Posts in "Personal"

Chennai Expat Guide Launched!

I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that the Chennai Expat Guide book has been launched!

The book is the only guide that expats moving to Chennai need to adjust to life in the city. Based on my own eight years of experience living in the city and filled with the funny stories and anecdotes of over 50 contributing expats it covers every aspect of relocating to Chennai.

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The Wisdom Tooth Extraction

I guess like most guys if we ever find a problem with our body we have a remarkable superhuman ability to put it to the back of our mind and lose it amongst all the anniversary dates and birthdays – we know technically these things should happen but they never make it far enough up to our conscious that it registers as something to think about or to act upon.

And so it has been about many things related to my body which I only decided to correct after the pain and suffering can not be ignored any longer. It took me a decade to finally admit that there was a slight possibility I might need to wear glasses while using a computer (having said that I’m not wearing them now) – that happened after several days of brain pounding headaches forced me to meekly book an appointment with the opticians (and this being in England they could only see me by the following week at the earliest).

The other health problem I’ve been ignoring over the years is that of my wisdom teeth. I dare not think about how many painkillers I’ve taken in the name of wisdom tooth pain. My upper ones finally pushed through a few years ago but my bottom ones decided to be difficult and kind of got stuck half way through.

11 months of the year I could get on with my life without a (dental) care in the world but like clockwork the lower teeth would flare up and reduce me to a pill popping ibuprofen junkie. Which actually isn’t nearly as interesting as being labelled as a crack addict. Hi, my name is Peter and I flirt dangerously with the recommended daily dosage limits on ‘profen with a reckless disregard to my own well being.

Earlier this month my teeth started to play up again. Out came the ibuprofen and we* carried on as normal. However after the 2nd week and still in pain it began to dawn on me that professional medical advice might need to be sought.

Not An NHS Dentistry

Very fortunately my office happens to be opposite Chennai’s best dental practice and so my trip across the road was made a lot sooner than if the nearest dentists was miles away. I reckon I could have easily ignored the problem for another week otherwise. A better man than I probably would have anyway.

Now since this is India and the dental practices are not run under a British pseudo-NHS (ie. where you have to save up for 3 months just to be able to afford to have the dentist peer in to your mouth and count your teeth for 60 seconds – but that’s ok because there is a 3 month waiting list just to have your teeth counted anyway) I walked in to the building, told the receptionist that I had some kind of discomfort with my wisdom teeth and I was sitting in the dentist’s chair 10 seconds later and informed that I would need an x-ray to see what’s going on.

“Come this way, Mr. Claridge” and I got set up in the x-ray machine which wouldn’t look out of place in a George Lucas space opera. Now I don’t want to advertise how long it’s been since I last went to a dentists but I don’t remember the x-ray machines being hooked up to Windows and the digital image being immediately available onscreen – tooth fillings being highlighted in all their shameful glory. Does the NHS have that? Or is that extra?

“Right then, Mr. Claridge”, the dentist boomed, “you have an impaction on your lower teeth”, pointing at what looked, in my medical opinion**, like two perfectly formed, perfectly straight teeth. “see how this tooth is at an angle, it’s going to have to come out” indicating that a tooth which was inclined by as much as 0.1 degrees from the vertical is cause for urgent attention “and since we have to take the bottom teeth out we might as well take out the top ones while we’re there.” I didn’t like the jolly sound of his voice.

This is the x-ray of my teeth, on the left you can see a lighter shade between the bone and the tooth, this is apparently where infections have 'eaten' away at the bone - reason enough to get your wisdom teeth checked! The solid white mark in the top row of teeth is a filling :(

This is the x-ray of my teeth, on the lower left you can see a lighter shade between the bone and the wisdom tooth, this is apparently where infections have 'eaten' away at the bone - reason enough to get your wisdom teeth checked! The solid white mark in the top row of teeth is a filling 🙁 (for the record, my skull doesn't have a 'peterclaridge.com' watermark imprinted on it!)

