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Columnists > Toni Hargis

Toni Hargis
Toni Summers Hargis is the author of The Stress-Free Guide to Studying In the States; A Step-by-Step Plan for International Students (Summertime). She is also the author of 'Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom' (St. Martin’s Press) and blogs as Expat Mum.

Toni Hargis

Learning The (Non-Verbal) Lingo

Posted by: Carole on Tuesday March 06, 2012 (04:31:10)   (3066 Reads)
Toni Hargis
For Brits in the States, it’s pretty much accepted that although we all speak English, it’s “not quite the same”. I (and others) have written extensively on the differences between British and American English, - differences which can result in embarrassment, confusion and/or hilarity.

What we often overlook however, are the many differences in non-verbal communication that exist for Brits (and other foreigners) in the USA.

Take for instance the non-RSVP. If you invite an American to something they’re not particularly interested in, they will often just not acknowledge the invite. Oh, I’m not talking about formal written invitations; they’re not that rude. However, if for example, you casually suggest an activity they’d rank as a distant second to a tooth extraction, you just might not hear from them.    more ...

Toni Hargis

Trapped Abroad

Posted by: Carole on Monday February 06, 2012 (03:24:02)   (10099 Reads)
Toni Hargis
Many expats venture abroad without really thinking too far into the future. “I’m taking a job for a couple of years in (insert far-flung place). It’ll be a great adventure for the kids.” That’s fine, and indeed, planning too far ahead is just asking for trouble in my opinion. However, a surprising number of expats end up “trapped” abroad for various reasons.

What if you switch jobs while in the foreign country? The new organization might not have a “home” office, meaning that if you want to go “home” you either have to find a job while still out of the country, or face going back unemployed. Alternatively, you might grow to hate the job you have, but your visa ties you to your company and your job “back home” no longer exists. Trapped.

A very common situation is that the kids attend a local school and get too far into the education system to be moved at present. (With one child in college and another in high school, that would be my situation were I to think about moving.) Or, the kids just like where you now live even if you don’t.    more ...

Toni Hargis

The Only Brit in Town

Posted by: Jamie on Thursday January 05, 2012 (05:53:35)   (2769 Reads)
Toni Hargis
My fellow columnist and bloggy chum Michelle Garrett is currently writing about being the only American in her UK neck of the woods. It prompted me to think about my status as the only Brit in town. Well, OK, not the only Brit in town; this is Chicago after all, there are thousands of us. I am however, often the only Brit my friends know, the only Brit on my street, and the only Brit parent that my teen’s friends can imitate. (Usually very badly, but I just smile sweetly.)

So how do I feel about this? Unfortunately I’m not always as positive about it as Michelle. (Come on, I’m British; what did you expect?) I haven’t really lost my English accent so even after 21 years here, people still comment on it when they first meet me, asking where I’m from, how long I’ve been here etc. etc. Unlike many expats, this isn’t the part that bothers me since most Americans are genuinely interested and anyhow, I know how to cut the conversation short if it looks like I’m in for a long-winded account of their travels around the British Isles.    more ...

Toni Hargis

Americans, You’ve Been Warned!

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:13:47)   (3547 Reads)
Toni Hargis
If you’ve read my book, you’ll know that I go to great pains to keep Americans apprised of British customs, sayings and manners. Not that we all take tea at precisely 4pm every day, or consort with the Queen on a regular basis, but there are some things that while minor, make all the difference.

If you’ve yet to read Rules, Britannia, let me recap a few of my tips:

Please – While the meaning of “please” is usually implied in the tone of an American request, the word itself is not always used. In the UK, its absence will draw audible intakes of breath and small children may well find the cookie, or toy they are requesting withheld until they “ask properly”. The word “please” is used by everyone regardless of background; it is said to everyone regardless of station, so that includes waiters and other people paid to serve you.    more ...

Toni Hargis

It's a Small, Small, Social Networky World

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:11:09)   (2601 Reads)
Toni Hargis
When I first left England's green and pleasant land, way back in 1990, the only communication I had with my large circle of friends came in envelopes. As an avid letter-writer, I was (and still am) noted for "keeping in touch". I probably wrote at least one letter a day to someone or other for the first year I lived in the States. (Is it any wonder that I blog?) Most of my friends returned the favour and the ones that didn't keep up the communication usually couldn't be blamed as babies and/or careers waylaid them. I remember running to the mailbox each day hoping to find a letter from somebody. Anybody. Communication with friends and family has always been important to me, no matter how far away they are. The years before the World Wide Web saw a decreasing numbers of letters coming my way, which was probably inevitable, but still saddened me.    more ...

