For me, one of the hardest parts of living in a foreign country is the number of times I end up looking like a complete idiot. I'm forced to ask a sales person a dumb question to understand how something works, or say the wrong thing, or do something that is completely acceptable in the US, but extremely weird in the UK. And as I was reminded this past weekend, light bulbs seem to be my number one nemesis.
Sure, I've managed to navigate the National Health Service with ease, got a job, paid my taxes, joined a community orchestra, figured out that in terms of newspapers, I'm a Guardian reader. But figuring out which light bulbs to buy? Beyond my abilities.
But let me try and justify this... light bulbs in the UK are hard! Not only do I need to chose the correct wattage, regular or energy efficient. Light bulbs are sorted into letters, A-G. The chandelier in my living room takes size E candle bulbs with small bayonets.
Bayonets? Yeah. The first time I heard that, this is what I imagined: [picture of bayonet attached to gun; removed]
My landlord looked at me as if I was an absolute idiot while he explained that bayonets are the little sticks coming out of the base of a light bulb (see the above picture).
So after spending several minutes on my knees in my local grocery store looking at all the light bulbs this past weekend, I still picked out the wrong one. Even though it was a type E candle bulb with small bayonets, the base was too thick. I've got a drawer in my kitchen with several light bulbs which I've been too busy or sheepish to return because they don't fit properly. And even though I'm a fanatic about recycling everything, I don't even attempt to get the energy efficient variety. I've only ever been able to find one that fit once, and that's a more expensive mistake. The only way I manage at the moment is to buy light bulbs in bulk whenever I find the right one, and to save a copy of the box.
But some day I'll figure it out. Some day I'll be able to walk into a store, know exactly where my light bulbs are, and pick up a box, even if it's a different brand. Of course, the week that happens will probably be just about the time my visa expires.