I am an American through and through – a New Yorker, to be precise – and extremely proud of it. Although my father was born in the Netherlands, and many of my family-members-in-law are foreign-born, I was raised with an unwavering pride for and love of my country, along with a deep respect for other nations and cultures that comes from having a multi-national family. Basically, I’m crazy about traveling and learning about other countries, but when things get serious (A.K.A. the Olympics come on T.V.), I’ll be the first to stand up and scream “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” This always has been, and always will be, the way in which I mentally approach all things international.About a year ago, I met and began dating my boyfriend, who happens to be from England, although he lives in the United States. I know exactly what you’re thinking – “hot damn” – and you would be absolutely right because it is awesome. Aside from being adorable, he has that “Harry Potter accent,” and I am all about it. I am also a huge fan of the fact that simply by virtue of the culture of his upbringing, he has beautiful manners and a chivalrous attitude towards women. Let me tell you, I appreciate that a lot. But completely disregarding how fun it is to date someone “international,” there has been much that I have had to learn, and that I am still actually learning.
A significant amount of adjustment has had to occur insofar as my understanding of his sensitivity toward cliches. As an example, it might seem funny to remind him that “we won the war.” or to ask if he’s still bitter about it – let me tell you, after the thousandth time hearing it from every single person, nobody is going to find that funny anymore. The same goes for “Don’t you guys drink your beer warm?” or “So why don’t you have horrible teeth?” as an attempt of banter goes largely unappreciated (not to mention, it isn’t even true). There are some things better kept to oneself, as I have learned.
Besides all that, though, my favorite thing has been to learn all of the British-isms I never knew before. Everyone knows that Brits have different insults and swears, and sometimes call everyday objects and products by different names, but I had know idea of the extent before I met my boyfriend. Now, sweaters are “jumpers,” rain boots are invariably “Wellies,” and I find myself yelling “Bloody hell!” when I stub my toe. Even more entertaining is Cockney rhyming slang, a fun little pseudo-dialect from London which, as I understand it, attempts to replace simple, easy-to-say phrases with much longer, harder-to-say ones. Go figure. Being on one’s own is his or her “Jack Jones,” the stairs are the “apple and pears,” and your phone is your “dog and bone.” It’s wildly unnecessary and equally as hilarious.
Here is the lesson that I would like to put forth, regardless of anyone’s inter-cultural relationship status of any variety, or expectation for one in the future: be sensitive, be understanding, and be enthusiastic. When anyone whose home is abroad comes to visit or live in the United States, it can be extremely difficult to gain a sense of belonging. Learning their slang words, accepting their differences, and being nice can make absolutely every bit of difference.