Thursday, 21 July 2011

The foreigner

I’ve lived in England since 2005, but it hasn’t been until I moved to Port Nerd that I’ve actually felt like I live in this country. Nerdtown was quite an international town and at least half if not more of the people there were from elsewhere in the world. I actually knew relatively few English people in comparison to other nationalities, particularly North Americans.

Since moving to Port Nerd though, I finally feel like I live in a proper English city. That’s not to say there aren’t people from elsewhere living here; but I encounter more English people than anyone else. I have a desk in a large shared office at the department and I’m the only non-English person in it.

I’ve also encountered more people who are curious about my nationality. Unlike Madonna, Gwenyth Paltrow and other pretentious American twats, my American accent has not changed one bit since I’ve moved here. Granted, I use some British English words instead of American ones on a regular basis, but I do this for the sake of clarity. I live in their country so I should use their terminology in cases where the equivalent American terms may lead to a misunderstanding. That aside, after hearing me speak, the English are often quite curious to find out where I’m from. I’m usually surprised that most of them know New Hampshire exists and at least generally where it is located. And since I currently live in the county of Hampshire, I make a joke about it being only right that I spend some time living in the ‘old’ one since I grew up in the ‘new’ one.

What I find really funny is that most of them are a bit shocked to find that I’m American at all. Several colleagues, my landlord and the service representative I talked to when setting up my home internet connection all thought I was Canadian. I think this has to do with the fact that I don’t have a distinctive regional American accent. My accent is quite generic actually and I tend to be rather soft-spoken when talking to new people which is a contrast to the unfortunate yet widespread stereotype of the loud American.

It all gets even more entertaining when I’m doing fieldwork in Italy. I work on a project that is primarily composed of English and Italians researchers. When I was there in April, I was answering an English grammar question from two of my Italian colleagues (the project documentation is all in English hence the question) when one of them realized I was American and exclaimed happily “Ah! No wonder I can understand you so much better than the others.” That totally made my day. And it gave me something else to taunt my English colleagues with (besides the staples of choking at international sporting competitions, horrific dentistry and having possibly the most depressing weather in the world) when they decide to rag on my nationality.

It’s the little things (euphemistic pun intended) that make living here so much fun.

Later gators.

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ORN: I ran twice last week and done jack all so far this week. Consistency is not my forte.


SteveQ said...

As long as you pronounce "forte" as the French for strength (fort) and not the Italian for loud (fortay), you're okay in my book - and not American.

In grad school (in the US), I was usually thought to be a foreigner. One person said, "But you're not fat, obnoxious or fanatically clean!" That last bit stung a bit. And I have a distinct Minnesota accent; I have to think before saying the words "root" or "roof" or no one will understand me outside of my homeland.

Just don't come back and use the British terms here. We's don't cotton to no furriners.

The Merry said...

The BBC put up a list of most annoying Americanisms. You might want to avoid these:

Then again, you might want to educate these English people how to speak proper ;)

Deb said...

You might THINK that you've retained your American accent, but I couldn't understand a word you just wrote. You should probably consider coming back to the good ol' USA soon, before you go FULL Brit and your teeth start to go all yellow and crooked.

Keith said...

Well, New Hampshire is almost Canada. That explains it.

Lily on the Road said...

Well, I've always thought of you as my adopted Canadian daughter so, WELCOME to Canada!!

I'm laughing at Deb, now that is funny....

Carolina John said...

A stranger in a strange land? that sounds like a song..... Glad you're getting settled into the new digs though. There are fun people everywhere. Except New Jersey.

McB said...

I am way behind because I did not know that you had resumed posting.

But I'm curious: if they think you're Canadian because you don't have an obviously American accent, what do they consider the quintessential American accent? I'm pretty sure I don't have it either. But in the movies, whenever an American is portrayed by a British actor, they always sound a bit like Chicago by way of Oklahoma and Brooklyn.