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Columnists > Michelle Garrett

Michelle Garrett
Michelle Garrett is an American expat making a life in Britain for over 20 years. Yes, she's still homesick for the States and yes, she'd be homesick for Britain if she moved back there! Michelle is a freelance writer and blogs at The American Resident.

Michelle Garrett

Crackers Christmas

Posted by: Carole on Saturday December 20, 2014 (03:24:19)   (8573 Reads)
Michelle Garrett
One of the most interesting things about living overseas is experiencing the way different cultures celebrate holidays. The Christmas Cracker has become one of my favourites.

Over 20 years ago I spent one of my first Christmases in Britain with my fiancé and his staid relatives. The oldest generation arrived slow and creaking, placed gently in the overstuffed chairs in the living room facing the fireplace. Father-in-law-to-be poured sherry in pretty little glasses on a silver tray and passed them around. Not my first sherry, but I’d only had it once before, the previous Christmas. My nostrils flared and my lips pursed. It smelled of the mince pies I had yet to fall in love with.    more ...

Michelle Garrett

American Expats And The Big Tax Betrayal

Posted by: Carole on Tuesday August 19, 2014 (03:13:45)   (5637 Reads)
Michelle Garrett
A few hundred years ago some British expats who were mostly settling in a new land (some still travelling back and forth for business, with homes in both places) started to grow increasingly frustrated by taxes levied by the Parliament on the other side of the ocean.

The crux of the matter was that in 1689 the English Bill of Rights forbade the imposition of taxes without the consent of Parliament. So how could all these expats in this new land, who had no representation in Parliament, be taxed by Parliament?

That idea was simply unjust.    more ...

Michelle Garrett

Slow Living As An Expat

Posted by: Carole on Tuesday July 22, 2014 (02:13:56)   (3121 Reads)
Michelle Garrett
I know that title seems an obvious statement to some people who have preconceived ideas about the relaxed ‘G&T on a veranda’ lifestyle of expats. But as most of us know, it’s not exactly like that.

For me, the expat life is a bit more frantic than it might have been at home. I have lived overseas for over half my life now and I have worked hard to create a bubble of security in the absence of my family and familiar culture. I have created my own family, I have created a home, I have worked and settled in nicely and embraced my host culture as my own. But I still always feel like I need to work a bit harder to maintain control over this tiny corner of the world, just to be a bit more secure.
I've been away recently, body boarding and cliff walking in Croyde, Devon. And thinking.    more ...

Michelle Garrett

How Do You Deal With Angry New Expats?

Posted by: Carole on Sunday June 15, 2014 (01:15:57)   (2957 Reads)
Michelle Garrett
I’ve lived in the UK for over 20 years so the early expat days are a little foggy in my memory. I belong to some expat groups and each of these groups has members who have lived in the UK for anything from next month to thirty years. I mostly enjoy these groups as a place to share stories and laugh at our experiences. And it’s fun to be reminded of some of the things I used to think about a lot when I was still shiny and new in this expat life. Usually, at worst, the chatter on these threads is frustrated or annoyed about a cultural difference. Sometimes, more rarely, it becomes angry.

The anger is directed towards the UK and the people in it. When I see these threads it is always the new expats who are joining in.    more ...

Michelle Garrett

Deciding On Dual Citizenship, Or Not

Posted by: Carole on Friday March 21, 2014 (02:06:25)   (3293 Reads)
Michelle Garrett
I’ve lived in the UK about 24 years and apart from the time I abandoned logic and decided to travel without my old passport that says ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ as well as my current one I’ve never really strongly considered getting a dual citizenship.

(Have you ever been detained at Heathrow? It’s fun! No, not really but it does give you a self-deprecating story to tell to fellow expats.)    more ...

Michelle Garrett

Relax! It Might Not Be An Expat Thing

Posted by: Carole on Thursday February 20, 2014 (05:22:32)   (3247 Reads)
Michelle Garrett
Perhaps it was the very specific Northern Mother-in-Law who first instilled the fear of tea in me. If she were in a good mood I would get lots of jokes about an American’s inability to make a cup of tea, or if she were in a bad mood it would be ‘just let me do it.’ I learned from her that there are as many ways to make a cup of tea as there are tea drinkers and so I understood early on in my expat life that offering to make a cup of tea for a British person I was in a no-win situation.

Or maybe it’s just me. Not all Americans have this fear (or inability) or perhaps some expats are just thick skinned. There is some value in a thick skin, as an expat anyway (I think the proper term for it is ‘emotional resilience’: the strength to deal with the howling gales of frustrations in your new life without becoming ripped apart).    more ...

Michelle Garrett

Why I Love The British Boxing Day

Posted by: Jamie on Friday December 20, 2013 (21:34:11)   (3821 Reads)
Michelle Garrett
As an American living in the UK one of my favourite days of the year is Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. The day off, after Christmas. Until I moved to the UK I had never heard of Boxing Day.

Boxing Day is a public holiday originating in England, which is now celebrated in many other countries in the commonwealth with a mainly Christian population.

As with many modern traditions, Boxing Day may have started as a pagan Anglo-Saxon offering of parcels of food and gifts to the poor, the day after the mid-winter feasting and celebrations. The tradition continued into Christian England. The current name is thought to have possibly originated when these gifts of food were given the day after the wealthy landowners celebrated Christmas and the generous leftovers were boxed up and distributed among the labourers, servants, and trades people who were employed by the landowners. As England became the United Kingdom and developed the commonwealth, the tradition was spread throughout much of the world.    more ...

Michelle Garrett

No More Thanksgivings

Posted by: Carole on Wednesday November 27, 2013 (19:20:33)   (3452 Reads)
Michelle Garrett
The first year I lived in the UK I was here with other American students. We lined up at the phones with our phone cards calling home and cooked a sort of Thanksgiving dinner with what we could find in the shops, which meant no pumpkin pie. We all felt a bit lost, unsure, but also a bit rebellious that we weren’t with our families for such a family focused holiday.

My second year in the UK I bought a massive turkey and invited loads of British friends around and cooked the whole meal myself and collapsed in a tearful wreck at the end of the day. It wasn’t Thanksgiving, just a massive meal with guests watching me expectedly throughout as if Something Important might be revealed. I felt very homesick.    more ...

Michelle Garrett

Investing Time In The Local Community

Posted by: Carole on Tuesday October 22, 2013 (16:46:21)   (2234 Reads)
Michelle Garrett
One of the best tips for expats who want to cope better with homesickness and culture shock and get the most out of their time overseas is to get involved in the local community. There may be community garden projects, an eldercare charity, an annual church event or other projects, charities or events that always need new volunteers.

I live in a medium size village in Britain but my children don’t go to the local school so I needed to think of other ways to get to know the local residents. When a call was put out for volunteers to help with the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations I signed up. Through that I not only contributed to a really enjoyable day through months of planning and fund raising, but I also made some friends for life.    more ...

Michelle Garrett

Creating Expat Characters In Fiction

Posted by: Carole on Friday September 20, 2013 (00:01:30)   (2309 Reads)
Michelle Garrett
I recently wrote a post, The Perils of Expats Writing Fiction about an unexpected difficulty for long-term expat writers.

Your internal editor is muted (or confused) because after living somewhere long enough it’s difficult to remember if they say taps or faucets, or both, if they say ‘what’s on the cards for today’ or if they’ll ask ‘what cards?’ if you use the phrase.

But one thing that has been good about my expat life experience is that I can apply it to my characters, even if I am not writing an expat novel.

Well thought out characters in fiction move through an arc.    more ...

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