To. Happen. In the real world of old fashioned dating, I guess it would be possible for me to overwhelm me with your wit and charm and dazzle me so that I do not care if you are old and fat and ugly. But let’s face it, this is the online dating world and pictures and pre-set criteria do matter!

12. Do not continue to spam me with emails when I have not replied to a single one (usually because you are fat and ugly and old). Get the HINT! Do not make me break up with you before I have even exchanged a single virtual word with you!

13. Do not try so hard to be different! Emails like this:

im pleased to annouce that you have won an all expenses meal of your choice at either Mcdonalds or Burger King. So whats it to be a Big Mac or a Whopper?.

...are just obnoxious and move my finger to the delete button faster than you can say “french fries” (especially if you are old and fat and ugly).

14. C’mon boys - you all say that you are looking for the full package - that ever elusive combination of looks and brains but those girl are going to be hard to get if your grammar and spelling is like this:

Hey girl, on your profile you sound like an all round pain in the ass, lol, would'nt be suprised iff you're alright really, would be greatfull iff you gave me your honest opinion of my profile, X.

Use spell check! And don’t say such stupid things. And YES, I am an all around pain in the ass! But it’s probably not your best pickup line. Use your noggin boy!

15. If you make less than 50,000 GBP do NOT post your income - keep that to yourself. Match gives you the handy option of not replying to questions that might not make you look that good. So, don’t reply. In fact, I think posting your income is cheesy! Why do it at all?

16. Do not ask me to email you at your personal email address because you are either too cheap to pay for a Match subscription beyond the free trial, or too cool to renew your subscription. Sorry boys - you get the DELETE!

17. Please please do not write me emails that consist only of “How you doin” Ugh. I will absolutely not respond to that. In fact,do not include those words anywhere on you profile - especially not as your tagline!

18. Do not try to make excuses for your profile picture. In fact, do no put up pictures that you have to make excuses for in the first place. And if you need to make excuses because you are that fat old and ugly, pleas revert to rule number 8. To prove my point... One guy just wrote me this little note:

My profile pic may seem mean and moody BUT im really, really NOT like that. When im taking the pic i cant do fake smiles. If we ever meet then you willsee how much i smile and laugh :0) So please dont judge from the profile pic!

Why oh why would I want to write him back?

19. I just had to come back and edit this post and add a number 19 to the list because I was surfing on Match and I found a guy who lists Twilight as his favorite movie and Lady Gaga as his favorite music and yes, his profile did specify that he was searching for women and there was not a hint of sarcasm elsewhere in his profile, so I think he was pretty serious. Boys, we like your feminine and soft side - but only once we get to know you. Do not reveal these things on your profile. It's not cool!

And just to prove that I’m not totally mean and cold-hearted (I’m just picky), I will end this with a positive comment This message that someone sent me yesterday was kinda sweet in an ego-boosting kind of way:

Ok - and now I just have to say that this was kind of sweet although this guy falls into the old fat and ugly category (by the way, old is 35 and over - check out my dating strategy for more info on my “type”).

Hey 3 guys here surfing our mates match for the best looking girl for him and weve all agreed on you ;) If you think you can handle us drop as an email back ;)

I think I can handle him... but I’m sure he is fat old and ugly obviously can’t handle me so I will not be responding to him. Sorry. But sweet email. Nothing like a little ego boost!

This one was kind of cute too:

You look absolutely gorgeous. I know it sounds terribly cheesy, but I'd kick myself if I didn't tell you.
I know I'm 1 inch too short and I just don't look good in heels. So I'm screwed.
But at least I can now I can now go to sleep with a clear conscience.

Ok. Enough complaining. I'm back to the online dating world now to write back that sexy PE teacher and see if he wants to be my London tour guide.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Being a Foreigner

I remember when I first moved abroad. Actually, I will be more precise and say that I remember when I first moved to Europe, to Sweden in 2004. I spent the first couple months, possibly years in Sweden always felt like a foreigner. It was not easy to fit in. Previous to this I had lived in Asia and it was just way too different to make any real comparisons. I always felt foreign in Asia but it was such a huge foreignness - a huge difference between me and the natives - that the small subtle differences that threw me in Sweden really didn’t matter. Plus, I really only hung out with foreigners - both Bali and Shanghai had massive ex-pat communities... So, the differences were bigger. But they seemed to matter less.

In Sweden however the differences between Sweden and the US were often small (at least compared to Asia) but so important. It is important to note that in Sweden, I only hung out with Swedes - that was probably a big part of the difference. My foreignness was always glaringly obvious - at least when I opened my mouth or expressed thoughts. That was the other thing. I LOOK SWEDISH! Who knew! I grew all all my life thinking that I looked like the typical American “girl next door.” And then I move to Sweden and BAM I realize that I look more Swedish than anything else. I am a faux Swede.

I actually had a slight inkling of this when living in Bali. Indonesians like to shout out what country they think you are from and they almost always would say “Sweden, Sweden” when I passed by (I soon realized this was a good thing as it was right before the Bali bombings and being American wasn’t something you wanted to be really). I also realized that if I asked people men in bars - they never would guess that I was from the US but they would usually get through all the Scandinavian countries plus Germany first. This game has always amused me. I still play it when I’m abroad. I have come to the conclusion that it’s not just the blond hair and blue eyes that lead people to think I’m Swedish but something in the shape of the face...

So, the strange thing about moving to Sweden was that I actually looked just like everyone else! In Asia I stuck out like crazy - no one would mistake me for native (this had it’s benefits because when you were doing something stupid or asking stupid questions, people would give you a break). Because I looked Swedish, people therefore expected me to act Swedish - which was not something I knew how to do (at least at first) and this made me feel all the more foreign.

