Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fish Out of Water

Okay, yes, I know that's a corny cartoon, but I couldn't resist!

Despite being here in London for almost eight years now, sometimes I still feel like a fish out of water (minus the scales, the gasping for breath, and the bulging eyes).

When I wrote Build A Man -- where the main character is a recent American transplant -- many of those feelings just came pouring out, surprising me. The strangeness of my new home still lingers.


Jaffa Cakes. I couldn't resist putting these in my novel, even though I'm not a fan. They're orange and chocolate cookies. . . and they're definitely not my favourite, although they're beloved by many a Brit!

Oceans of Tea. My word, these people can drink tea. From 'builder's tea' (strong with lots of sugar) to posh loose-leaf tea, you're never far from it!

Drinking Outside. Oh, I love this one. You can drink outside the pub, in the park, skipping merrily down the street . . . sadly, you can no longer drink on the Tube (not that I'd ever do that, of course). I still get a little frisson of excitement that I'm doing something wrong whenever I crack open a bottle in public.

Posh British Accents. There are several British accents I'm not so keen on, but I'm fascinated by the plummy tones of the upper-class.

Architecture. Coming from North American cities where many buildings resemble either glass boxes or a sprawling mansions, I'm still in awe of the lovely, neat terraces lining the London streets where I live.

Have you ever felt like a fish out of water? What struck you as strange? 


Have a great Wednesday, everyone!

69 comments:

  1. When I first started writing I felt like a fish out of water. At my writer's meetings I wanted to crawl under the table when anyone would ask me about my hero's journey. . .er. . .what???
    So I spent the next two years really honing my craft and paying it forward to the other new writers b/c I remember that feeling. Great post!

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  2. Is it odd to say moving back to the states? Because truly, I still feel like a fish out of water somedays and I'm a little bit surprised by that.

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  3. In my neigborhood! I love the area, but everyone has lived here their whole lives and they still run around in their high school cliques! It's crazy. Then I tell them I home-school my kids and they look at me like I have three heads!

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  4. Yes, I have felt like a fish out of water, and it was when I went to visit a friend in Wisconsin of all places. I live in Virginia (pretty much the northern point of the Southern Bible Belt area), but in Wisconsin, they drank alcoholic beverages on the open streets. Even their State Fair had booths where you could buy alcohol. At our fairs here, they have a beer tent, and you can't take any beer outside the line, so it was quite the culture shock (not one I minded). It fascinated me to no end.

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  5. I always used to feel like a fish out of water with my brothers' and my parents' friends. Mine are all very different - and now I have my own 'family' of friends I'm fine!

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  6. My heroine starts in New York and goes to live in central Europe where her mother's family originated. Plenty of room here for not being in the right skin. Fascinating to write as well.

    I've lived, studied and worked in France and Germany and although only a few miles across the Channel from my native UK, everyday life has striking differences; fascinating, infuriating, but striking.

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  7. I feel like a fish out of water everywhere but in my own zip code. That's just the way it is. Sometimes it passes... others, I can't wait to get home.

    Have a good day.

    Lou

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  8. I moved from the northeast to the deep south and I'm still trying to keep the water over my head. I am so out of the element down here I just keep praying that someday I'll go back to where I need to be. Like a salmon swimming up stream.

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  9. I don't often feel like a fish out of water, but I'm not one for being too far from familiar home roots, either.

    I like the cartoon. Sometimes the corniest are the best :)

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  10. It took a while for me to feel less like a fish out of water when I was in Italy for a semester. The drinking in public and fun accents (both things shared by Italians as well) are the least of one's worries when there's a whole different language to keep up with. It's definitely all psychological though. The more confident you are in yourself, even if you don't jive with the culture exactly, the less you'll feel out of place.

    <3 Gina Blechman

    P.S. I'm pretty sure I could out tea drink most brits, lol. You should see my tea collection. It's obscene! :-)

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  11. Drinking in public would freak me out, too. How titilating!

