Friday, February 26, 2010

Top 10 Boy and Girl Baby Names in the UK for 2010

Okay...I think this is an interesting list. Mainly because of the boy names.

1. Jack
2. Harry
3. Alfie
4. Thomas
5. Oliver
6. Daniel
7. Joshua
8. Charlie
9. Mohammed
10. George

3 of the names are the names of former Kings (Harry, George, Charlie). I hear Harry being called out ALL the time by parents to their children. I'm surprised it isn't #1. Charlie and Edward are other common boy names I hear being called even though Edward isn't on the list. Oliver is often shortened to Ollie which I think is cute. But Alfie? Really?

1. Olivia
2. Ruby
3. Emily
4. Grace
5. Lily
6. Jessica
7. Amelia
8. Chloe
9. Isabella
10. Emma

I don't think the UK girl names are very different from US top 10 names for 2010 kids--except maybe Ruby.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mind the Queue (a cultural note from Jon)

So, let's start with the basics.  In Britain, it's not a 'line" it's a queue.  Etymology? Apparently French, meaning "tail."  That makes sense enough.

More importantly, queues are a major cultural live-wire.  In Britain, you don't "jump the queue," if you you do, they may jump you.  Not really, but you may feel actual physical pains from the amount of nasty, dagger-eyes slabbing you from behind, and it's entirely possible that you will be publicly shamed.

This is all in theory, of course.  I've never seen it happen.  That's because people are so trained (or scared) not to jump the queue that they don't.  Ever.  Seriously, I've never seen someone jump the queue.  One clearly immigrant guy at the grocery store lost his head a few weeks ago and walked right in front of me to take his place at the self-serve checkout machine.  But he only lasted a nano-second before he popped right around and excused himself profusely to me for forgetting there was a queue.  Not that I had said anything.

O wait, Amelia has just read this over my shoulder and reminded me we did see ONE person ONCE jump the queue.  And it was raining at a outdoor light festival at the Cathedral and some folks walked right into the Cathedral rather than stand patiently for 30 minutes in the rain to get in.  Someone yelled sharply at the them, "MIND THE QUEUE!!!"  We were coming out and had, of course, not waited in the rain. (We don't really have British patience for queues.)  We used good ol' American ingenuity and went around to the back entrance where there was no line! Ha-ha!

This is all a lead-in to yesterday.  We were standing in a queue, and my impatience began to kick in.  "Why am I feeling culturally annoyed?" I asked myself.  We had traveled to York by car and parked at the Park and Ride to take the bus into town to see the Jorvik Viking Festival.  Here's the scene:

A small canopy with some benches for what would be a normal amount of commuters to the city centre.  One bus pulled up to the curb (double-length) with two more behind it.  A queue of would-be Jorvik celebrators and York-shoppers standing some 200 long all streaming from the one bus in front of the one canopy.  Each buying their tickets from the bus driver for the first bus.  The other two buses are just waiting.  No movement from their drivers.  No movement from the queue.

I realized then that it was entirely possible (if not likely) that in the States people would not wait patiently in the queue for the first bus but would break their line in half and begin trying to get onto the second or even the third bus.  In a very logical way, everyone would get to their destination sooner if they all split up and got on three different buses with three different drivers giving out three different sets of tickets.  But not in Britain.  In Britain, you "Mind the Queue."

That meant that everyone waited until the first bus was loaded, then the second one drove up and it too was patiently loaded, then the third, and so on.  Quietly. Orderly.  With no one but my inner American having showing the slightest sense of annoyance at this way of doing things.

Oh well.  It could be worse.  I could be in a hurry all the time instead of trying to slow down and let things take their time like the Brits do.  (I wonder if they would ever have road rage here... I doubt it.)  And after all, it could be worse.  I could be in Russia.  There (correct me if I'm wrong Karen), if you see a queue you get in it and you wait.  You may have no idea what it's for, but if there's a queue, it's probably worth having, and Russians can wait a LONG time in their lines.  5 hours I once spent in a queue in Russia!  (Long winters have trained them well for patience, I guess.)

So, remember, when in Britain, mind the queue!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Differences in Maternity Care UK vs. US

I thought that some of you might be interested in what maternity care and birth is like here in the UK. So far there are a lot of differences that I've noticed and I'm only in my 16th week of pregnancy. Some of my knowledge comes from friends who are also currently pregnant or have recently had a baby.

1. Everyone here sees a midwife, unless you are a high risk pregnancy. If, during your pregnancy, you have an issue arise that might require an OB's help, you have a consultation appointment with an OB. But, you keep seeing the midwife for all your prenatal appointments.

2. You can choose to have a homebirth or hospital birth where a midwife will attend your birth.

3. Even though there might be 6 or 7 midwives in the hospital group you are assigned to, you will typically see the same midwife each visit. This is because you are assigned a particular doctor's office and the midwives don't rotate their stations--they work at the office they are also assigned to. (Usually in the US if there is a group of midwives you rotate through all of them to get to know them and vice versa.) You don't know who will be on call when you go into labor.

4. They don't monitor your weight here. They get an inital weight at your first appointment and then they don't weigh you after that.

5. Some tests, like the glucose intolerance test, are not routinely administered unless there are certain risk factors to indicate a need for the test.

6. You only see the midwife for appointments at 8, 16, 28, 34, 36, 38, and 40 weeks. They routinely do 2 ultrasounds-one around 12 weeks to check for dates and one at 20 weeks to check for abnormalities.

7. You carry your health records with you to every appointment. They fill in information but they don't keep the file--you are responsible for it.