“OK, right” I said, “when can we get these buggers out?” making a mental note that I had 4 more days of ibuprofen left before I had to buy some more.

“How about tomorrow afternoon” he replied. This definitely isn’t dentistry on the NHS. “You won’t be able to eat for three days, cold liquids only, shall I book you in to get the first two removed? We’ll do the other two the following week”

Ugh. OK.

I was loaded up with a prescription for a concoction of pills which elevated my junkie pill-popping status somewhat. I think anyone addicted to painkillers should make a beeline to India because not only do prescription-only painkillers cost about £2.00 for a 2 week supply but the pharmacist also gives you back your prescription paper so you can go to another pharmacy to get even more! This is India! Hmm, I wonder if they do co-proxamol here.

The Day of Extraction

My final meal before extraction was an Italian BMT Subway on honey-oat bread, delivered hot and fresh to my office. At 5pm I walked the lonely road (well, across the lonely road) to the dentist. At 5:10pm I was in the dentist’s chair in a very vulnerable position staring up at the ceiling.

Now I want to get the opinion of others here that have recently had local anesthetic injected in to the roof of your mouth and gums. Do you cry a bit? I don’t know what it is but the sharp sting always seems to force out a couple of tears, which is frankly hugely embarrassing when you are a tough macho guy like myself. Do any other equally tough men here have this problem? There is something about the insertion of the needle that seems to literally force water in to the eye. Who knows.

Anyway. If you are squeamish and afraid of blood you might want to skip to the end where everything turns out alright in the end. My blog is kind of like a Hollywood movie really.

I’m always a little nervous about local anesthetic, what if it’s not enough for my superhuman body, what if I need more than the regular person and they go for a scalpel incision and the anesthetic hasn’t worked? Yeah, I have far to much of an overactive imagination. But it could happen, right? Bad batch of anesthetic. What if it didn’t go deep enough and as he starts drilling it goes in to some flesh which isn’t numbed. Shudder. Nightmares. Moving on.

Using tools which probably wouldn’t look out of place in a secret CIA rendition chamber in some 3rd world country the surgeon got to work on my troublesome lower teeth. 30 minutes later the tools had been replaced by some truly frightening equipment dreamed up by Hollywoods finest sci-fi/horror writers as he tried to wrestle the tooth out of the socket. There was twisting, turning, pulling and all sorts but it turned out that I was actually rather attached to my tooth.

Another 20 minutes later and we were back to good old human brute force as he stood up, clamped pliers around my tooth, carefully placed his right foot on my chest and heaved upwards. My world suddenly became a more frightening place.

Eventually though there was a sickening cracking sound which isn’t the tooth being crushed but rather the jaw bone giving up its hold and going for a quiet smoke around the back.

I kid you not, the surgeon was massaging his arm after that extraction and sweat was running down the sides of his head.

“Difficult extraction?” I tried to ask, but thanks to the numbed cheek, tongue and lips it came out as “niffilt extakta”. Fortunately the surgeon spoke numb tongue and he silently nodded his head. “Ready for the top one?” I asked in my stupid lisp. He didn’t look at me, he was instead staring intently at the array of very expensive tools that had been defeated by my tooth, but he nodded his head slightly.

Luckily for the surgeon, the top wisdom tooth was far easier to remove, although he did take a very deep breath before he started 🙂

The Extraction: Part Two

If you are a member of public reading this because you are about to have your wisdom teeth extracted, let me remove any doubts and put your mind at rest right now. It frickin’ hurts. See? Don’t you feel better now that you know what’s going to happen afterwards?

You will relive the moments as the surgeon levers out your tooth, you will dream about the cracking noise as the bone gives way, you will remember how the surgeon was twisting your head off trying to get the tooth out, your jaw will ache like hell, you can’t eat a thing, blood will fill your mouth for hours after the operation.