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  12. When I first started blogging and writing. This is all so new to me and I have never studied writing. Some of the terms used out here and acronyms seemed very strange. Being totally honest, I didn't even know what YA meant at first. :-) Thankful to have found a great school of fish to swim with and have learned so much!

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  13. I might feel like one if I went or moved to London. But London...I wouldn't mind feeling this way if I got to live there, especially after your delightful descriptions!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

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  14. I almost always feel like a fish out of water, kinda out of step with the rest of the planet. I am learning to embrace it.
    Karen

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  15. First of all, I LOVE that cartoon! I have felt like a fish out of water many times! Even going back to one's hometown after many years is difficult sometimes.

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  16. Oh, wow, England sounds incredible. Unforutnately, it's probably a place I'll never see unless we win the lottery, and I can get my sister or mother-in-law or a girlfriend to go with me. Because my husband isn't interested in going abroad. He only wants to fish, and there's no reason to visit Spain or Italy or Greece or London to do that, even if they have sufficient bodies of water.

    Though, he'd love the drinking outside!!!

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  17. I don't think I do though when I with a bunch of women and they start talking about cooking I kind of pretend I know what they're talking about.
    I like tea at times but not all the time with everything.

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  18. I was wondering what Jaffa cakes were! Living in New York City made me feel like a fish out of water--there were just so many people rushing around to do so many important things. I never got used to that.

    Also, I'm gushing about Build a Man on my blog today. :)

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  19. I like going to New York for the day but I could never imagine living there. I'm too much of a country girl.

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  20. I felt really out of place when I first moved from the North to the part of the South I live in now. I'm used to living here now, but when I visit my family back home, I realize how badly I want to return.

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  21. Every time I moved! Lived overseas a couple times and it's a good thing kids are adaptable.
    Bet you enjoy the drinking part, Talli.

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  22. I always feel a fish out of water with my family. I'm a vegetarian in a family of meat-eaters, I'm the "silent one" in a family of talkers, and I'm the crazy cat lady in a family erm.. no crazy cat people. I find that last one very strange...! LOL! Take care
    x

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  23. I have always felt like a fish out of water in America and I'm a born and raised Georgia girl! The only place I've ever felt at home here is Savannah where I lived for a couple of years. I'm yearning to go back.

    The place I've felt most at home, oddly enough, was in Ireland. I spent 2 weeks there 10 years ago and I've been homesick ever since. Weird, huh?

    Great post!
    Jen

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  24. I am fish out of water in the US. I find the right wing attitude a bit over the top and scary to be honest. I miss Jaffa cakes and smiled whenever Serenity popped one into her mouth! I miss strolling through a town with a real center and I miss the sea. The smell of it, the sight of it and the feel of the mist on a windy day. Is this too much information?? :)

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  25. Oh, only at every new school I had to go to...we moved a lot when I was a kid. Or any new job.
    But even more so when I'd go back to visit my co-workers when that job was over. It took less than a week for me to feel like an outsider!

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  26. Yes, to the "plummy" British tone. I love them. I also really love the idioms that are unique to that lovely island.

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  27. Where it gets *really* weird is when you feel like a fish out of water when you get back to your old side of the pond!

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  28. I bet that can be fun to just sit back sometimes an absorb another culture Talli.

    Being from the South (US), we moved North several years ago and I am still a fish out of water. Most folks here are still shocked if while walking past them I smile and say good morning. And waving to other drivers with all five fingers, now that is a unique mannerism that I bring to the locals.

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  29. I travel quite a bit so I've definitely felt like a fish out of water. The hospitality of great people has always made me feel welcome though. :)

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  30. LOL, living in New Orleans, I always forget that you CAN'T drink in public in other places. Whoops. ;)

    I love the quiet pace of my city, so when I visit larger ones, I'm always surprised by the hustle and bustle.

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  31. People here in Florida, bundle up in 50 degree weather....boots, hats, winter coats. I chuckle to think these Floridians should only experience the REAL COLD and they will be chuckling, too.

