Emma: Mommy Has A Headache
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to the USA, etc.
Well it was all a bit sudden to tell you the truth. I was living in London and dating a guy who lived in Ireland and he was starting grad school in Baltimore and asked me if I wanted to come along. Honestly at the time I had no idea where Baltimore was. All I knew was that its citizens were swathed in luxury materials or so I thought after hearing that Joan Baez song: ‘The Lady Came From Baltimore, All She Wore Was Lace.’ Well it sounded quite fancy although when I got here no one was done up in nothing but lace curtains, alas (Stella McCartney are you listening this could be the next big trend)!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started Mommy Has A Headache in 2006 when I had two little kids and was going a bit mad. I felt like an udder on legs, barely human, and I wanted to carve out a little niche for self-expression. It’s been fun. Since then I have also written a hilarious parenting book called Cocktails at Naptime and a portrait studio, Studio Emma Kaufmann, so I have kept very busy!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Tell us about the ways your new life in the USA differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
When I lived in London I was a bit of a Bridget Jones: young, free, working and single and once I got to the USA I had two kids and became a full time mom so I can’t really directly compare the two experiences. I certainly had trouble adapting to the incredibly hot weather here though and to the driving culture. In London I always took the bus or the tube to get around. The longer I live here the less I miss about the UK. That said, of course I miss the sense of humour. There is nothing like the scathing British sense of wit. But as for UK comedy TV – you can watch most of my favorite comedy shows including Pulling, Peep Show, Green Wing etc. on hulu.com Then there’s the food issue. While I certainly miss a good fish and chips I have learnt to live without it. There is also a UK shelf at the local supermarket where I can buy all manner of processed English goods including Branston Pickle and Hob Nobs so I’m fine there too. I would say certainly I miss the pub culture, having a bit of a laugh over a few pints on a Sunday at the pub while eating a large roast beef dinner. But I am quite pleased in a way that most people don’t drink very much (in the sense that I have so far avoided growing a beer gut) although it is puzzling when someone invites you to a pub for a drink here and after LITERALLY one drink everyone goes home. I missed Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars for a while but they were hard to find. You will be glad I have since adapted to US chocolate. My fridge is full of the stuff.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in the USA? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
The only thing I wasn’t prepared for was the nightmarish health insurance situation here. I was pregnant when I arrived here and could not get health insurance and so had to pay for the birth out of pocket. It was a bit of a nightmare! Made me long for the good old NHS Iet me tell you. Maybe I should have given birth in UK before I got here but I was unaware of the insurance situation.
Maybe I would also have learnt to drive before I got here, as it is essential to drive in Baltimore. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 33 and 9 months pregnant with my second child. The driving instructor always looked terrified thinking my waters might break all over his new car.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Well my husband looks very young and when we first got here we went to a party and one woman came up to my husband and told him, “You have such a cool mom.”
And he replied deadpan, “I didn’t know you’d met my mom!”
Well it was funny because the woman had thought he was my son. I think she was a bit drunk but still…..I found it funny although I should feel insulted I know!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in the USA?
- Learn to drive
- You will never get a decent cup of tea here unless you make it yourself.
- Don’t assume you know anything about the USA from movies, TV etc. Just take it day by day!
How is the expat community in the USA? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I have hardly met any English expats here and it doesn’t bother me. As soon as I arrived here and had my first daughter I joined an international playgroup and met many expats from many different countries. It was wonderful! There is certainly a bond between expats because they are all viewing their new home with fresh eyes. Later on I also became involved with a German expat group (as I speak German) and also with a German language school where I have met many wonderful expat Germans and quaffed many Steins of Beer and links of Bratwurst.
How would you summarize your expat life in the USA in a single, catchy sentence?
Supersized portions, supersized cars, supersized life!