Toni Hargis

So Long, Farewell? Not Necessarily

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:09:08)   (4417 Reads)
Toni Hargis
There are two types of expat in my opinion - the static expat and the transient expat. I’m a static expat in that I have lived more or less in the same place for years. Transient expats are the ones who move on every three or four years, often bumping into people they met half way across the globe, a decade earlier.

My blogging buddy Potty Mummy (another static) recently lamented one not-so-great aspect of expat living that many of us struggle with - saying goodbye to friends who are leaving. She mused “It's all very well being thrown together with a group of amusing, warm, outgoing, outward-looking individuals, many of whom are similarly at sea in this world of serial expat-ness and likewise wondering if they will ever manage to make it back into the work-place of their home town when they eventually get there, but it's another thing entirely when they start to up and leave in large numbers.”    more ...

Toni Hargis

Things to Consider Before Emigrating – The Total Cost

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:07:12)   (4718 Reads)
Toni Hargis
How many people do you know who talk about emigrating? Chances are, most of them have yet to do it, and it’s often because of the huge costs involved. It is crucial to get a detailed idea of these costs in order to avoid disappointment and/or hardship down the line.

The costs can basically be divided into “getting there” and “arrival” costs:

Getting there:

Establish first of all, whether you’re actually eligible to relocate to your chosen spot. Some countries like Australia and the UK , have a point system which includes your salary or earning potential; others like the USA look at your ability to support yourself and/or the family you are planning to bring with you.    more ...

Toni Hargis

Knowing Where You’re Going

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:05:08)   (2815 Reads)
Toni Hargis
I was educated in England and have found the American education system to be one of the most difficult “assimilation” areas so far. One thing I have never really done is make comparisons; the two systems are so different it’s not really apples and apples. However I have recently discovered my one exception to this rule – the college applications process.

My daughter is currently applying to American colleges for attendance in September. It’s quite a different system from its English counterpart, and I have to say, kinder. In England, you apply to most colleges through UCAS, (Universities and Colleges Admissions Services) with a single application that UCAS manages. You can apply for up to five courses (at the same or different universities or colleges), it’s all confidential, and you’re not required to give a preference order. In my day you had to put them in order of preference, meaning that the colleges further down the list often rejected you just for daring to list them so low. Students then receive offers either conditional on end of year grades, or unconditional which means that you’re in.    more ...

Toni Hargis

It’s All in the Delivery

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:02:23)   (2265 Reads)
Toni Hargis
“I shouldn't be saying this - high treason, really - but I sometimes wonder if Americans aren't fooled by our accent into detecting brilliance that may not really be there.” - Stephen Fry

When it comes to accents it's great being a Brit in the States. OK, let me qualify that. Sometimes I would like to be able to sneak in and out of a shop without attracting the covert attention of everyone around me simply by asking for a gallon of milk. Oh yes, and it would be rather nice not to have the occasional sales assistant start imitating me, to my astonishment! I’m sure they mean well, but a) they usually have terrible “Briddish” accents, and b) would they do that if my accent was Bolivian or Bangladeshi? I think perhaps not.    more ...

Toni Hargis

Something Else to Consider Before Making the Big Move

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (09:00:25)   (2396 Reads)
Toni Hargis
In addition to the list of things I wrote about last year, there’s another thing to consider before making the big move abroad. Family. (If you’re reading this having just had a tiff with the mother-in-law or a sibling, come back when you’ve calmed down.) But seriously, despite the well-worn adage “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family”, raising children abroad often means raising them thousands of miles from family members.

My teenage daughter recently wrote a paper about being a “dual citizen” (US and UK) and her familiarity with both countries. She has cousins her age in England, and indeed second and third cousins that she knows quite well, but no cousins in the US. Although she loves life in the US, and considers herself more American then British since she was born here, she stated that she felt “at home” and “safe” in England because of her family. As someone who is very close both to siblings and cousins, that made me question whether my move abroad has been the right thing to do for my children.    more ...

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