Your Cellphone Plan is Overpriced and Here Is Why

Even cats use phones
. The cellphone is one of the most vital and innovative pieces of technology to ever be invented. It allows people to contact one another across the world, pay for goods, get directions, shop, and do business, all on one small device. For most of us, we have our cellphone’s glue to our hands (people have even developed tools to assist in making the holding of phones less challenging). I got my first real cellphone at sixteen, in China, it was a red flip phone and I loved it to bits. Since that time, I’ve never not owned a cellphone. But unlike many people, I was behind the phone curve.
It is undeniable that cellphones are now an indispensable part of modern life. We can capture every special moment because our phones have camera’s. Entrepreneurs can run a business entirely from their phone. People have made fortunes off of just developing phones apps. Most households in the UK and USA don’t even possess a landline. We just depend on our phones.
Why then, are cellphones and phone plans still so expensive? The technology is all over the globe to support texting, phone calls and data service, it no longer needs to be an exclusive club. But nonetheless, it can still be unaffordable for a lot of people. Some might own the physical phone, but can’t afford to connect it to any sort of phone plan, and are forced to rely on wifi which can be spotty at best. The new version of the IPhone or Samsung Galaxy can cost $1000/£900. The cheapest smart phone (new) is around $100/£90. My Samsung S4 mini (two years ago) cost me $160/£150 (and it was outdated even then). While cellphone’s might be a modern necessity, they are not economical.
How do people cope with the high cost? They get phone plans with a big company, where they pay for the cost of the phone every month, as well as the cost of the use of the phone. A typical phone contract lasts from 1-2 years, and it costs a fortune to end the contract early in America (we are talking hundreds of dollars). It can take people 2 years to pay off the cost of their phone, and at the end of 2 years most phone companies suggest you get a new version, and the cycle starts again.
I choose to always buy my phone outright, and then only pay a month to month usage fee to O2 (a big phone provider in the UK). My phone cost my $160/£140 outright, and I now pay $20/£18 a month for 10 GB of data and unlimited calls+texts. The most I have heard of someone paying in the UK for a phone+ phone use plan per month is roughly $50/£45. The cheapest I’ve seen is around $6. The physical cost of a smartphone in the UK is still high, but operating it is very affordable. In fact, this year legislation passed that required all UK phone companies to stop charging customers for texts or phone calls made in the EU. How awesome is that?! The UK has made having a mobile phone (their words, not mine) not a luxury, but an affordable, inexpensive necessity.
In America, I would $30/£25 a month, for a basic pay as you go plan that had a minuscule amount of data. A friend of mine told me he pays around $60/£55 a month for his plan. I’ve heard of people paying upwards of $150/£145 for an individual plan. The costs can go even higher if you have a data limit that you exceed. Why is America so different from the UK in cellphone costs? One possibility is the sheer size of the USA requires that operating phone’s costs more to cover the whole country. Another reason could be that in the UK there is more competitors on the marketplace, so they try and price one another down. In America, there is about 3 major phone companies that everyone must sign with in order to get decent coverage.
America has gotten many things right. I believe that my homeland has better food, friendlier people, better roads, but we do not have a better cellphone system. The fact is, owning and using an IPhone is cheaper in England. One solution that could be taken is for the US government to intervene and make regulations for cellphone companies that stop them constantly raising rates. The UK government is much more active in their citizens lives (that is partially due to the EU) and it benefits the people more. But, that is a subject for another post. For now, all my American readers, know that you are being robbed by your phone company. Next time they offer you an upgrade, refuse and say that in the UK it’s way cheaper to have unlimited data and calling!

How To Have a Million Dollar Smile in The UK

Image from pixabay.com

Every country, every region, and every type of person has stereotypes. We all know that, and most of us try to ignore the stereotypes we hear, and just view people for who they are. That being said, I have heard several stereotypes about Americans and Brits. The most common one in the USA is, that all British people have terrible teeth.

