We need to talk about Christmas.
Mainly because I’m the only one in America with the baubles to do so.
Don’t get me wrong, Christmas over here is like everything else in America – absolutely massive.
In the UK, the biggest radio stations sprinkle classic Christmas tunes into their playlist from mid-December. But out here, brand new stations are created out of thin air, exclusively to belt out Christmas songs, 24/7. I tell you, all I want for Christmas is to not hear Mariah Carey’s god awful song every 15 minutes.
Hallowe’en is a big deal out here. Like, Christmas big.
In the weeks leading up to the 31st, you can’t miss it. House decorations, advertising, grocery stores, even church signs… it’s bloody everywhere. They don’t do anything half-arsed in the US, but I do – and having left it to the last-minute to get a costume for a Hallowe’en party, I went into a nearby pop-up shop.
Well, that went quickly.
Today marks a month since our arrival. And in that time, we’ve been productive. Freakishly productive.
We’ve got social security cards, opened bank accounts, rented cars, found a house, signed up the kids to schools, registered with doctors, overspent in IKEA, started work (me), made friends (Alex), picked up the accent (Ava) and eaten a lot of ketchup (Daisy).
Life here is great. Every day is a learning experience. Take today, for example – I went for my first haircut in the US, and soon learned I need to go somewhere else.
We’ve come a long way in 30 days, and some of what we’ve experienced deserves a post in its own right. When I have the time, I’ll give it the attention it needs. For now, I’ve added some photos to give a flavour of what July looked like.
Tomorrow we move in to our new house. On Tuesday, my Mum’s flying out to
babysit for us spend quality time with us. Hopefully security won’t seize her Marmite stash at the airport.
You have a nice day now…
Well, we’ve done it.
We’ve eaten ice cream, paid too much for groceries, and driven dangerously close to opposing traffic. But now we can finally declare ourselves expats. The adventure starts here.
Before we left we’d read and heard a lot of horror stories about long-haul flying with kids. For a while Alex and I were junkies on the stuff, binging on epic tales of tears and vomit. But we were ready. We packed spare clothes for all of us. We brought enough food to feed the whole plane. Our iPad was bursting at the seams with new apps, games and films. Moments before we boarded, I found Alex in a trance-like state, banging her head repeatedly against the wall. We even created fake birth certificates so we could publicly disown them if all hell broke loose.
But the flight was a doddle. The kids were great, and we didn’t receive a single dirty look from anyone the entire flight. Apart from Ava of course, but she’s been pissed off ever since I revealed that Kinder Eggs aren’t sold in the US.
Little-known fact: Kinder Eggs are illegal in the US. They’ve had a ban on candies with embedded toys since 1938, due to choking/health concerns. Which is an interesting priority, given the number of people in the US accidentally shot by a toddler with a gun. I digress…
To be honest, I am a bit concerned that this move is sending Ava off the rails. Take a look at the displays of rebellion below, first in Heathrow and then on the other side in California. The kid is just a year or two away from a DUI and her own reality show.
We arrived two days ago. On our very first morning, I witnessed a car break-in in broad daylight, right outside the local Starbucks. I thank my company for arranging this on my behalf, which I suspect was part of the planned orientation.
So far we’ve been fairly productive. We picked up the rental cars, set up a bank account, did a food shop, and were given a tour of the surrounding areas. When you throw toddlers and jet lag into the mix, all of the above become extreme sports in their own right. But here’s what we’ve learned:
- Even when people are under pressure, the customer service out here is second to none. At Hertz they were short-staffed and there was a queue outside the door. The guy in charge passed out an enormous box of cookies for waiting customers, to apologise for the wait. In the UK, you’d consider yourself lucky if you got as much as eye contact in that scenario.
- American banks love paperwork. Just to open a single account, I spent an hour solidly signing my name. This explains why woodcutters in California drive Bentleys and not trucks.
- Navigating the supermarket requires a satnav and superhuman will power. The place is enormous, and I reckon 85% of it is bad for you. On the plus side, we can buy one sandwich and it will feed the four of us.
Today is July 4th, which is when Americans celebrate the time Will Smith saved them from aliens. My boss has kindly invited us to a bbq and pool party, ending in a fireworks display. Alex and the girls are all pretty excited about it, mainly because they get to spend the day with people other than me. Based on her performance so far this morning, Daisy is planning to mark the event by crying all day.
Happy Independence Day, people.