8. You have to bring EVERYTHING with you to the hospital if you have a hospital birth. Pads, diapers, hat for baby--normal things the hospital would provide in the US you are responsible for bringing.

9. It's FREE!

10. There seems to be a general assumption that your birth will be normal.

11. Epidurals are not as common here--somewhere between 30-50% of births, I think. In the US it is about 95%. They do use something here called "gas and air" which is laughing gas, I think. That is very common for women to use during the most intense parts of labor.

12. You get free dental, eye care, and prescriptions while you are pregnant and for 1 year after the birth of the baby. (The prescriptions may not be free for one year after--I can't remember)

13. You also get to bring in your "wee" (pee) at every visit. They provide you with a container that you wash and bring with you for each visit.

Overall there are a lot of good things that come with the NHS and the care you receive here while pregnant. I do wish that I was going to meet with more than one midwife during the pregnancy and also that I went a little more frequently. I know there isn't a lot that is done during appointments early on--checking for the heartbeat and feeling the top of the fundus to make sure everything seems like it is growing like it should, checking blood pressure and urine--but it would have been nice to hear the heartbeat a little sooner. Because of the fewer visits I feel a more disconnected from the practice and shy about calling for problems that concern with the pregnancy. Thankfully, I haven't had any issues come up but I don't feel the same kind of closeness that I experienced at the birth center in Pittsburgh. The system still feels like a system rather than the "mother centered care" value I had grown to love from the midwives in Pittsburgh.

There are independent midwives that are not part of the NHS and do homebirths but they are uber-expensive--I wan't to say around 6000-7000 US dollars. I think I would enjoy working with an independent midwife more but we don't have that kind of money to spend on a homebirth and I think the care I get is adequate.

Once I'm further along into the pregnancy I'll probably have a part II to this. I have my 16 week appointment on Thursday and I am looking forward to it. I haven't heard the baby's heartbeat yet and I'm still wearing my normal clothes. I'm tempted to be thankful that I haven't gained much weight or worried that the baby isn't growing like it should. This is the FIRST pregnancy that I've still been wearing my normal clothes for this long. With the boys I was growing out of my clothes somewhere between 12 and 14 weeks. I think I have another few weeks left in my trousers and I want some reassurance that everything is progressing normally. It works out well since my maternity clothes are still in the US!

Once I'm further along in the pregnancy, I'm sure I'll have a part II for you.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

On British Customer Service

We unsuccessfully ventured out to get the boys hair cut this afternoon. We left the house at 4:15 hoping that we could find some kind of barber shop/cheap salon open to cut their hair. Everything here closes early--even on a Saturday. We are so used to getting whatever service we want in America that we don't really think about planning very far ahead in the day. After driving by several places that were already closed before 5 on a Saturday afternoon we thought that Supercuts was our best chance since they are a chain and more likely to have later hours.

We arrived at Supercuts at 4:40. They didn't close until 5:30! Great!
Me: "Can we get the boys' hair cut?"
Supercuts: "No, we are finishing up here."
Me: "But, I saw you are open until 5:30."
Supercuts: "Oh, we have to cut this lady's hair first."

There were 2 stylists available. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the US we would have been welcomed since we got there well before closing time.

It is common here in the UK for restaurants, shops and other service shops to not let you in well before it closes because they don't want to serve you. If a restaurant closes at 6pm and you come in at 5:45 they are likely to tell you to leave or not let you order anything from the kitchen. In the US stores don't start closing until the last customer is served.

It makes life easier for the shop workers because closing time is closing time. The customer isn't the number one priority. Anyone who works in retail would appreciate the cultural difference. I was talking with a friend of mine who is from Canada. She is Muslim and we were talking about cultural differences in customer service. She lived in Egypt for several months and said that if she was looking for something the store owner would say, "Oh yes, we have what you are looking for (even if she didn't tell him what she wanted)." If the store owner did not have it he would find a way to get it. In Canada (and US) if you are looking for a service most places are willing to find a way to help you or even make some kind of special circumstance for you. It just isn't like that here in England. It's not right or wrong, it's just different!

(I started this post over a week ago and we did get the boys hair cut on Saturday. We went in the morning this time.)


For the past two days I've been feeling in a funk. Sort of like a gray cloud is hovering nearby. Kind of sad. I don't have any real reason to feel sad. I think maybe I'm just missing home and all the familiarities and comforts. I miss our family, the ease of talking to my friends, the familiarity of how things work, the ease of getting around without having to plan in advance, the sun. In regards to the sun I still have to get through February and March. Thankfully we'll get a good dose of it when we are in Texas in April! I'm soooo looking forward to warmer weather and sunny days! And Chuys, and Whataburger and, and, and...

That isn't to say that I don't enjoy living in England--I do very much. Life is simpler here in so many ways than it is in the US. I love our community here, the slower pace of life, the adventure, walking everywhere, making a smaller carbon footprint, hardly driving anywhere, spending less money on "extras". We don't spend as frivously here because it is such a chore to go shopping and we have very limited storage space to pack things in. Parking is difficult so we tend to stick to Durham, which is small, so we don't face the same temptations as we would if we "just ran into Target". No Targets here! We tend not to go anywhere. There are fewer fast food options so we don't do fast food very often. Simpler lifestyle=less spending on "extras".

I don't know what it is about loving the familiar but I miss it. I'm wondering when living here will be like second nature. When will doing something like DRIVING to Newcastle not seem so daunting and intimidating? (That reminds me of a story I should post about....) Maybe in another six months? Who knows. I do look forward to that and having a better understanding of the culture here and what to expect.