But after a few days it will be fine. And if you are lucky you can milk the sympathy for all it’s worth because you will look like blowfish with your cheeks swollen out to double the size of your face. Anyone who looks like that must have gone through a lot of suffering.

The following week I had to go back to get my stitches out (did I forget that you’ll be left with some bloody great big holes that need to be stitched up?) and confirm that I wanted to go through the entire ordeal again. I must have a deep seated masochistic side I never knew about.

Now I’m not saying that the surgeon wasn’t looking forward to removing the other wisdom teeth but the original appointment was scheduled for 4pm, then pushed to 5pm before finally being told that they’ll call me once he’s finished his weight training preparations.

After the drama of the other extractions these ones were quite easy, the foot on the chest technique wasn’t required this time and to make sure I got extra sympathy I brought my girlfriend along to watch – it was worth several fruit smoothies over the course of the next few days! However I think she took more delight in peering in to my mouth and demonstrating with her thumb and index finger just how large the holes were and how much blood was gushing out!

Wisdom Teeth Sans Jaw - Bottom Tooth On The Right

Wisdom Teeth Sans Jaw - Bottom Tooth On The Right

Being a veteran of tooth extractions now, I went home and barely moved my mouth for the next three days as the dentist ordered. It very nearly worked too because I was in much less pain except on the 4th day when I tried to make myself an omelette and I opened my mouth to put the food in, except my mouth didn’t open. Which was far more odd than alarming.

So I tried it again, but with similar results, I couldn’t open my mouth to put food in. (I realize that there is a joke in here about getting egg on my face, but I’ve chosen to purposely avoid it to maintain the high caliber of writing regular readers have come to expect from me.)

Fearing that I would be resigned to drinking fruit smoothies for the rest of my life (which can quickly get boring after 3 days) and being known by the neighbourhood kids as the man who can’t open his mouth I rushed to the dentists and pointed frantically at my locked jaw.

Oh boy, did I feel stupid. Apparently if you don’t open or move your mouth for several days your jaw muscles lock and seize up – resulting in the condition I had – Lock Jaw Pete.

The medically prescribed solution to locked jaw, as I was informed, is to get two wooden sticks, insert them in to your mouth and lever your jaw open slowly over the course of the day. Oh, and you really do look as retarded as it sounds!

As I’m writing this I’ve been diligently levering open my mouth and managed to get more movement in my jaw – I’ve now got a window of about 1cm to post very small pieces of food through and it’s getting better by the hour.

The Hollywood Ending

My stitches will come out tomorrow and everything seems to be healing very well.

On a more serious note I want to thank Dr. Satish and his team for fixing me up. Esthetic Smile is certainly the best Chennai dentist so if you are an expat living in Chennai and you’ve got some tooth trouble definitely head over to these guys, I was really impressed with the setup and felt very comfortable with the staff and the expertise. If you are British it would probably be cheaper to fly to Chennai, get your teeth done here and then go back to England rather than relying on the NHS to do it in 6 months from now!

* ‘we’?! Do I have some kind of semi-dormant schizophrenic disorder with multiple personalities?

** Mostly learned from WrongDiagnosis and WebMD with a smattering of Wikipedia articles

ignore me

you can ignore me, it’s for verification purposes. GAX5CVAHBPW7

I’ve Seen The Future. And It’s Green.

About two years (and a whole lifetime) ago I had my palm read by a fortune teller. You can read the outcome of that over on the Can You Read My Mind post.

And now, nearly two years to the day later, I had my fortune told again, but not by a palm reader, this time it was a little green parakeet (or parrot if you want the Indian word for it). Seriously, a little bird that’s kept in a tiny cage picks up some bits from a pile and based on that it can tell you your past, present and future. A bit like in A Christmas Tale, but replace the ghosts with a green bird.

So based on which cards the bird chose, the fortune was able to tell me (via a translator) the following:

Past:

– The course and education which I studied was different to what I actually wanted to study or should have studied.

– Just a few years back I had some associations with some girls which was not so good (nothing’s changed there then!)

