Sarah J. Carlson

Contemporary Young Adult Author

Tag Archives: Musings

Wait….there’s no meat in it? On being the token Yank: Christmas Edition


So I’m an American living in Singapore. Have been for the past year and a half-ish.

10256652_10100472610562175_862716297238446126_oI haven’t encountered many Americans while living the expat life; plenty of Brits and Aussies though. So my husband and I actually hang out with a lot of English people, which is pretty awesome. Since we’re living in a foreign Asian country, that makes us all relatively similar. Kind of weird, right? And since we’ve been friends for quite a while now, a lot of the usual random questions we’ve had about each others’ countries have been covered. (One of their questions: do you really have yellow school buses? One of our questions: how do you have so many accents on such a small island?) We’ve gone through the usual vocabulary differences and I’ve added some surprising words to my British English lexicon, which is huge!!! (Aubergine=egg plant, that one that surprised me recently)

I can proudly say I can recognize the difference between the slightly north of middle all the way to a Northern English accent from a Southern English accent and a posh accent. …And now when talking to new English people, I categorize their accents by comparing them to my friends, lol. I.e. Oh, they sound like Bob, they must be from around Manchester. Or Game of Thrones. I use that, too 😛

Anyway, we were recently at a friend’s Christmas party sipping some mulled wine (which was awesome) when my friend brought around a plate of mince pies (which I also know to be minceMEAT pies).

1-1259080723rq3B(not my photo)

Important side note, American friends: mince is used in place of ground, so like minced beef instead of ground beef, which added to my presumed meat connotation in connection to mince, as that’s what they call it in Singapore, too). My husband loves meat pies, so he was quite excited (see, not just me!).

So we took a bite…

eatingAnd there was dried fruit in it.

It was, what we polite Midwesterners would say, interesting…. It tasted kind of sweet and sour and dry and fruity I guess? No meat. The flavor kind of reminded me of maybe a fruit cake? Anyway, we shared our experience with some of our other English friends, and they thought it was pretty amusing. Apparently there is a little bit of beef suet (fat) in it though, so there’s that. I looked up the recipe. Dangggg those things are hard to make! Recipe calls for like 20 ingredients that are minced then left to sit for at least 3 days! I have a whole new appreciation for mince pies now.

After I wrapped my brain around it, I did like it though 😀 My husband, not so much. Shhhhh don’t tell my friend! Obviously, every culture has their own unique holiday foods with which they have strong, fond associations. Us Americans, we have pumpkin pie 😛

Have you ever had any interesting holiday food experiences?

Happy Thanksgiving from Singapore!


gif thanksHey America, hope you all have a great Thanksgiving! Those of you who don’t work in retail, enjoy your day off. Those of you who do work in retail and have Black Friday creeping into your Thanksgiving, I’m sorry. I truly am. I worked at Wal-Mart for three years. I’ve lived it. Oh, and Canada, I’m so sorry I forgot yours; my mom’s Canadian, so I even know it’s in early October. And if you’re not American or Canadian and receiving my belated “Happy Thanksgiving,” happy…um…almost December.

I got a reminder this week of my token-ness (i.e. being a token Yank that is). I was at a packed comedy club with my English friends. It was a diverse crowd. The MC did the whole, “Let me see where all the Singaporeans are!” Tons of cheers. “Indians!” Tons of cheers. “UK friends!” My whole table and some more. “French people!” Even they had a hearty cheer. He didn’t ask where all his Aussies were because I’m sure there was a ton of ’em 😛 Then came….

“The Americans!”

Crickets. Then my lowly “Wooo!” fist raised. LOL. Only one in a crowd of probably 200. To be fair, there was a lone German guy, too, and he and a Singaporean got to be the butt of a lot of jokes. I was actually surprised the US didn’t get picked on. There’s just so much ammo….

Anyway, Thanksgiving. Second most (North) American holiday behind 4th of July. I have to say, my non-American friends are generally pretty fascinated by Thanksgiving, both the food we eat and its purpose. “Why do you eat turkey? It’s stringy and dry,” I was asked at the previously-mentioned comedy club night.