First of all, I always talked too loud and too much. I spoke my mind. I gave my opinions - loudly. I told people why I thought I as so great. I fought aggressively to in every argument I participated n. Over the years living in Sweden I learned to be more humble. I stopped bragging about myself. I continued to speak my mind (which often got me in trouble in the work place) but I also learned that sometimes it’s ok to back down and that not every confrontation needs to be a dramatic argument.

Second, I wanted to pay for everything for everyone all the time - expecting like you do in the US: what goes around comes around. I buy this round, you buy the next. But the problem was that in Sweden this was so not the deal. You do not buy others drinks. You go to the bar and order a drink for yourself. Even after living there for five years, I cold not bring myself to do this. It just seemed so rude. So at the end of nights out, I often ended up with significantly less money in my bank account than I had started the evening with.

The other thing I couldn’t get over was the bring your own alcohol to the party. And I don’t mean bring a bottle of wine or spirits for the host, Swedes would bring just enough alcohol for their own consumption which often manifested in water bottles full of vodka (for real - it felt like high school). I always found this odd and couldn’t bring myself to do this. If I went to a party and wanted vodka, I would bring a bottle of vodka for the host. When I hosted a party (and I had oh so many parties), I always had enough alcohol for my guests. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that the reasons for this behaviour is because alcohol in Sweden is EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE! Seriously, I bottle of vodka (a 3/4 liter one) will run you about $50. But even so, I just couldn’t adapt to the custom though of buying and bringing only alcohol for yourself. Unfortunately, all of this basically contributed to me spending about half of my income on alcohol... But on the upside, my friends thought I was really generous.

The other big difference in Sweden was that people tended to have cozy (mysig) parties and dinners at home rather than going out to dinner.This was also because of the expensive alcohol and the fact that restaurants are also very expensive in Sweden - and not always that cozy. At first this was very strange for me especially coming from Asia where both food and alcohol were so cheap that the thing to do on weekends was to gather a huge group of people and go to dinner. But I learned to enjoy having my friends over or going to their places - it is much more intimate and cozy and it’s a more flexible and relaxed setting in which to interact rather than being stuck at a table talking to just the people directly seated next to you.

Swedes are known for being reserved and formal. But, I didn't find this with my group of friends. However, I will admit that Swedes are not chatty or all that friendly- at least not to strangers. They generally do not talk to the person behind them in the check out line at the supermarket (as Americans do) just because they are both waiting. They might or might not hold the door for the person behind them, but they certainly will not go out of their way to do it. They do not give random complements - definitely not to strangers and not very often between friends in the way that is common between American women who tend to comment on any small change in the person’s appearance or new article of clothing - this was something that was very hard for me to get used to. For a long time I thought I must have been fat, ugly and wearing bad clothes as I was used to being complimented all he time. But later I learned that Swedes do give compliments -but only when they really mean it. And that makes them much more meaningful.

And the music in Europe. Dance music! My Swedish friends would complain about my American hip hop music when they came to parties at my house. Don’t you have that new song they would always ask me? And it would inevitably be some Euro-pop dance song that I had never heard... I wised up pretty quick though and downloaded all the popular dance music as well as the hip hop music. And then there was the way they danced to the music! The first time I saw Europeans dance was in Bali - and I remember laughing. I thought they looked so silly with their hands in the air hopping up and down and not moving their hips the way Americans do. I forgot about this though until my brother came to visit me and also found it very amusing. He found it even more amusing that I had somehow managed to adopt this style of dance without even realizing it!

I even found myself missing the Eurovison song contest this year! I could have watched it in London I guess... but I don’t have cable and I didn’t have my Swedish friends around inviting me over to drink wine and watch it!

The food took some getting used to as well. I mean sandwiches for breakfast? And what was up with the portion size? It is so small! An appetizer in Europe is just for one person. And portions are designed so that you order an appetizer a main meal and desert. There are no doggy bags. Luckily, I quickly realized that the food was really tasty - a smaller portion of salmon cooked, prepared and presented just right is so amazing. And I loved the Swedish cuisine! Red beet salad, swedish meatballs, cheese, hard bread, reindeer, wild boar, moose meat (love moose meat and wild boar), And who knew herring could be so yummy! I loved it from the start! (I seriously must have been a Swede in another life).

The fika culture of Sweden was also new to me. Fika more or less translates into “coffee break.” But it has a deeper meaning than just take a coffee. I would say a more literal translation would be: “take a coffee with a friend in a cozy cafe, maybe have something sweet to eat if you feel like it, have a chat, relax, DO NOT RUSH.” Europeans are known for their relaxed coffee culture (oddly enough this culture doesn’t really exist in England, I think it’s because instead there is a strong pub culture). The “coffee-to-go” culture does exist in Sweden but barely - it’s not that popular. And I have never seen a drive through coffee place! At first I kid of missed my Dunkin Donuts drive through and my huge America coffee to go.But I realized that having a nice cozy fika with a friend is much better than a coffee on the run.

Obviously, somehow somewhere along the way I adapted to the Swedish European style of things. And I as I realized again and again while home in the US for a month just recently: suddenly I feel like a foreigner in my own country!

I feel more comfortable dancing to dance music than hip hop. Two of my friends have told me that my music preferences are very “euro trash” and both times I was very honestly surprised! When I put those songs on in Sweden, everyone jumps up and starts dancing in the European way where you put one arm in the air and kind of hop around like everyone else during the best parts of the song... How come Americans don’t feel the need to do the same?