Present:

– I have a good time to get married right now (yikes!)

– What I have now is much better in terms of relationships with friends and my life now is much better and what I’m choosing to do is much better than what I was doing before.

– I will not expect my parents money, or any of their wealth, or rather I would not be keen on taking it. I am more keen to make my own money than to take it. (doesn’t that make you feel much better, mum?)

– Apart from my job which I am currently doing, I will be having another income which pays me well. (seriously, how do they know this stuf?!)

Future:

– Some good news will come will come in 20 days (I will post back here on the 4th March, watch this space I guess)

– I have the opportunity to go to different parts of the world from India (Kenya!)

Funnily enough, the American client we were with and my boss had their fortune told as well and especially in the case of my boss the parakeet was particularly accurate about their past.

Eek!

The Two Indias and Generalizations

I’ve been accused on more than a few occasions (well, OK, on every blog post I make that mentions India) of over generalizing (yes, weirdly, my English has be Americanized since being in India and I now spell stuff with zee’s insteaded of esses) with my sweeping statements about the country, population and culture.

To some extent this is very true, but if I noted the exceptions to my generalizations they’d be longer than the blog post itself and then it would be, well, frankly boring. Even more boring infact.

However, I thought I’d talk some more about these generalizations, and then add a few more micro-generalizations in to the mix to annoy my Indian friends even more 🙂

The first generalization that I make is that I often allude to the fact that I’m talking about all of India, when infact what I may have observed or seen was just in Chennai, a city in the state of Tamil Nadu. To put this in perspective, imagine if I said everyone in Europe eats big sausages called frankfurters because I went to Munich and saw people eating them there. Get the picture?

The second generalization that I make is that I assume that what happens in the cities is the same as what happens in the rural countryside. Again, to give this some perspective, imagine if I said all teenagers in England wear their trousers below their arse and have big hoodie tops because I’d been to Brixton in London and seen this.

India should probably be called the United States of India because each state has its own language, culture and customs. They even have state laws, so some states are dry (like Gujurat) while others are fairly liberal with alcohol laws (like Goa). I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll say it again, but you have to imagine Europe being one country and then you can understand how varied the India is and how difficult it must be to manage.

What’s more is that North India is different to South India. South India is generally (there goes those generalizations again!) considered to be more conservative than the North, so anytime I mention something being ridiculously conservative or prudish, it may not apply to North India.

Similarly the metros (that’s major cities to you and I) are a much different kettle of fish to the rural areas. It’s fairly safe to say that the metro cities are less conservative and traditional than the rural counter parts. Infact, someone told me that marriage within the family almost never happens within the city now 🙂 awesome progress!

So when reading my blog and I use the stock phrase “in India”, consider the fact that I might be talking about something I saw down a side street in a slummy part of Chennai 🙂

As one of my friends said: Everything you’ve heard or read about India is true. But then, the opposite is also true.

Christmas and New Year in India

Wow, OK, I feel like I haven’t updated this blog in a while so let’s start off the new year by talking about last year. Backwards I know.

Christmas was the first time I’d spent it away from my family. Every year since the age of 18 I’d come back to my parents hometown for the Christmas and New Year period, but after spending two months back in England I was itching to get back to India – which may come as something of a surprise for some people!

Christmas in India can be summed up in a word: Understated

The weather is warm, it doesn’t feel Christmasy, there’s no cheesy tunes on the radio or being played in the shops (which could be viewed as a good thing depending on how you feel about Christmas songs!), there are no Christmas trees, no exchanging Christmas cards and no decorations.

Since India is predominantly a Hindu and Muslim country, I’m surprised that they have a national public holiday for Christmas as so few people actually celebrate it. Maybe they are just more enlightened though because they have public holidays for all the major religions here, or, as my friend just pointed out 11% of the population is Christian and 11% of 1.2bn is a massive number.

So, I worked on the 24th and it was like any other day and then for the first time in many many years woke up on Christmas day without a hangover, but it definitely felt just like any other day.

