Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Foreign and Home Affairs Analysis with my Nanny

My recently widowed Grandmother (a.k.a. "Nanny") called me last night around 11.00pm. I think she still gets confused by the time difference.

Obviously I love her but she does offer loads of (unintentional) comic relief. She once sent me a letter addressed to "Scotchland" - which summed it up, really.

- Hello?

- Hi, Jennsy (Note: my nickname), how are ya? How's your arm? (Note: I had the swine flu vaccination last week)

- Hi, Nanny. Yes, my arm is better, thanks.

- Are you ok? There isn't flooding there. Is there?!

- No, it's just raining a lot lately but no flooding

- Well, I saw on the news that there was flooding in England and in the South of Scotland. Are you sure you're ok?

- Yes, Nanny, fine.

- Ok. I also saw on the news that there was a car bomb found in Belfast; it's all starting up again. Why can't they all just get along?!?! They're all Christians....!?

- Well, yes, but that's only part of it. Some people in Northern Ireland want to join the South - the Republic of Ireland - while others want to remain part of Great Britain.

- Whaaaaaat!?

- Yes, Nanny.

- The South? You mean....Ireland?

- Yeah

- Well....why won't Great Britain just let them then?

- Uh, well, not everyone wants them too, I guess.

- Whaaaaaat!?

I gave up after that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lessons and Observations from an Immigrant Volume # 1203

Life as an immigrant is all about the Three A's: adjusting, acceptance and assimilation. Being a Canadian, I've had it a bit easier than other immigrants as English is my first language and the Queen is still on our money (and Head of State in Canada). Nonetheless, I'm still perplexed by Scottish (British?) behaviour and customs.

For example, I'm still perplexed by flooding. How on earth is it STILL possible for trains to be delayed due to flooding? How are streets still capable of accumulating water and resembling a dirty marsh? It's not as if rain is entirely foreign to Scotland?! Scottish engineers have had since the Industrial Revolution to figure out appropriate drainage systems.

However, I've now adjusted and accepted to this aspect of life in Scotland and do not walk anywhere near amassed dirty water on flooded streets, as passing cars have been known to drive right through them, leaving a typhoon effect in their wake.

Another aspect of Scottish life that I've accepted, adjusted to and assimilated alongside? Text and email kisses. In all my working life back in Toronto, I don't think anyone ever signed off an email with a kiss ("x") nor did any of my friends - which many Scots seem to do. Initially I was perplexed ("Why is my colleague ending her emails with three kisses?") and would RARELY reciprocate. Perhaps it's because I'm an awkward and aloof Canadian averse to displays of affection.

In all honesty, it took me about three years in Scotland, before I would add a kiss at the end of work emails (YES, WORK).

Not to mention texts. Oh my god. They are mad for adding kisses at the end of texts.

Initially, I didn't mind adding kisses at the end of texts to girlfriends but to male friends? Forget it. Baby steps. It took me a while before I could add those to dudes. I mean, I didn't want to give the wrong impression (i.e. I didn't want to kiss them). Not to mention the whole other conundrum of dating (when do you add kisses to the end of texts, if at all? How soon is too soon?) I'm not the only one perplexed by kisses at the end of texts.

And as an immigrant, I've now fully adjusted, accepted, and assimilated. I am now KISSING mad!

Jennifer xxxxxx

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


A Canadian woman, Jordan Wimmer, is suing her former UK boss for sexual harrasment. According to the article, the former boss, Mark Lowe (a hedge fund manager, of course), sent her an email about locking women in the trunk of his car and calling her a "dumb blonde," were meant in jest and weren't demeaning.At one point, Lowe sent a message to his employees, including Wimmer, describing blondes as "incapable of distinguishing cornflakes from a puzzle." At the time, Wimmer was returning to work after hospitalization for treatment of depression.

Wimmer, 29, originally of Mississauga, has accused Lowe of a campaign of harassment, culminating in an attempt to run her down on a London street. While testifying in front of a London employment tribunal Tuesday, Lowe, 59, described Wimmer's allegations as "gross distortions" and "hugely offensive."

But under examination by Wimmer's lawyer, Lowe was forced to explain a series of "joke" emails that he forwarded around the office to employees, including Wimmer.

One was entitled, "Who is your real friend?" The body of the email read: "Put your dog and your girlfriend in the boot of your car for an hour and then see who is happy to see you."

Asked if he thought the email was offensive to women, Lowe said he did not.

She has variously accused Lowe of subjecting her to sexual harassment and belittling her with comments about her "full figure" and being a "stupid blonde." She told the tribunal that Lowe brought prostitutes to corporate events and pressured her into receiving lap dances at strip clubs during business trips.

On Tuesday, Lowe roundly denied those charges.

He told the tribunal that all of the women he brought to work were girlfriends, rather than hired escorts.

"I am not a monogamous man," Lowe conceded. He described overlapping relationships with a variety of female companions, though he said none of them were paid to share his company.

On the most damaging of Wimmer's allegations, Lowe was unequivocal.


Is this a case of British humour clashing with Canadian humour and Canadian hyper Political Awareness. Or, is this genuine sexual harassment? Frankly, the guy sounds like a total pig.
Another observation to add to my list:

Since moving to Scotland, I've noticed that in general, people don't seem to complain about the salaries of professionals - such as teachers. In Toronto, it seemed as if bitching about the pay of teachers was a past time. Indeed, any online article in the Toronto Star about teachers, seems to descend into mass hysteria and outrage over teacher wages.