I’m unnerved when a stranger comes up to me in the street and talks to me. I find it weird when a stranger walks up to me on the street and randomly compliments my outfit or an article of my clothing. The chatty store attendants stress me out and annoy me. Why can’t they just leave me alone? My own polite manners seem to have also deteriorated. I most often forget to hold doors for people. I don’t offer compliments unless I mean them. And I have all but forgotten how to make polite small talk...

And while I love my flip flops in the summer, I’m always overdressed preferring little black dresses and high heels to the more casual jeans and T-shirt American style of dress. My American friends are constantly reminding me tone it down and that cocktail dresses are not really ever appropriate in small town America.

I refuse to go out to dinner for the most part when I’m home in the US. I hate the big portion sizes and the poorly prepared and presented tasteless food (of course nice places in the city are ok). And I still like my coffee-to-go (thank you Dunkin Donuts drive through) but I find myself missing the cozy European cafe culture of just sitting with friends eating something and drinking coffee an catching up.

Recently, when in San Francisco with my parents, all I wanted was a sandwich or a shrimp salad from a cozy cafe in Sweden. We ended up with clam chowder and burgers and fries! And at the hotel the crappy continental American breakfast was for me a poor substitute for a wonderful European style breakfast buffet with cheese and bread and eggs, cereals, muesli and yogurt (and in Sweden of course there would be herring and smoked salmon). The other night my mother made pasta with pesto. I fund myself really missing the cold pasta with salad fixings such as arugula, olives, mushrooms, peppers as it would be prepared at home in Sweden.

I had the shock of my life the other day when I went to the liquor store to buy Rose Wine and they didn’t have any! WTF? That is ALL YOU DRINK ALL SUMMER LONG IN EUROPE. Every store has so much of it stocked.

It seems very likely that I will be moving back to Boston this fall. I’m very worried about this.

I worry about being able to compete in the work place. It has always been so easy for me as a loud mouthed dominate American in a room full of Europeans or Asians. I don’t even know what American working style is like! And as a side note, I was also appalled by the way people dressed in our Boston office! Flip flops? Skirts and shirts more appropriate for a bar than for work? Men in baggy suits? It’s going to take some getting used to.

At least in Sweden, I had a good excuse - I was a foreigner and no matter how Swedish I looked or how much I adapted to the culture that would never change. But in the US, I’m American (and that will also never change -no matter how much of a Faux Swede I am). This is my country and my culture. I will be expected to fit back in easily. I’m worried about this. When I do stupid things or stay stupid things or dance funny or dress wrong... what’s my excuse? I’m so worried about moving back home. I think it’s going to be really hard to feel like a foreigner in my own country.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back to London and being a Faux Swede

So, I’m back in London now and I’m kinda struggling to get back on the work schedule but in fact, a very strange thing has happened: I don’t have that much to do at work. There are some reason behind this which I will get to at a later date, but this is a very weird experience for me. I’m used to being really really busy. I don’t know what to do with myself when I don’t have 15 hours of work that I’m trying to cram into a 10 hour day! Oh dear... what is wrong with me? Why am I even complaining about this. I’m thinking that I should shut up now and just try to enjoy it.

I’m also thinking that now that I have some free time again, maybe I should pursue the London dating scene again! I’m simultaneously trying to pursue the work out/eat healthy/get in shape scene again - but that’s really not as interesting for me to write about and there are enough blogs out there about that!

I decided to jump back into the London scene Swedish London scene by attending a Swedish Chamber of Commerce event with my sexy single friend A. Ok for real. Why did I not do this before? It’s the perfect place to look for my future Swedish husband pick up cute 25 year old Swedish boys. But more on that in a minute - first I’m going to sidetrack a bit and talk about being a faux Swede - one of my favorite subjects.

The thing about Swedes is that you can spot a Swede a mile away. They stand out! But for good reasons. They look good, they dress good, they carry themselves well... overall they just have a good style.

As I have mentioned before, I look very Swedish - or at least that’s what I’m told over and over again by Swedes and Non-Swedes. However, it never fails to amuse me when people mistake me for being Swedish. I do take this as a really great compliment. I love being a Faux Swede!

So, after that introduction, let me get back to the weekend.

Friday night we hit the bar for After Work (as the Swedes would say) or Happy Hour as the Americans would say. Since I’ve moved to London I’ve been waiting anxiously for The Phene, a pub very near to my house to open. It’s been under renovation since I moved here but it looked like a great place with a huge outdoor terrace. It opened while I was on vacation and is seemingly a big success (especially with the Swedes who seem to have a good sense of nice pubs).

So, we headed there after work for a few drinks and let me tell you - it is my new favorite place! Fact. I plan to live there this summer. It has a great outdoor terrace and the inside is really nice as well. In fact, the whole place is really “Swedish” meaning I feel like I could be in Sweden and considering that the clientele was mostly Swedes (mostly my colleagues and their friends) I guess that is not exactly surprising.

The only downside is that I heard the food was not so great and you have to exit the terrace around 10 pm due to noise regulations. Oh well. Despite that, it’s still pretty good. And on this night there were even cute (Non-Swedish actually) boys to flirt with like Tom the investment banker... who gave me his business card but was too arrogant for my liking... Why is everyone in this city an investment banker? And even worse, it just seems like investment bankers are not my type. I wish I could meet a nice and interesting one and then I would literally eat my words. But I’m thinking that’s not going to happen.