In an effort to make it slightly more special, I had booked a table at a fancy 5 star hotel restaurant. Rs 1,500 (about £18) per person for all you can eat and drink (including wine and beer) buffet. They laid on all the usual Christmas fair, even pigs in blankets, which were yum! They had turkey, roast potatoes, mince pies, everything infact, except for Christmas pudding. There was an entire BBQ selection outside, loads of cheeses (top tip: edam cheese is horrible) and because Indians are very serious about their desserts (and getting diabetes), several tables worth of cakes, ice cream and other sweets (no ‘profit roles‘ this time though!).

Apparently a lot of the 5 stars in Chennai do this kind of thing on Sundays for lunch, all you can eat and drink for around Rs 1,000, so going to have to check that out!

Once our lunch was finished, I came home, decided that this was a fake Christmas and did my laundry 😀

New Year was another understated affair, there’s not really the going out and celebrating culture that we have in the West and the few bars that there are in Chennai were charging scandalous cover charges just to enter, so that was ruled out. Anyway, turned out my friends either had other plans or couldn’t be bothered doing anything, so I opened a bottle of Extra Strength Kingfisher beer (“alcohol strength not below 6%”), watched James Bond, and forgot about midnight 🙂

Last year I made some resolutions, did I stick to them? What do you think. My Tamil vocab has expanded to around 20 words and phrases and I earned a nice amount from my websites.

All in all, 2009 was pretty good and better than 2008. Even the stressful visa troubles doesn’t seem so bad when I look back on it. I think 2010 will be even better 😀

Do I have any resolutions for this year? Well, kinda, but they are more like goals and things I want to achieve than resolutions, so here we go…

  1. Save up and buy a car (sorry, mum, I need to get a car and drive in India, but if I die, you’ll get £15,000 from my life insurance!)
  2. Lose some weight…again. I did well last year until I went back to England and put it all back on again. Bah. Stupid western lifestyles
  3. Go and see a bit more of India – some people dream of visiting India, I can visit the Taj Mahal in a weekend
  4. Bump my online earnings up to $1,500 a month. Currently I’m making between $500 and $800 a month, I want to double that at least
  5. Give more money to charity – I’ve discovered an altruistic side of me in 2009, but I also think the population of India should be doing more to help their fellow people
  6. Take a holiday to Thailand or Singapore

I think that’s all for now, I’ll let you know in 2011 how it goes!

New Camera Photos

This is just a bit of a boring post to show some pictures taken with my new Sony camera. It was £142 and I bought it from eBuyer (although they seem to have put the price up since I bought it). The camera is the Sony DSC-W270 and it has a 5x optical zoom, 3200 ISO and an optical anti-blur, which is extremely important for my shaky hands.

1. The Kitchen 🙂

My parents kitchen

2. The kitchen while trying out the anti-blur!

kitchen with anti-blur

3. Zoom!

Kitchen Zoom

4. Outside my parents house

outside parents house

5. Standing from the same position as above but zoomed in as far as it can go – see how sharp it is, despite my stupid shaky hands!

more zoom

6. Inside my parents house without the flash on, testing the light sensitivity!

Light sensitivity of the sony camera

7. Inside the house with the flash

Internal photo with the flash

8. Another internal shot without the flash

Internal shot without the flash

9. Picture from the same position as above but with the flash

photo with a flash

10. If you want the best seat in the house…move the cat!

move the cat

11. Flowers in my parents back garden

purple flowers

12. Close up of one of the purple flowers from the picture above. Using my awesome photographic skills I seem to have managed to get the camera to focus on the leaves rather than the flower. Erm, blame the autofocus!

close up purple flowers

13. Another flower from the garden, once again, managed to focus on the flower to the left rather than the one I was taking a picture of…d’oh!