Now, I don’t know how this stereotype got started. Maybe it was just a jealous American thing viewing Britain as this well-to-do monarchy. Maybe it started because some rude American’s happened to meet several Brits who happened to all have bad teeth. I don’t know how it started, and it we probably never will know. But, nonetheless, it exists. All of my English friends were shocked when I told them that this, their bad teeth, was the most prevalent stereotype of the UK that we have in America.
My teeth aren’t perfect but I still smile

 

It isn’t true. British people don’t universally all have bad teeth. There is are many differences between British and American dentistry however. For example, the NHS (National Health Service) subsidises dentistry so it is very affordable for citizens to have their teeth regularly checked, and any procedures done. But, there is actually a very large private sector of dentists (this is the biggest sector of private medicine that I have seen in the UK).
Overall, NHS and private dentists in the UK don’t suggest dental treatments unless they are absolutely necessary. So, less teenagers get braces than in the US. That might be one cause of the stereotype, there are more British with slightly crooked teeth. I don’t view that as a bad thing, I think in the US dentists are far to willing to subject people to braces who don’t absolutely need them (because it makes them a ton of money). Furthermore, I think American’s might be slightly more vain about their smiles, so they are more willing to have work done. Where as in the UK, people accept that teeth are teeth, and they don’t have to be flawless to make you a worthwhile person.
Image from pixabay.com

Another difference is that in the UK, they don’t remove wisdom teeth. I was very shocked by this because I deliberately had my wisdom teeth removed before I came to England, so I wouldn’t have to deal with the hassle of them while abroad. I also had them taken out because my jaw had no space for more teeth. But, among my acquaintances, I am the only one who had them removed. Most dentists in the UK view it as an unnecessary removal, because they don’t really cause any damage or pain. My partner still has his because he had several teeth taken out as a child, so his jaw has room for them to grow in.

Teeth don’t matter as long as you smile

Stereotype: In the UK all people have bad, ugly teeth.

Result: False. The UK does treat dentistry differently than in America, but that doesn’t result in an abnormal amount of unfortunate mouth situations.

 

Doctor Who Takes One Step Forward For Women, and One Giant Leap Forward for Transgendered/Transsexual’s

On Sunday it was announced that a female actress will be the new Doctor Who. For most Americans, you might not understand the significance of this. Doctor Who is a decidedly British show. It started in the 1960’s, and has become a British institution. Perhaps this is the reason the British love it so much. It has bonded generation together, over a love for the eccentric Doctor.
If I could give you a summary of Doctor Who, I would. But, I’ve only begun to watch it the last few years and I only view it sporadically. The gist of the show is about an odd Doctor who can travel through time and space, and he helps beings whether they be human or alien or animals. He always has a sidekick who is usually a stereo-typically beautiful woman that keeps him from going crazy from all of his travels. The Doctor can heal from most injuries, and he regenerates into new versions of himself if he is mortally wounded. Those are the main points of Doctor Who that you need to understand to see the implication of the casting alteration.
It’s the regeneration that enables the show to continue production. When the male actor becomes bored, or too old to continue playing Doctor Who, they simply make the doctor regenerate. And after he does, it’s a new actor and a new Doctor Who, and all new story lines can begin! From a marketing and financial point, it’s a brilliant strategy to ensure the show maintains interest and longevity.

credit to images below
The last season of Doctor Who was the most liberal yet. His side kick was completely different from previous ones. The girl (Bill) was poor, black, and gay, with heavy emphasis on being a lesbian in episodes. I think the show producers realized that Doctor Who was a bit dated and needed to be brought into 2017. So, they incorporated the liberal world we now live in, into the story line.
Now, when I saw this change in the apprentice, I knew that Doctor Who was turning a corner. So, early on this season, I predicted that when the Doctor regenerated, it would be into a female form. And as was revealed on Sunday, I was right! The Doctor in season 11 will be a female.
Now the main character will be Doctor Who as a woman. This demonstrates that the show is ready to embrace a more powerful female voice. That is what the media seems to be focusing on. I agree that it is great that a woman is going to be the star, and likely a man will be her assistant (although a female assistant would make an epic statement about feminism). But I think there is a more deeply embedded theme that is worth examining.
Let’s analyze the fact that the doctor can regenerate into a new being, and it can be either male or female. I suggest this hints at the idea that Doctor Who is more liberal than people might have perceived. Some might even view this as a one of the first gender fluid characters in main stream television. A being that can be either male or female at different points in their lifespan. Within the show, there already exists gender fluid being like this, but it has never gotten much attention. Another person from the same planet as the Doctor who regenerated from a male to female and thrived. That character has since died, and now Doctor Who will be the one that has transformed from male to female.
Doctor Who will now normalize the idea that a man can “regenerate” and turn into a woman and vice versa. If people take this at face value, it might seem insignificant, just a plot twist. But it is quite the opposite! Seven years ago, the fact that trans-gendered people existed was not well known or accepted. In fact, many people thought it impossible for a man to be born with male genitalia, but within their brain, feel female. Now, there are genderless bathrooms, and widespread education/support for the trans-gendered and transsexual population.