People, you do realise that they are the ones teaching future generations and often spend more time with your kids than you do, right? Frankly, teachers are underpaid, considering what they have to put up with; I wouldn't want to teach them.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lessons From an Immigrant

Two weeks ago, I moved into a beautiful flat in Queen's Park and after the initial move, the (brand new and fully-integrated) fridge and freezer seemed to stop working overnight. All my delicious Marks and Spencers ready-made meals spoiled and I had to chuck out about £20 of posh grub. I was furious! I tried everything - messing about with the fuses, plugging the fridge into another power socket to no avail.

For the past week - SEVEN DAYS, people - I have been using the freezing cold mud room (also known as the "porch" in this country) as my fridge / larder. For the past week, I have been running from the back kitchen into the front mud room (where my butter, milk and vegetables were stored) in order to make a mere cup of tea. It was an ordeal.

Finally, after much bartering and begging, a fridge engineer came out to my flat this morning. He hummed and hawed and pulled the entire integrated fridge from out of the cupboard. He seemed to think there was a serious flaw with it all.

Until he asked if the electrical socket was switched on.

Uh, what?
You see, dear readers and fellow Canadians, it isn't just a case of plugging in your appliances and you're good to go. No, you need to SWITCH the power on - as illustrated above - in order to activate the power socket.

And apparently the switch, to activate the power socket, was off.

It was such an obvious solution that the engineer said he simply overlooked it.

And with that, he put the fridge and freezer back in place amidst a flurry of apologies from myself. The engineer said that normally he would have charged for that kind of thing but I guess I had paid enough in my pride. Ouch.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


The new (and only) Waitrose in Glasgow opens today!

I can't wait to check out all their overpriced but totally delicious food!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This is why I love Quebec!

Speaking of nationalism and separation, while Paul and I were in Quebec in September, we heard an interesting interview on CBC radio. It was with the director of a documentary called Questions nationales, which looked at nationalism within countries - specifically Quebec, Scotland and Catalonia.

Trailer below

Monday, November 09, 2009

I'm a bit late blogging about this but last weekend, Lauren and I went to the BBC Good Food Show, where I ate my first Arbroath Smokie - which was unbelievably delicious. While waiting in line for my smokie, some middle-aged and middle-class dude, cut in front of me (while the two guys behind the smokie counter looked on) and like a true Glaswegian, I called him on it and told him to get to the end of the line. And like a true asshole, he ignored me and marched up to the smokie booth, handed over his money and barked out his order. The two gentleman proceeded to apologise to me and serve the rude (and most likely NOT Scottish) asshole. In my most angry Canadian tone, I replied, "It isn't you who should be apologising - HE SHOULD BE!!!!"

Of course, he continued to ignore me and would not meet my gaze.

I honestly believe that he wouldn't have tried to pull that shit on me if I were a man, leaving me to believe that he was a misogynistic, Southern English asshole. Sure, I may be quick to judge him but seriously, if I wasn't some blonde North American and rather, a Glaswegian dude, there is NO way he would have tried to jump the queue.

In a country where people line up at a bus stop, people will not tolerate line-jumpers, especially angry Glaswegians who are only looking for an excuse to beat the shit out of you as it is. I guess I've assimilated more than I realise because I felt like smacking him upside his smug face.

Speaking of assimilation, a couple weeks ago, my step-father emailed me a story about a Scottish woman who moved to Toronto:

No matter how much I tried to adapt and fit in, still the questions came bubbling up. "Why do they use a different size of printer paper than in Europe?" And, most importantly, "three weeks' holiday a year? Is that it?"

Scottish friends mocked me for sounding Canadian, while Canadians still treated me like a foreigner. I was in cultural limbo, drifting between traditions and dialects, neither completely one thing nor the other. At the same time, I was an invisible immigrant: a member of the visible majority to whom no resettlement services are offered. Although I obviously enjoyed many advantages to help me settle in, I was experiencing genuine culture shock. I looked the part, but under the surface I was a mass of insecurity and unhappiness, terrified of unwitting social, or worse, work-related faux pas.

Jesus, you're lucky to get three weeks holiday in Canada. It's usually only two weeks. Nevertheless, I had a similar experience when I first moved to Scotland. Why do stores close so early and rarely stay open late? Why is paper a different size here (A4 rather than 8 x 11")? Why can't I open a bank account? What the hell am I going to do with 5 weeks holiday?!

And again, this weekend, The Globe and Mail featured an article about a Canadian couple who moved to England:

Why did we up sticks and leave our home, jobs, friends and family, all of which we loved dearly? To have the experience of living in another country. To take up an exciting career opportunity. To be closer to France (among other countries). To shake things up. To leave our comfort zones. To drive on the other side of the road.

From then on, I'd face that question in just about every conversation with someone for the first time. It was the common thread in small talk with co-workers, neighbours, estate agents, farmers at the local market, pub landlords and bed-and-breakfast hosts.

I'm often asked the same thing, why did I move from beautiful Canada to gloomy and grey Glasgow? I answer honestly and say because I love this city; the people; this country.