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  32. My entire year in France was spent like a fish out of water. But it was good, in a way. :) I learned things I never thought I would! :D

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  33. Haha. Love the cartoon!

    I moved from England to a remote Orkney island, spent 12 years there and loved it, and felt like a fish out of water as soon as I returned 'home'.

    Jaffa Cakes - yum!

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  34. I laughed out loud at the cartoon :)

    I grew up in Houston, but the first time I lived in New York I felt like a fish out of water. And when we moved from NY to a small town in Tennessee, I got the feeling all over again.

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  35. Only when I go into a ghetto area; otherwise I feel pretty comfortable most anywhere.

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  36. The cartoon is simply awesome.

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  37. I haven't felt that way, at least not yet!

    Those orange and chocolate cookies sound tempting....

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  38. When I first moved to Yorkshire and was hailed with the greeting 'Now then!'. Where I come from, that's usually followed by some form of condemnation (now then, what have you spent all that money on?) but up here it's a general greeting, sometimes even abbreviated to 'Now'. Seventeen years later, and 'now then' can still make me wonder what I've done wrong...

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  39. You can drink on the street in New Orleans. When I went there in October, I couldn't get over it. I didn't do it.

    I love those "plummy" accents too. But I don't get the tea. I especially don't get the marmite.

    There were minor adjustments when I moved from New York to Cambridge, but they were minor. Moving to a new country must be huge, especially if you don't speak the language.

    I often feel like a fish out of water when I do something for the first time. Everyone does, I guess.

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  40. It was ten years ago my friend and myself was in N. Ireland and was going to a concert, The entertainer(not Daniel) was recording a dvd to celebrate 15 yrs in the business. He had us up on stage to play tambourines while he sang to warm up the audience.....we warmed them up alright as he sang a song that was impossible to play a tambourine to. Fish out of water? I wish there was a trap door on stage.

    Yvonne.

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  42. Talli, returning to the UK after seven years living on the Continent left me feeling like a fish out of water (though not one that was thrown back because the EU's fishing quota for Welsh people had been exceeded ;)

    There was an 'europäische Mentalität' (European Mindset) we shared while abroad; to return to the UK was to encounter a wave of Euroscepticism without foundation. And that was in 1994. It's far more virulent and unreasonable now.

    I always say, it's fine to be insular, because we're an island race, but not to be parochial.

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  43. I felt like a fish out of water when I was growing up, because my family moved so much, I was always the new kid in school. But now I look back and think that probably gave me a wider outlook and is probably one reason I love other cultures so much. Enjoy England, Tali. We've travelled there a few times because I have relatives there, and I love England whenever we've gone. Like you, I love the many accents and the old architecture.

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  44. Been here six years and I still feel like a fish out of water! LOL!

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  45. hahaah that's a cute cartoon!

    I've never moved anywhere (I'm too much of a wimp to leave my comfort zone), but I definitely felt like a fish out of water when I first started writing and going to critique groups. YIKES I was terrified and felt like I knew NOTHING. Sometimes I still feel like I'm in over my head, but it's getting better :)

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  46. Why does a drink always taste better out in the street?

    I've probably looked like a fish out of water plenty of times, but at the moment I can't recall feeling that way. Hrmm.

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  47. Fish out of water: I still feel that way living in rural Colorado. I am still very much a city girl. Are Jaffa cakes like Pims?

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  48. I feel like a fish out of water in every crowded room I walk into! :)

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  49. HI, Talli,

    Well this certainly hit home for me. I am now a midwestern transplant. Chicago. Although this is a large city and tres cosmopolitan, it isn't.... The midwestern mentality is engrained in every brick of every structure.

    Being from the East... NYC, I definitely feel out of place. I think differently and act differently than most of the people hear. No, I am not one of those loud, crude, pushy New Yorkers. LOL. I can't take them either, but I'm used to them.

    I have been here seven years and still feel very much out of place. I hope to return back east soon. it's where I belong.