credit to images below
Doctor Who is more groundbreaking than people might believe. Doctor Who had already suggested that the Doctor could change into a woman, but remain the Doctor, and remain themselves. Now the show has progressed from mere suggestion to physically turning the Doctor from a man to a woman. And this is exactly what the trans-gendered/transsexual movement is. A person born a female, but feeling that they are a man, are not different people when they embrace their masculinity. They still hold the same memories and beliefs, they just show an altered physical form of themselves to the world. That is what the Doctor will be doing in the new season. The Doctor will have morphed from a male, into female. But the Doctor will still help people, still be weird, and still be the same person they were before they became transsexual.

It is commendable that the show’s creators have put a female as the lead role in a previously male dominated show. But when digging deeper into the shows meaning, it shows support to the certainty that the gender/sex you are born doesn’t mean that gender/sex is the one you must remain. Or that by altering gender/sex, you change who a person is within themselves. The Doctor and transgender/transsexual people’s inner essence remains the identical. What is more groundbreaking about Doctor Who is the concept that it demonstrates, explains, publicizes and supports trans-gendered/transsexual people. 





male image taken from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/doctorwhospoilers/15043061762
-image edited and changed using picmonkey.com
-image edited and changed using picmonkey,com

The Best Way To Blow Someone Off

imgflip.com
(Major awesome points to whoever can correctly identify the movie quote in my blog title. Comment if you know it)
 
“I can’t believe she blew me off like that!”
A quote from a recent conversation I had with some friends over curry. They reacted to my words with inappropriate giggling. I didn’t get why. I was quite upset that my best gal pal elected to not go to a movie with me and used a lame excuse days later. I didn’t comprehend what was laughable about my situation. Then someone finally asked what “blow me off” meant.
I stared at them blankly. Of course “blow off” means to have someone cancel or ignore you. In my case a friend ignored plans to go to a movie. It is a phrase I frequently say.
Understandable stuff, right? Wrong! The reason my mature, fully grown adult, friends were giggling like teenage boys was because in England, “blow off” means to perform a blow job or oral sex. Naturally, they were confused and amused that I might say my girl friend blew me off. Cue my cheeks turning bright red and me sputtering out the American definition.
American definition
Blow off: To ignore someone or something or to cancel on plans in a abrupt/rude manner
British definition (according to my friends)
Blow off: To perform oral sex on a male
 
British definition (according to Urban dictionary, this is the fifth most common definition of the phrase, so it isn’t widely used)
Blow off: To fart or pass gas

 

(all meme images were made at imgflip.com)

‘Merican Made: How to Celebrate the 4th of July in UK

The 4th of July is a special day to us Americans. It symbolises a celebration of our freedom, our independence from Britain and our birth as a separate country. I love the 4th of July.
 I have no bad memories of the holiday. I have celebrated it around the world, China, Britain, USA. I have celebrated it multiple different ways. As a child it was always a family + friend holiday, we would spend it BBQ’ing in the backyard or tailgating in a grocery store parking lot. As night fell we would watch the fireworks light up the nights sky and I would fall asleep as the adults talked.
As a teenager, I would go to my friends and light small fireworks, at least until I had an accident. When parents say, ‘don’t blow yourself up’ they mean it! Because I actually did it. I was down the street at a neighbours house, throwing “buffalo bombs” into an empty garbage can full of water. I was so focused on aiming into the can that I didn’t pay attention to how much time I had before the firework went off. So, it exploded in my hand. And the first thought that popped into my head was ‘Oh My God! My mom was right! How did she know?’ My hand was numb for the rest of the night, and I haven’t tried to play with fireworks again. I happily pay for them and let other people do the dangerous part.
As an adult I’ve had to work on the holiday. But that never bothered me because my colleagues and I were always in fantastic moods and acted like comrades because it was our nations holiday! No matter where I worked, I knew my employer would offer us good food and make sure our shift was fun.
4th of July in China was about educating people about the holiday and enjoying our mutual admiration and love for America. The Chinese embraced it, and even helped us find fireworks for the occasion.
But the same can’t be said for Britain. The more 4th of July’s I spend in England, the more depressing it is. I never fail to hear people say ‘you are all just a bunch of ungrateful colonials’. And they gripe about how they didn’t try very hard during the American Revolution to keep us as a colony of Britain. The last thing they want to do is celebrate our independence. The 4th of July is actually quite a sore subject with Brits.
Their history lessons about how America became independent and ours is very different. They didn’t see us as oppressed citizens. The Brits saw themselves as fair, benevolent leaders, charging us tax to raise money for the home nation. They didn’t consider how harmful it was to us. And when we rebelled, it was shocking! How could we not want to be British! The UK still view’s itself in the light of glory. They revel in their history as world conquerors and ignore the parts where they burdened other nations. America wasn’t fight back against injustice, it was being ungrateful to their generosity of giving us lands. So, our winning our independence was almost a betrayal that they have never forgiven us for.
I’ve never been treated as less than another person until I came to England. I feel that I am regularly judged and looked down upon for being an American. I think it is residual resentment for us earning our freedom, and the huge success we have had as our own country. But, people frequently are negative towards me just because I am from the USA.
Well to them I say, I’m American and damn proud of it! I do not try and pronounce things the British way, I don’t strive to use the British slang. I don’t put on a faux British accent to try and assimilate. I respect the British but I’m still a loud, opinionated American, and I will scream that from the roof tops. I know my country isn’t perfect, but I won’t deny it as my own.