It got me reflecting on what my family does for Thanksgiving–spend a lot of time prepping and eating food, watching football (oh, crap I need to set my fantasy football line-up!), maybe going out to a movie, planning out big Black Friday shopping spree, having a few drinks, maybe playing some games. It’s all about bringing family together, that’s the essence of Thanksgiving to me. Let’s just not get into the historical significance of it… Or kids dressing up in Native American headdresses at school….

Anyway. It’s always hard being on the opposite side of the world from your family, particularly on holidays. Particularly Thanksgiving/Christmas. Miss my family tons. But my husband and I will be celebrating Thanksgiving with a bunch of his other American co-workers on Saturday, potluck style. Last year, not gonna lie, we had better food at this Thanksgiving than at my parents (SORRY Mom and Dad, it was just more variety! :P).

So friends, I have two questions for you today! Feel free to answer one, both, or none 😛

1. Even if you’re not American. What are you thankful for? (For the record, no my family did not sit around the turkey and do this :P). Me personally, it’s having this last year and a half to focus almost exclusively on my writing. I have a fantastic husband!

2. If you were cursed and could pick only ONE Thanksgiving dish to eat, what would it be? (non-American friends, substitute Christmas for Thanksgiving 😛 Me? Not going to lie, it’d probably just be turkey. I mean you just can’t even have Thanksgiving without it.

On being the token Yank: I’m baaaaaaack!!!


photo (5)….So this happened today. Yup, my first ever official beans on toast experience. I was at a “proper Sunday roast” complete with Yorkshire pudding and my friends were talking about beans on toast. Yes, I’ve definitely heard of it before and I’ve definitely mopped up some Bush’s baked beans with bread, but I’ve never actually tried it.

I’m a bit overdue on my grocery shopping, so today I was scrounging through our cupboards looking for something, anything, to eat for dinner and discovered we had a can of sketchy-looking Halal beans with no hunk of meat. So then it happened. Beans on toast.

It was…interesting, which is what we Midwesterners say instead of saying we don’t particularly care for something 😛

I’m blaming the beans. Totally the crappy beans. Next time I promise I’ll use Heinz baked beans.

Backstory for “On being the token Yank”:

Over here in Singapore I just don’t know many Americans, even though I’m sure there are plenty. I hang out mostly with English, Scottish, Australians and a few locals who also speak the British variety of English. Weird, right? Travel to the other side of the world to hang out with people from a different side of the world. It’s amazing how similar we seem when surrounded by Asians.

If anyone has any beans on toast preparation advice, please share!

On being the token Yank: “We’ll turn you European yet!” Cultural differences in saying good bye


Image(The awkward bro hug two tap on the back I’d be okay with. Kissing cheeks? Not so much)

Yesterday I was at a meeting with some of my fellow Singapore Writer’s Group (which is an amazing group of writers, seriously! But 505 members on Meet-Up is not exactly functional). Being Singapore, we are a fairly culturally diverse group. After serious discussions about our future as a group, we parted ways.

I actually was NOT the token Yank at the time. There was one other. Note this. It’s an important fact.

So the three English women and one French women started hugging and kissing each others’ cheeks. Then it was my turn. This is kind of what I wanted to do:


Obviously I went along with it but did not actually kiss. Also I didn’t start crying, don’t worry. I’ve been through this plenty of other times, but still it makes me feel a bit awkward, especially since I don’t know them super well.

“We’ll turn you into a European yet!” one of my writing friends said. We all had a bit of a laugh.

Me and the other American looked at each other and laughed. We just waved.

We definitely don’t do the hug and kiss each cheek thing in Wisconsin. I was thinking about it, and my friends and I back home at most would do an awkward side hug farewell but that’s about it. My English and Scottish friends here, apart from those at the SWG, don’t do that either.

Image(I’d put Wisconsin in this category as well haha)

Will I turn European before I leave Singapore? Only time will tell. I’ve been told I’m practically British so I guess I’m getting closer 😛

Have you encountered cultural differences in greetings that made you feel uncomfortable? What is your culture’s method of saying good bye? (Americans, we DO have our own culture, which I didn’t really realize until I left haha)