So, a funny thing did happen at the Pub. I was speaking to a colleague who works in a different product that I met for the first time that night. So, we are in this long conversation which did involve me explaining some of my life including the fact that I lived in Sweden for 5 years but I started working for my company in Boston etc. I did feel that at different points of the conversation we were having trouble connecting, although I couldn’t quite understand what the problem was. So, about 20 minutes into the conversation I mentioned something about my Swedish being “not very good,” and she was like “Why not? Did you live abroad a lot as a kid?” And I was suddenly like “ You do realize that I’m American, right?” At that point we both realized that this whole time she’d been sitting there thinking I was Swedish and that had led to our small miscommunication! We had a good long laugh about this! But once again, unknowingly, I was posing as a faux Swede! I swear, I’m not even trying to trick people. It just happens!

Saturday night was the Chamber of Commerce event: a BBQ boat ride down the Thames. This time, I unfortunately did not get to drive the boat, but it was still a fun night for other reasons.

So, I’m waiting for my sexy single friend A to make an appearance - I am oddly early and she is oddly late. And I’m standing at Westminster Pier watching all the Swedes and reflecting on how amusing it is that you can easily spot the Swedes as they really stand out from the other tourists and Londoners. One of the organizers of the event (enter the aforementioned 25 year old Swede) comes up and asks me (in Swedish of course) if I’m Swedish and if I’m there for the party. I tell him in English that technically no, I’m not Swedish (just a Faux Swede - but I don't say that out loud thank God) but I am here for the event. And he is nice enough to make small talk with me until my friend arrives. Once again, I’m amused that he thinks I’m Swedish until I tell him that I’m not. There were obviously other foreigners at the event but I could easily pick out who they were. What makes me more Swede-like? Swedish followers? What do you think? Comments appreciated.

I was also amused by the 25 year old’s “oh-so-Swedish” outfit. The party was actually a theme party. The theme was ironically “The Hamptons” which I think he actually came up with. Ironic because here I was an American looking like a Swede pretending to be an American! Did I loose you yet? I think I lost myself... Anyway, back to his outfit. He was going for a Chuck Bass (you know from Gossip Girl) Hampton’s look and had actually Googled this picture below and managed to succeed in rocking this style:

The “oh-so-Swedish” part however was the socks. He was of course wearing pink socks (which were highly visible with all that white and because the pant legs were cut perfectly to show off the pink socks - So Swedish)! Seriously, why do Swedish men all wear pink socks. The Beautiful Ex Swede has like 5 pairs. It is hard for me to imagine an American man wearing pink socks*...

Anyway, the night progressed. The boat went up and down the river as the rose wine flowed and people started to get to know each other. And most importantly there were lots of cute boys to entertain my sexy single friend A and I. The night continued at a Mayfair club called Whiskey Mist which is a pretty fun club. It was actually a pretty good night! Fun to go to a club with 120 people you have just met. Makes you feel like you know everyone and sets a good party mood. The club was good. The music was good. The people were good. I was drinking champagne and dancing with the cute 25 year old Swedish boy dressed like Chuck Bass. And you know I can’t resist me some Chuck Bass...

And so I will end the night there... No need for more details... ;)

Hope your week is off to a great start!

*Shh... don't tell anyone, but I secretly like pink socks on men. This might be even more proof that I'm a faux Swede! Help!

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Nantucket Wedding

So, I totally owe you all an update on my Nantucket weekend. I’ve been focusing a lot on settling back into London life (more on that in the next post), so this has taken me a long time to write.

I’ve decided to go with some top ten lists - which somehow became top 9 lists (I seemed to have ran out of steam there on each list), as this is obviously my favorite format to blog in. So, here goes...

Top Nine Amazing Things about my Nantucket weekend

1. The wedding - B, one of my oldest friends (our friendship goes back to the diaper years) got married to D - a great guy! And they sure did it in style! B of course was an absolutely lovely bride and I have to say that D did make a very handsome groom. And they had great weather and a great location and of course, great guests! All in all it was a beautiful wedding and I wish them a life of happiness. Congratulations B and D!

2. The Clam Bake - Weddings these days are never just one day events. I see this as a good thing. More time to catch up with people you do not see enough. This time, the wedding festivities began with an awesome clambake. And this clambake was a lobster one -see picture! Lobster, clams, potatoes, chicken, sausage, corn - YUM! The clam bake was in a beautiful location - a private home the groom’s family rented in Tom Nevers. Everyone had a nice time although the dinner was served quite late and people were totally boozing it up in the meantime. By the end of the night everyone was totally hammertown. Fun but sloppy!

Yummy Lobster!

3. Hanging out and Catching up with old friends - I got to spend some more time with S and K who I have mentioned before. S and K are old old friends. We don’t go back quite as far as me and the bride B, but almost. I met K when I was about 6 and S when I was about 7. So we all go back like 25 years. Kind of cool. All of our group that grew up together from our small town has stayed close. As S says, the fact that she joined our school in second grade has always made her the “new kid.” Even 25 years later we still point it out that we have not known her as long. Obviously this is kind of ridiculous. But it just shows what kind of bond we all have. We sort of know everything about each other - even the things you wish no one knew. But it was great to catch up and spend time with S and K.

4. The Boat Ride - S’s friend from NYC has a house on Nantucket. And he very nicely invited us out on his boat! It was a beautiful sunny afternoon - a bit too hot to be on the main land, but PERFECT for boating! We cruised around the island checking all the big houses, we saw some seals, we soaked up some sun, drank some wine and we waved hello to John Kerry - for real: see the picture below if you don’t believe me.

Hello John Kerry!

5. Quaint New Englandness - No matter how far you travel, you can never escape your roots. I am a New England girl. Fact. There is no escaping it. And Nantucket is the epitome of quaint New Englandness. The cobblestone streets, the rocky shoreline, the lighthouses - see below, the cute little boutique shops, lobster, clam chowder, steamers...