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  50. Most of the time! and even in my own country there are different expressions and sayings in different states, so that you need to stop and think for a moment what the person was referring to.

    Other than that, definitely China - not so much Shanghai or Beijing, but further inland where fewer people speak English. I needed medical attention and was directed to the local hospital - I felt more like a fish in a fish bowl with all the people watching me with undisguised interest. (Now there's a good blog post - I'd forgotten all about that. Thanks Talli!)
    Sue

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  51. Hi Talli .. quite often still .. not quite sure where I fit! I care less now and wander around happily .. but visiting places for a first time can have interesting consequences .. cheers Hilary

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  52. In high school I played the Queen in Snow White, and was thrilled when some of the parents thought I was really from England. I still practice my "plummy tones" if only to annoy my kids. Julie

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  53. Love your post! I get the feeling when joining any kind of new group.

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  54. I moved from London to small-town Indiana for a year in the 1970s and was totally out of my depth. Talk about 'divided by a common language'!

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  55. What, no fish and chips? Pie and mash? Jellied eels?

    I actually feel more at home here in London now compared to back home in Malaysia. Sure, the food is way better, but I've not spoken Malay and Chinese for so long now, I struggle to hold a proper conversation in either! Yes, I adore the architecture in London, and yes, I have grown to LOVE Jaffa Cakes! They can get so more-ish! Adore how you put them cakes in BUILD A MAN!

    One thing I still can't get used to, is that to the British, "pants" do not refer to trousers, but underwear! Have committed more than a few faux pas because of this!

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  56. LOL I think I feel like a fish out of water FAR too much:) Good post Talli:)

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  57. I too love European architecture. And accents. And tea :-)))

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  58. I was a New York City teen out of water when my parents moved to the Midwest. Though only two states away...I felt light years apart.

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  59. Living down here in Mexico, I'm almost always lost. Their habits and customs baffle me sometimes. They're a very superstitious bunch, most of them and it shows. Even their thoughts on pregnancy and newborn babies.

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  60. AH yes, I can relate a bit. I was raised on the east coast of the states, and moved closer to the heartland 7 years ago. Although the people are generally very nice here, there was (and still is, actually) a bit of culture shock.

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  61. I absolutely love jaffa cakes! especially with a cup of tea :)

    Did you know about the story of the legal argument for jaffa cakes? I can't remember it all, but there was a legal argument about whether jaffa cakes were cakes or biscuits. It was a tax issue really but it's a great story. Sorry I don't have the ending for you.

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  62. I thought every country had Jaffa Cakes!;D

    I was overwhelmed by the kindness of the Cypriot villages. I spent the first month in tears. Every day I went for a loaf of village bread, I came home with bag loads of gifts (fruit and veg). Something I had not experienced in the UK. I felt a fish out of water because I couldn't speak Greek. I manage a little now.

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  63. LOL@ Jc, I love what you said about the word 'pants'!!!

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  64. Oh gosh, all the time Talli! 4 years in Japan & there wasn't a day I felt like a fish IN water. Most days I felt like a whale in a pond. Now in the US my biggest problem is my British accent. I have to consciously drop the 'T' in words like water and writer otherwise it takes time for some people to comprehend. And trying to order a 'Latte' (trying saying that in posh British) well it's impossible!
    Funnily enough I feel a little out of place back "home" now too. I suppose you do too?

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  65. Mostly I feel pretty much the same in any environment. I tend to be low key and adapt well.

    I guess I feel most uncomfortable in government buildings like the court house, DMV, or something like that.



    Lee
    A Faraway View

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  66. When I used to live in Africa I ALWAYS felt like a fish out of water. Trying to blend in (I am white!) was just never going to happen. But I learnt to love what I ate, take the day as it came.. Give me fried gingery plantain any day!

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  67. I've been in New Zealand for 9 years and I still feel at odds sometimes.

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  68. I feel like a fish out of water if I am somewhere really boring that everyone else seems to love. Luckily there aren't many really boring places! :)

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Coffee and wine for all!