Spending Independence Day in the country that my ancestors fought to gain independence from is awkward. In past years, I haven’t gone all out to celebrate. But not this year. I wore red white and blue makeup, painted my nails, had hot dogs and watched Captain America. No one will put me down today for being an ungrateful colonial. If they dare, I’ll just go American on their ass. Today is my 4th of July and Britain’s don’t get to take that away from me because they are petty.  

Fish Sammies: An Explanation of the British Bread Complex

In general, America is the winner of the food game. We deep fry everything, Twinkies, cheese, pasta, Oreo’s, basically everything is better if deep fried. Our pizza’s are bigger, our cakes have more frosting, and we make it all over the top. But, lately, I feel like the UK might have us Yanks beat in the sandwich department.
British people take their sandwiches seriously. They even have special bread just for making toasted sandwiches, which they call “toasties”. This special bread is more aerodynamically designed to get maximum toastage while still maintaining a softer inside to bite into. It is a science, someone I work with can even tell regular sliced bread from toastie sandwich sliced bread. Apparently, all breads are not created equal. (This same person can actually smell when I am making toast at work, she stops by the kitchen to point out how nice it is, toast is like perfume to her)

I’m not joking when I write that the British have made their sandwich forming into a science form. They have even designed a method of avoiding sogginess so sandwiches last longer. In the US, if you are making a standard lunch sandwich, you would have two slices of bread, put on some meat, then maybe put on some condiments like mayo or mustard. However, by the time lunch rolls around, you might notice your sandwich has gone soggy! The horror! (Especially if you use American Wonder Bread or white bread, which British people think tastes like slices of cake.)

The Brit’s have solved the soggy sandwich problem. I wondered for over a year why people at work put butter on bread before adding their sandwich ingredients. I thought they just really like butter. Recently, my partner explained that it is because by first putting on butter, it creates a barrier between the bread and other condiments and meats! Thus, your bread won’t get soggy! My mind was blown. (And yes, I tested it and noticed the sandwiches are fresher with butter, but I still don’t like the taste enough to frequently butter my bread.)
Butter aside, the Brits put some other weird stuff on their sandwiches. They will eat straight up bread and meat, no condiments to add moisture. Bread and potato chips/crisps sandwiches. Subway here sells Indian curry meat on sandwiches. Shrimp in mayo is a popular sandwich choice. Sausage and egg on a baguette roll is a staple of my partner’s diet. But by far one of the strangest sandwich toppings I’ve seen in England is fish fingers!
Yes, the kids I work with love fish finger sandwiches. By fish fingers I am referring to the healthy replacement to chicken nuggets our parents tried to trick us with when we were kids in America. I always ate mine doused in ketchup to make it palatable. Well here, children and adults love the stuff. And as a snack or lunch option, they will make a fish finger sammie. (Sammie is British slang for sandwich). To make a fish finger sandwich you first take two slices of bread (usually white sliced bread, not necessarily toastie bread) with both slices fully buttered. Then you put on at least three fish fingers, and smash the slices of bread together to create a sammie.
I tried it for the first time at work. I enjoy the occasional fish fingers, and I kind of like bread. So, I thought I would probably enjoy the two in combination. I was wrong. I did it up right too, I had the bread slathered in spready butter. The bread combined with the bread crumbs on the fish fingers was just too much for me. It all blended into a white mess. Add in the butter and I felt like I was clogging my arteries with every bite. (This is coming from an American who once did a shot of garlic butter dip on a dare, and enjoyed it) After two bites, I took my sammie apart and just ate the fish fingers.