6. The Bouncers - Apparently, Nantucket is a place where underage drinking is highly pursued. Therefore, the Bouncers at the clubs strictly enforce ID checks for most people before you can enter a bar. I am proud to say that my ID was checked carefully every time and one of the times, the guy actually said to me: “Congratulations! You look way younger than you actually are.” Needless to say, I was kind of stoked about this.

7. The LOBSTER - I heart lobster more than any other food (besides nachos). I can eat lobster every day and never get sick of it. As if to prove this point, I did have lobster 4 days in a row - first at the Clam Back, and then as an hors d'oeuvre at the wedding. Then as an Indian dish and then my dear Mom made it for me as a going away dinner. Did I get sick of it? No way! If I could eat lobster right now, I so would. Unfortunately, I’m in London and I only eat microwave dinners here.

8. The Weather - The heat wave continued and Nantucket had lovely weather. In fact, it was hot. In general, Nantucket is a place where you always need that extra sweater. But actually, this time - no sweaters needed. Luckily, in the South of the island where the wedding was held, the weather was a bit cooler otherwise we would have actually been too hot! We even used the AC at night!

9. The Boys - Actually, despite the bad dressing (see top not so amazing things about Nantucket below), the boys on the island were actually kind of hot...

Top Nine Not So Amazing Things about my Nantucket weekend:

1. The price tag - It was a great weekend, so I’m not really complaining. But I’m glad that I am no longer a cash strapped college student, that’s for sure. $65 for a return ferry ride. $60 for parking for 3 nights. $400/night for a hotel room (with a 3 night minimum).

2. Khakis - They should be illegal. Nuff said.

3. Feeling like a Foreigner - Despite being a New Englander, I felt a bit like a foreigner the whole weekend. I’m just not used to being in the US. It’s so different from Europe! Different dress, different music, different manners and customs. I have obviously been away for too long since I feel uncomfortable in the US now. And I couldn’t help comparing this island weekend to other island weekends in Europe - see list below.

4. Not Being Rich - I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of envy when scoping out the 30 million dollar “summer” homes. I mean, I do ok for myself... but that is ridiculous. I mean ridonculous!

5. The only Cute boy was taken - So the bride B has forever been talking up this boy that is friends with her now husband. She really wanted us to meet. She even introduced us on Facebook and we exchanged several messages. But unfortunately, he managed to find himself a girlfriend just in time for the wedding. As B dramatically said: “He ruined everything!” Despite the fact he had a girlfriend, I was still a bit curious to see what he looked like. I’m not going to lie, I doubted the ability of B to pick out a guy for me. Although we have been friends since we were babies, she has met very few of my boyfriends since I’ve been living abroad. But, I am pleased to say that B was right! He was hot! Damn the fact that he was taken.

6. The Skinny Jeans Conversation - The dinner conversation somehow turned to the topic of skinny jeans. I live in Europe! Who DOESN’T wear skinny jeans? But the entire table proclaimed their hatred for skinny jeans and as fashionista S was on the dance floor, I was left alone to defend skinny jeans! It was just one more reminder of how hard it’s going to be to move back to the US. Also let me note that I'm not a fan of Brooks Brothers or Lily Pulitzer either - and I have already expressed my feelings for Khakis in a previous statement... so basically I was having a bit of trouble dealing with the Nantucket fashion...

7. Getting really sunburned - We made a mistake in not bringing or buying sunblock. Unfortunately, this mistake was not realized until we were settled in at the beach soaking up the sunshine. We were highly aware of the no sunblock fact however and decided that we would only stay on the beach for an hour. That hour might have extended to an hour and a half - max. But oh man did we get burned. Unfortunately, as sunburns tend to do, it only showed up later when we were at the wedding. So my body felt like it was on fire all night and all the pictures show me looking like a big red ugly lobster. I will not forget sunblock again!

8. The Foreign Staff - Oddly, all the staff in Nantucket were foreigners: Irish, Eastern Europeans, Jamaicans. This included all wait staff, the DJ at the wedding, the babysitters (for the children at the wedding), and the taxi drivers. Weird. Although it was explained to me that Americans do not find it worth it to live on Nantucket and work (too expensive to live and save) and the actual island kids have such rich parents, that they do not need to work. Thus, the foreign staff who apparently live in dormitory style housing somewhere in the middle of the island. Now, you all know I love me some foreigners. But what I DO NOT LOVE is foreigner's ideas of acceptable service levels. As you know, I do like the American mentality of “service with a smile,” and “the customer is always right.” Therefore, I was not impressed with the Eastern European waitress who for whatever reason would not allow us to order another plate of calamari as the “kitchen would get mad.” Not only did she loose out on that order, we also gave her a reduced tip and left the place frustrated. I would not recommend this place to my friends either. So take that you mean waitress!

9. Crying through the wedding ceremony - What is is about seeing one of your oldest friends getting married that turns on the tears? I totally lost it right at the beginning when the Justice of the Peace told B’s father to “kiss your little girl” before he turned her over to her husband-to-be. That started the tears aflowing - let me tell you. It didn’t help that the bride cried all through the wedding and that I was sitting in the front row. Thank God I had remembered to bring tissues. My other girls were also crying although I did notice that most others had dry eyes! It seemed to have been just us!

Top Nine Comparisons between Nantucket and Gotland*

1. Both Nantucket and Gotland are islands

2. Nantucket is way more exclusive than Gotland - and WAY more expensive!

3. Champagne - In Nantucket, champagne is to be drank, not sprayed by brats

4. Cobble stone streets - both have them although the Nantucket cobblestone area is much smaller than the massive area in Visby

5. Preppy Dress - New Englanders invented the preppy dress style. But Swedes perfected it. Last summer Swedes seemed to reinvent preppy borrowing from classic New England but making it really cool. Guys were all about boat shoes and sweaters over the shoulders. But there wee no khakis except slim fitting ones in pink and blue and green. And there were definitely blue button down shirts, but there were absolutely no T-shirts underneath (that is totally America style). I have to say, the Swedes do preppy better!

