Reflecting back on the last 30 years (I’m 30)

30 years ago today, aside from the first ever episode of the most popular British soap Eastenders airing, I was born.

I absolutely couldn’t care less that I’m 30. I haven’t been dreading this day, nor do I attribute any sort of aging to it, any more so than any other day. However, a “n0” birthday is a milestone that only comes along once a decade so it seems like a perfect time for some reflection.

The last 10 years

Since February 2010 (the last 5 years), quite a number of things have changed in my life. I became a professional engineer, I became a father, I have another child on the way, I started my own business which is now thriving and I moved house 3 times.

In the last 10 years, even more has changed. In February 2005, I was in my second year at university, was single, living with my Mum in the UK and I was working for the NHS. Over the next 5 years, I would meet and fall in love with Marti, graduate from university, become a Christian, move to the States to be with her, get married 60 days later, battle 8 months of being unable to work before getting my green card, a job, my driver’s license, a car and our first apartment in the space of about 4 weeks.

Reflection on who I am

Me in December 2005 - the first time I ever visited Marti
Me in a decidedly emo pose in December 2005 – the first time I ever visited Marti

As I think about the man I am today, where I’ve come from and the boy I used to be, I’ve noticed quite a few specific observations about how I’ve changed in particular and more general observations about how we as humans mature (or don’t).

The first thing is that nothing is given. Not only is nothing guaranteed but you’ll change in ways and do things that you would have never believed, conceived or thought possible.

An American’s perspective on using Britain’s “Socialised medicine”

I saw this article come across my news feed the other day, and being a Brit living in America, it piqued my interest especially given my love of the NHS (that’s the National Health Service to you non-Brits).

It’s written by an American who lives in the UK and it explains his own experience of both healthcare systems.

I think you’d be hard-pushed to find an American who doesn’t believe the healthcare system is broken (though they may have quite different opinions on how it should be fixed).

On the contrary, the NHS is much-loved in the UK and is far from the third-world car-crash that many Americans perceive it to be.

Why Brits make fun of themselves

Me and my wife have been married for 8 years now, but while she may be a bit more familiar with British English, as it’s something I expose her to every day, she has a lesser grasp on the cultural and societal differences in England, given that she’s only spent a few weeks in the UK (compared to me having lived here for 9 years).

One thing that she couldn’t quite grasp lately caught my attention. Me and my brother were having a friendly spar on Facebook where we tease each other and take the piss out of one another. Martina didn’t see it that way, thinking I was just being nasty. It’s a disconnect that I’ve noticed for a long time, especially when I consider how this bonding ritual is now all-but-absent from my life.

andy-clements

Respecting others’ opinions

The world has never been smaller and we’ve never been closer to people of different backgrounds than we are today. We are immersed in a world where Christians, Muslims, atheists, Brits, Mongolians, Communists and those under dictator rule are but a click away.

With so many different belief systems – political, religious, cultural, social and moral to name but a few – now part of a global, inter-weaving conversation, we’re surrounded by people who have very different views on a wide range of issues.

We have to acknowledge that, while in some disagreements there is clearly a wrong position and a right one, (many) others have two (or more) very good solutions.

The culture of tipping

As a Brit, the culture of “tipping” was something rather foreign to me when I moved to the States. In the UK, it’s not very common to tip anyone. Your waitress might get a few quid if she’s done a particularly decent job, but it’s by no means required or expected and would be quite small in comparison to what is the norm in the States. And you’d certainly never rarely tip your barman, barista or taxi driver.

It’s taken me a few years to get used to and accept the culture of tipping, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with it.

Now, waiters and waitresses (and other workers highly reliant on tips): don’t lynch me yet.

I recognise that a large portion of your salary comes from tips. I am by no means saying that you’re not worthy of a decent income. I’m merely saying that I don’t agree that the majority of your income should come from tips.

Christmas in Brighton

Me and my family are spending three weeks in the UK for Christmas, and we’re really enjoying ourselves.

I’m having a particularly great time, seeing old friends and family and scratching the itch of the love for my home city: Brighton.

Who’s my doctor?

It’s inherently hard to trust doctors in America. In the land of the free, healthcare is privatised and opened up to the free market, which brings with it the ugliness of capitalism. I’m by no means anti-capitalist: it does a lot of good and has even enabled me to start and run my own business. However, my health is one of the few things that I do not want subject to the many faces of capitalism.

In case you weren’t aware, I hail from the wonderful rolling hills of England. I am proud to be British, but don’t shove it in other people’s faces (a la “America is the best country in the world”). The British way is still very ingrained in British culture and the way we do things, regardless of the influence that America has had on our society.

One of the vastly different ways that things are done in the UK is healthcare. Established in 1948, The National Health Service (NHS) brought freely accessible healthcare to all, regardless of one’s ability to pay. Funded by taxes, the NHS is still almost universally where all Britons’ healthcare is conducted, unless you happen to be quite rich and decide to opt for private healthcare.

Doc Brown: a class comedic act

Doc Brown is a rapper cum comedian who has enough street sensibility to be able to churn out a decent rap, while being middle class enough to appeal to a broad comedic audience.

His melange of politics and urban sentiment makes for a great show. It will be especially appreciated by Brits, with My Proper Tea being a particular favourite of mine.

If we won

Stephen Merchant, of The Office and An Idiot Abroad fame, made this hilarious ad for Newcastle Brown Ale, talking about how much better America would be if we had won.

Derek: the good and the bad

I love watching Derek: it’s a fantastic, heart-warming and endearing dramedy written by and starring Ricky Gervais. The only downside is that it makes you realise what a shithead you are.