In conclusion, fish finger sammies are definitely a British tradition I will not be getting on board with. When it comes to sandwiches and sandwich making, American’s need to bow down to the superior knowledge of the British. And lastly, if you want to preserve your sammie, add butter!

Hypochondria: The American Terror of Illness

A bedazzled sprained wrist 

Middle class or lower class American’s have a fear of illness. It is almost like hypochondria, a paralysing terror that you will get sick. Not because the physical pain or suffering scares them, but because of financial woes. I’ve lived with this fear. I was lucky to enough to have state health care because my parents were divorced as well as being on my father’s health care plan. So I had good coverage, although I still had co-pay’s* and deductible’s* to contend with. When I turned 21, my father took me off his insurance, and I was one of the millions of American’s with no health insurance. Luckily I moved to England six months later, but those were a stressful six months.

No health insurance makes you live in terror of the flu. A simple thing, like a broken leg, would have bankrupted me if it happened during my months of no coverage. For six months I was in constant fear of getting an injury. I couldn’t pay for a blood draw, let alone an emergency visit.

This fear is something British people don’t understand.  My partner and I recently visited my family in the US and my younger brother got sent home from school, because staff were concerned that he might have strep throat. My siblings only had emergency coverage (insurance would only pay if they went to the ER) and my parents had no insurance at all. Immediately, my mom went into panic mode. She started calculating how she would pay for him to have blood draws, throat cultures, medicine, etc if he really had strep. My partner stood back in shock, and quietly asked me why we were so upset. So, I explained that if my brother had strep throat, it could cost my family thousands of dollars in medical fee’s that they were solely liable for. His jaw dropped.

He is British. He has never had to pay to go to a doctor’s office, or an ER. A blood test has never cost him a dime. He has never had to think about money and health. In the United Kingdom, there is universal healthcare*. He can go to the hospital and get seen, then leave without swiping his credit card.

Another injury I never got
treated

The first time I went to the doctor in England, I didn’t truly believe that it was free. After my appointment, I awkwardly waited around the receptionist, waiting for her to tell me I at least had to pay a small fee. It never happened. I’ve had numerous doctor’s appointments, specialist meetings, and therapist sessions, all for free since I’ve lived in England.

However the fear of affording to be sick has never left me. I avoided going to the doctor’s for half a year although I was having severe stomach problems. In my mind, I could live with the pain, so I should deal with it on my own. It has been bred into me by American society to only seek medical aid if absolutely necessary. Twisted ankle? Wrap it yourself. Deep cut to the knee that could use some stitches, slap a band aid on it.

Ankle injury I never saw a
doctor about

Why is it that the American government is so against universal healthcare? The private health care system benefits no one. The doctors drown in medical debt, and pay premium prices for liability insurance against law suits. Most American’s suffer with chronic illness rather than go to the doctor because of the high costs. Many have the bare minimum of insurance coverage because they can’t afford better. How is this system desirable?

President Trump plans to do away with Obamacare, which is just a drop in the barrel of changes the American medical system needs. Obamacare requires everyone to have health insurance and somewhat lowers the cost of insurance for lower income people. To do away with that, people would again have no protection from injury.

Countries like Canada and England are a prime example of universal healthcare working for the better. It hasn’t bankrupted their government, it hasn’t caused unrest or crippled society. In fact, universal healthcare has only made the country stronger. So, why are American politicians so against transferring to this system? The private system hurts everyone, and forces the countries people to live in fear.

I am grateful that I live in England and have access to free health care. I might be dead without it. But rarely does a day go by that I don’t think of my family and friends that still have to suffer with illness and go without medical treatment, because of the American private healthcare system.

*Co-pay: A fee that American’s must always pay when they go to any medical center, even if they have insurance.
*Deductible: The amount of costs American’s must cover of their own medical expenses before their insurance will step in and pay the remainder of the costs.
*Universal Healthcare: A system where the government of a country pays all the medical costs of it’s citizens, the government funds medical institutions from taxes and funds. Citizens never have to pay for seeing a doctor, getting surgery, or treatment.