6. Rose - In Gotland Rose wine is definitely the drink of choice... I’m not sure what a traditional Nantucket drink would be, but Rose was nowhere to be found unfortunately (actually, we did have some Rose bubbly)


7. The party - Gotland wins hands down! The summer months turns this Medieval village into party central when all the brats from Stockholm take over. It's now being called one of the top ten summer party destinations in Europe. It’s so much fun! Nantucket does ok, but nowhere near Gotland!

After beach at Kallis

8. The shopping - Nantucket wins here! Lots of cute little boutiques all over the place! I always felt like the shopping in Visby was kind of lame. But in Nantucket, you better be prepared to drop some serious cash. It is not cheap.

9. Quaint New England vs. Medieval village - Nantucket is very quaint New England, but Visby is a very quaint and very old Medieval village with a beautiful wall surrounding it built sometime in the 12th century. Let me point out that is WAY before America was born.

The wall surrounding Visby in Gotland Sweden

*Gotland is a Swedish island in the Baltic sea to the south of Sweden. The capital is Visby which is a a well-preserved medieval city that every year turns into a crazy party city for Stockholm's elite during week 29 and 30. I have gone 5 years in a row with my Swedish girlfriends. I couldn't help but compare my Nantucket adventure with my Swedish Gotland adventures.

Monday, July 12, 2010

About Americans Part II

Well, I'm off to London today and feeling rather sad about it - especially the going back to work part.

But before I go, I wanted to leave you with a few last reflections on Americans as a follow up to my last post on the same topic.

Bathrooms in America are TERRIBLE! I mean seriously in my book they are now ranking second worst IN THE WORLD outside of Asia (obviously). Nowhere else in the world has these terrible metal stalls where you can see underneath and between the cracks. When I'm sitting on the toilet here, I feel that everyone is looking at me. And when I'm washing my hands and looking in the mirror, I don't want to see through the cracks of the stalls and accidentally watch someone doing her business. Some things are meant to stay private. The Swedes and the Scandinavians have it right. Very nice bathroom stalls with proper doors you can shut - often with a private sink in every stall. And for some reason, despite being mostly unisex, the bathrooms in Scandinavia are WAY CLEANER than the bathrooms in America. I mean come on Americans why are your bathrooms so gross!?!

There are a lot of vegetarians and vegans in the USA - especially in California

Americans love ICE - Americans seem to only drink cold drinks and therefore use TONS of ice. I actually am not so crazy about ice and I have even been known to drink warm beer (all beer in Indonesia was served warm) when necessary, but I do hate it when I order an ice latte in Sweden and they put about 2 ice cubes in it which melt before they hand it to me. I mean, come on! But Americans use so much ice that there is hardly any room left for the drink. If you want an American to complain, just hand them a warm drink. And it does seem like every American household (including mine) has one of those refrigerators that dispenses ice.

Don't forget to go through the Drive Through - I know that drive throughs exist in other countries but I'm pretty sure it was an American invention and that it's still more popular here than anywhere else. As for me, I love me a good old Dunkin Donuts drive through any day! And I pretty much have driven through the Dunken Donuts drive through on a daily basis since being home.

Microbrew Beer is popular - Americans are crazy about their beer. They like to have lots of different flavors of micro brews on tap. It seems like everyone is doing their own beer these days. I love Sam Adams - Sam Summer is the best - especially if you add a lemon.

Light Beer - Here Light beer means less calories not less beer (umm... hello Sweden). Americans are crazy about light beer. It seems that Coors light and Bud light still are the beers of choice. I actually prefer Sam Adams light. Apparently Budweiser now makes a beer with only 54 calories - I haven't tried this yet. However, I do totally recommend Bud Light lime. It goes down like water and is oh so refreshing!

BBQ's (also known as cook outs) are a big deal in the summer time - traditional fare is hamburgs, hot dogs, maybe some chicken. A summer party is usually a rather casual affair. Someone mans the grill. Often guests bring some kind of dish. People eat on paper plates with plastic cutlery. They tend to eat standing up or can find a seat somewhere. In general eating is much more casual than in Europe where paper plates don't seem to exist and there is more emphasis on sitting down together to eat - even at a picnic or a BBQ.

New Englanders love their seafood - Lobster, clams, clam chowder, scallops - all traditional New England fare. If you are in New England, I totally recommend lobster although outside of New England (unless it's coming from New England), I would say skip it.

Service with a smile - In the USA, we know that the "customer is always right" and therefore Americans are known for their awesome customer service. Whether in a restaurant or a shop, you can count on Americans to provide service with a smile. It might have something to do with the fact that they are working for tips, which brings me to my next point...

When in America, do not forget to tip - Tipping is a big deal here. If you are at a restaurant, you should tip 15 - 20%. If you are getting a coffee, don't forget to leave your change in the tip jar. If you are at a bar, a dollar a drink is the deal. Even if you are at a wedding and it's open bar, you should be tipping the waitstaff (so bring one dollar bills). You should tip all the people who help you at the hotel (bell boys, the person who gets you a taxi). You should tip the taxi driver. And when you are staying at a hotel, it's common to leave a small tip in the room for the housecleaning! And at Christmas, you are supposed to give everyone something extra! In my opinion, tipping is a bit out of control.