another purple flower

14. Yay! A pretty flower. Taken in the interests of testing my camera! Honest!

pretty flower

15. Close up of the apple tree in the garden

apple tree close up

16. Random shot of a cup of drinking straws. Random.

drinking straws

17. A close up of my Dad’s, err, “organized” toolbox!

toolbox parts

18. A very forlorn cat trying to work out how to use a door

forlorn cat

19. A bowl of fruit taken using the flash

bowl of fruit

20. Same picture as above but taken without the flash and on the “natural” setting mode

another bowl of fruit

Well, hope you weren’t too bored by this post. And if you were thinking about buying the Sony DSC-W270 camera, hopefully you can see what it’s capable of. One thing I noticed was that the battery seems to run down pretty quick.

Let’s Try Not To Break This One

I’ve gained a rather unfortunate reputation amongst friends and family for being a little careless with small electrical items. It’s not entirely unwarranted since I have managed to put two phones in the washing machine (and proving that Nokia’s are infact the best phones money can buy, the N73 survived and still worked) and managed to drop a very expensive camera (although in my defence I was being chased by a 7ft Neanderthal across a very slippery surface). I’ve also misplaced countless memory cards which is unfathomable because there is not enough places to lose the amount that I have.

Oh yeah, and then there was that incident with the beer and my beautiful baby laptop 🙁

So anyway, business has been good recently, so I thought it was about time to buy a new digital camera, and maybe some insurance to go with it 😀

Before I go ahead and buy stuff over £100, and especially electrical items, I become a super nerd, slightly obsessive and research things thoroughly before making a decision. In this case I became a temporary expert on compact digital cameras. Although I would quite like a digital SLR and think they are really cool, they are a) out of my budget b) ridiculously large c) probably slightly overkill for taking pictures of all the tigers and elephants in and around Chennai.

So, after lots and lots of research I decided that I wanted a compact digital camera that did the following:

  • 5x Optical Zoom – all my other cameras have been 3x and it’s just not good enough
  • Optical anti-blur – if you are anything like me then you have hands which shake more than Muhammad Ali so need all the help you can get to take sharp photos, especially with a 5x zoom. There are two types of anti-blur, the cheapest is done digitally and is mediocre at best, but the choice for people like me is optical anti-blur, which if my understanding is correct, places gyroscopes on the actual sensor to remove all the blurs. The result? Professional, sharp photos even when fully zoomed.
  • Very high ISO – I’m still a bit fuzzy on this, but I think it has something to do with light sensitivity and how much light you need before you have to resort to a flash. In this case, I decided I wanted a camera with an ISO of 3200, which I think means it will take good quality photos with little light.
  • Megapixels – this is an interesting concept, to the layman (such as girls, mums and sisters), the more megapixels, the better the image quality. This isn’t entirely true because the quality of the lens and the quality of the light sensor plays a bigger role in the quality of the photo. Also, I read that the higher the megapixels the less light you can get on the sensor, or something like that! So you can quite easily have a 6 megapixel camera take better photos than a 10 megapixel one simply because it has a better lens, hardware and processing software inside.
  • The memory card – I prefer a camera with an SD Card, because the Sony Memory Stick Duo is stupid in that it needs an adapter to be put in to most card slots on laptops.

So with those stringent requirements, I set about researching for the right camera. I checked Amazon, Argos, Curry’s, numerous specialist camera sites. It seems that even supermarkets, traditionally the place to buy food, are now pedaling overpriced digital cameras to the masses as well now.

Spreadsheets, comparison charts and a mind full of user and editorial reviews later (we don’t talk about OCD around here), eventually I settled on the Sony DSC-W270, it met all the requirements except for the memory card one. However, I know that the Sony Cybershot cameras take very good photos in low light, so it’s a bit of a trade off. I also looked at some Panasonic ones and Canon but they were a little pricey and didn’t have as good reviews.

So Sony it was.

The Sony DSC W270

True enough, it doesn’t win any prizes on styling and beauty, but a camera should take good photos, not look good, right?