Americans love hip hop and rock and roll - none of this Euro dance music for them

Summer means baseball! World Cup? What's that? I say GO RED SOX!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Inappropriate Children's Songs

Well, I'm back from Nantucket. The wedding was really beautiful (more on that later). And the heat wave continued with the weather producing another super hot and absolutely beautiful weekend. I never thought I would say this, but I have had TOO MUCH SUN! I am RED - like the lobsters I have eaten FOUR days in a row. Are  you jealous? I was trying to get my fill of lobster before heading back to London - which by the way, I'm doing tomorrow (sob sob).

But I definitely got my fill of New England this weekend. Seriously, I think that Nantucket might just be the epitome of New England. But as I should be going to bed and trying to get a good night's sleep as I will surely not sleep on the flight tomorrow and I have to go straight to work on Tuesday morning, I'm going to save my Nantucket post for later and instead I'm going to share something a bit funny.

While driving to Nantucket, and sitting in the back of my friend's car, I was flipping through a book of children's songs that was laying around in the back seat. And boy was I shocked to see what kinds of songs we are singing to kids these days!

I know that right now you are thinking, how bad can it be? So, first of all, a picture of the book cover - just so you can see that it is an actual kid's book and I swear to God that I'm not making this up:

See - just a harmless little kid's book with nursery rhymes and lullabies

But, as I was flipping through the pages, I came across this song:

Umm? What?

And, just a few pages later:

I'm starting to get scared...

And finally this one:
Much less offensive, but still funny

My friend found the whole thing very amusing. Although she told me she was slightly less amused when one night her son asked her to read "I Love Little Pussy" (I feel dirty just writing those words by the way) and when she told him that she couldn't sing that song he then asked her to sing "Ride a Cockhorse." At that point, she suggested another book altogether. I suggest that she gets rid of the book completely before they get old enough to start asking uncomfortable questions, but that she saves it for much later (for example when her sons are in their late twenties) and then she can bring it out and laugh about it with them!

So, as I mentioned, I'm hopping back across the pond to London tomorrow. And this means that my vacation is officially OVER. I'm back to work on Tuesday. I have a feeling it's gonna be a crazy week so don't get worried if you don't hear from me for a couple days. I promise that I will be thinking of you and I have lots of great stuff to tell you!

Stay cool!

Monday, July 5, 2010

America the Beautiful

Although the Fourth of July is over, It’s officially still the Fourth of July weekend and I’m still feeling pretty patriotic!

Check out this awesome 100 Great Things About America list! It is so right on. It’s such a good list it reminds me of one of my own awesome lists! I totally could have written this list. In fact, many of the things that are on this list are things that I have mentioned before!

As I know that most of you are lazy and won’t even click on the link (although I really recommend that you do; seriously, just DO IT), let me list some of my favorites from the list: flip flops*, the Tiffany’s box, ice cream, chewing gum, Bendy straws, Redwood trees, The Golden Gate Bridge, New Year’s Eve (every country has one but they all watch Times Square), Baseball, Kegs, S’mores, salt water taffy, roller coasters...

Oh - and in case you are wondering what MY beautiful America looks like... well it looks something like this:

My Dog at the pool

My parents have a ginormous and fabulous pool!

I should note that the weather has been FREAKING FABULOUS! I don’t ever remember it being so amazing when I’ve been on vacation. Today was another day of “not a cloud in the sky” - see picture below so you know I’m so not lying. Although the temperatures soared (over 100 degrees which is about 38 Celsius), the humidity was low and all in all it was a beautiful day. In fact, this marks the 7th day in a row of pretty spectacular days!

See - Not a Cloud in the Sky!

I should also not that this is sadly the last week of my 3 week vacation (sob) and the final week of my four week US adventure. I go back to London a week from today. So... I’m kind of in that vacation panic where you realize it’s almost over and there are so many more things you want to do (or should have done). Above all I’m determined to soak up as much sun and good feelings as possible in order to return to London a more relaxed person.

This week I will actually attend wedding number 4 of the summer (remember there are 5 in total). My good friend B who I have known since I was three years old will get married to D her long-term love and they are doing it in NANTUCKET! Now, I have never been to Nantucket, but let me tell you, I’m oh so excited! Especially since I will be kickin’ it at a nice hotel with other long term childhood BFF’s S and K. We are headed out to Nantucket on Thursday where the wedding weekend will kick off with a Clam Bake. The actual wedding is on Friday and then we will stick around on Saturday (thank you three night hotel minimums) to just enjoy! S is attempting to arrange a boat trip - sounds like fun to me!

In case you are wondering, Nantucket is a small island off of Massachusetts (south of the Cape) and it’s a summer hot spot for the well-to-do. It’s supposed to be lovely! And hopefully this amazing weather will hold out.

Happy Monday everyone! Hope your week is off to a good start.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday America (and Dad)

Today America celebrates it’s 234th birthday and in other news my Father celebrates his 60th birthday (every year he thinks the fireworks are for him). Happy Birthday America! Happy Birthday Dad!

So, I guess you are wondering what I did to celebrate? I’m sure you are expecting some crazy party or story or at the very least a of the top fun things I did... But for once, I’m actually going to disappoint you. I have to admit that I did a whole lot of NOTHING on this Fourth of July. Life has been kind of running away with me for the past few months (if you haven’t noticed) and I thought that I would take this opportunity between big wedding weekends: last week San Fran and next week Nantucket, to just chill out a little bit. I think it’s been a much needed chill out time... But I have to admit, I’m getting a bit bored and am ready to get back into real life.

But the weather has been fabulous: over 90 degrees and yesterday there was literally not a cloud in the sky. Last night, we celebrated my father with a pool/keg/BBQ party - what else? So, I drank Sam Summer (from the keg) and chatted with my parent’s friends. Then went up to my parent’s friend’s lake house in Goshen to see some fireworks. Not exactly a wild evening - but nice.

Today I hung out by the pool and then braved the heat and went for a run (something I don’t really recommend doing in this heat - too hot)! Had dinner with the parents (hamburgs and hot dogs of course), hung out by the pool some more watching the sun set and then we decided not to drive to see any fireworks but rather to watch the on television (obviously not my idea and also something I don’t recommend as it’s not at all like being there). So, we tuned in for the NYC ones (which are supposed to be the best) and that was going ok until my Mother pressed some buttons on the remote control and started rewinding the DVR and then things got a little bit messed up. Then once Mom’s remote control privileges were revoked for the night, we settled in to watch the Boston Fireworks - which I actually thought were better.

But not to leave you with nothing (and for all my International readers), here is a rather boring list of Top Ten List of things you SHOULD do on the Fourth of July.

Top Ten Things you Should do on The Fourth of July

1. Go to the beach (if that is not possible, then a pool will do)

2. Gather with family and/or friends and have a fabulous time

3. Play sports such as wiffle ball or football (American style)

4. Have a BBQ

5. Eat hot dogs and hamburgers - as you do in America

6. Eat ice cream

7. Wear red white and blue (or something Patriotic - its seems that this year those Statue of Liberty Crown hats are a big deal) and march in a parade, watch a parade or join in whatever your town or city is doing to celebrate the Nation's Birthday

8. Sing Patriotic songs and wave American flags - seriously, this is important!

9. Drink beer - especially a patriotic and seasonal beer like Sam Summer

10. Watch FIREWORKS!

So faithful readers, as you can see... My Fourth of July weekend was a little calm. Did anyone else do anything crazy? If so, leave me a comment and tell me about it so I can live vicariously through you.

And Holla to Sweden - Midsommar kicks the Fourth of July’s ass. I know that as a true Patriot and an all around All American girl I should not say such things. But ha! I did anyway. I really missed Midsommar this year!

I hope everyone had a safe and fun Fourth of July weekend. And please share your stories!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Breaking Up

It started to get bad about a year and a half ago. Looking back I think that the downturn of the economy definitely had a negative impact leading to a downward spiral. Before that, things had been easy. Life was good. There was not too much to worry about. But the tougher world situation definitely put a strain on our relationship. I hoped it was just temporary and I waited for things to go back to normal. It hadn't always been easy. There had been other bumps in the road but it always worked out in the end.

I never doubted that we would weather the storm. I was sure that we would make it through together as usual.

But then you told me you wanted me to move to London with you. It was right at the time that I had finally gotten comfortable living with you in Stockholm. Had actually started to see myself staying there, maybe forever. And suddenly it was all London or bust. I was angry and scared. I felt I didn't have a choice in the matter. There was no other option at the time. I had to move - leave my friends and my life that I had built at your request in the first place.

The move was hard. At first I was moody and I was sad and so depressed. It was not easy for me to find my feet in London with my friends in Sweden and my family in the US and you demanding so much of my time. But there was nothing I could do but try to make the best of it.

But just as I started top come around, you started to pull away. I no longer felt like I was part of your inner circle. I didn't agree with all the things that you were doing. I thought we should do things differently. And for the first time you didn't listen to me. You didn't share your secrets with me anymore. You didn't want to give me your time. You had new people around that were more important than me. We were starting to drift apart.

But still I continued to try so hard. I thought that if I could just try a bit harder, do a little bit more, then everything would surely be alright again. I could even live in London for longer if you could just make it right again. I was sure it was just a matter of time before you let me back in again. I was sure I still had lots of good things to offer and that we would begin to work our way back as usual.

And then you brought in someone new. And I tried not to be bitter. I tried to make it work. I hoped it would all work out - that we could all work together and make things better. But instead I felt pushed aside. Trampled on marginalized, yet still trying so hard.

I didn't want to admit that the damage was starting to seem irreparable. I never wanted to blame you, so I kept blaming myself.

Until one day I realized that I couldn't go on like this anymore -blaming myelf, trying so hard, seeing no change. I began to realize that for over a year now I've been optimistic that things would get better but instead they slowly got worse and worse. And I realized that things obviously weren't changing for the better so it was time for me to change. You will go on and do great things without me. But I stopped growing where I am with you right now... And I owe it to myself to look for something better.

After much thought and second-guessing, I've decided that it's time to move on. To cut my ties with you after all these years.

I told you today that I was leaving and you didn't try to stop me...

I will remember forever our memories. Our travels to Moscow, Shanghai, Rome, St. Petersburg, Barcelona, Boston, Paris... Our sunny fun-filled days spent in Miami and Malta. All the times that you made me laugh - and cry. The times I hated you for making me move so many times, but also loving you for forcing me outside my small world and into wonderful international adventures. You never failed to challenge me and excite me. It was never easy, but it was always interesting.

I feel sad and scared. Lonely and confused. I have no idea what the future for me will hold. It's hard to imagine life without you. Where I will live? What I will do without you? We have been together my entire adult life - since I graduated from college. We have lived together in 5 countries and we have traveled all over the world. I'm afraid that I will never get to travel so much or live so much or meet so many great people without you there making it happen. I'm afraid that I will never be challenged or stimulated in this way again. I'm afraid that so much of what defines me, of what makes me me is because of ,and without you I will no longer be me anymore. I'm afraid that I will miss you and wish that I could come back. I'm afraid that I'm making a mistake in leaving even though when I think about it, I know that you have left me with no choice.

Perhaps we will get back together someday...

But right now, all I can say is that the ending of any relationship is always really hard.