After more research on the price, I headed over to eBuyer who I used last year to buy my incredible Asus eeePC Netbook (which has to go down as my best ever purchase). If you haven’t used them before, I’ve found them to be cheaper than everyone else for electronic items and were £20-£100 cheaper than elsewhere – for the exact same camera. Sony, for example, sell this camera in their Sony Stores for a massive £199.99, whereas I paid just £142 for it.

Update: I just noticed that the price has gone up by £30 since I wrote this, so maybe it was an error on their site which is why it was so cheap?!

Anyway, I ordered the free delivery option (I ordered on the Sunday) and they said it would arrive by Friday, which is fine, I’m in no hurry, however this morning there was a knock at the door and they delivered it to me – something I could have paid £4.99 for to have it guaranteed by Tuesday. Result!

I thought I’d include a photo (taken with the new camera of course, you can’t write about a new camera without posting some sample shots) of the stupid packaging that the memory card, which I also purchased, arrived in…

Stupid packaging
(The photo was taken indoors with no flash)

Doesn’t it just seem a little over the top for a memory card? I even had to add a helpful little arrow (and pushed the boundaries of my photoshop skills to uncharted territories) to point out to readers where the memory card was in relation to the packaging. Even the box that the camera arrived in was a quarter of the size of this envelope.

I’ll try and remember to post some sample photos tomorrow of the winter landscape outside my house.

No Kissing Please… We’re British!

I love being an expat, I love working in a different country, and most importantly I love being in a place where you don’t have to wonder what the weather will be like – it’s always shorts and t-shirt weather. It’s always lovely and hot. Give me blazing sun over winter blues anyday.

I’d say 95% of the time I love being in India. The other 5% of the time I’m trying to bargain with theives Auto drivers.

One of the best things about being an expat is the sheer variety of people you get to meet, from all over the world. I have my little clique, as everyone does, and yes, it’s full of Brits with the occasional American to mix things up. (I’m sure my Scottish friend will take exception to being called a Brit though!).

Today, for example, I was playing football at the American International School (the private, $20,000 / year school for foreign kids) and there must have been at least 10 different nationalities. We even had a guy from Burma! Burma I tell you! I didn’t think they were allowed out of their country.

So all this schmoozing and hobnobbing with foreigners (I’m British, we’re not foreign, regardless of which country we’re in; they all speak our language [tongue is in cheek here and not meant to be taken seriously!]) brings up a problematic dilemma.

That of the social kiss.

To a Brit, personal space is everything, an acceptable form of greeting is to extend your right hand and have a firm handshake. Applies to guys and girls. If you are very close to the person (and they are of the opposite sex!) a light hug may be acceptable, if it’s initiated by the girl (note to guys; don’t initiate the hug, let it come to you. Could cause all kinds of problems otherwise).

So, I now have to navigate this social kissing minefield with foreigners from all over the world (and we are talking just the females here, don’t get any funny ideas). Honestly, for the poor British, who are perfectly happy with the formal handshake, social kissing is enough to give you cold sweats and shivers down your back.

I mean, do you go right cheek then left cheek? Or the other way round? Do you making a kissing noise? Do you just plant one kiss? Do you kiss the air or the cheek? Should you initiate the embrace? What if she leans in and you don’t realise and leave her hanging? Some people do three kisses, how are you to know? What if you accidently kiss on the lips?

Gah. This kissing problem is something you don’t consider when you move abroad. Consider yourself told, if you are thinking of moving abroad and not confident with your social kissing, you could be outcast and ostracized from the expat community. “Did you hear about Jeff? Monique went to greet him and he actually kissed her!”

And to Anita, if you are reading this, I’m really sorry! We don’t understand social kissing!

Let It Snow!

There is a bit of a cold snap occuring in England at the moment, temperatures down to -2 or -3 degrees C. Yesterday it snowed, so thought I’d post a few pics of Market Harborough in the snow.

snow in back garden

blackbird in snow

snow filled street

my house in the snow

snow on cross roads