Being British in America

There have been four big things that I have realized while studying abroad in America. 

1. They Love British Accents.

First. off, don’t get me wrong, I never assumed there was anything special about my voice. Growing up in South West England, Greater London, it did not sound spectacular. However, since I touched down in England, every day has been a constant reminder that I am an outsider, that I am different. The ironic thing is that in the first week of orientation at my new university, everyone had a talk about treating everyone equally, especially international students. The lecturer explicitly said, “Asking them about their accents can be seen as rude, so try to be considerate." I am just going to assume that everyone had their headphones in their ears that day (shade intended). Now, daily, I receive compliments about my accent or my voice. I remember a time when a girl quivered, yes quivered at my voice, then proceeded to ask me to send her a voice note of my voice so it could send her to sleep. I have considered that maybe stereotypes and British celebrities also play a part in the appeal. I am assuming they like it because they assume that foreign accents sound interesting or sexy, which makes sense because I have also fallen a victim to this. I mean, who doesn’t love a French accent? I know I do. 

The funniest thing is that I can see them. Hands shaking, sweat appearing on their head, the deliberation on their face as they try to consider whether to turn around and talk to me. It’s funny. I mean, I am not a celebrity or anything, so it shouldn’t be that difficult. Then they pause, and I hear it: “OMG! I love your accent!” or “Are you from London? That is tough!” ('tough' is a slang word for 'cool'). I let out a sigh, and gently give a half smile responding with a gracious “Yes, I am.” before they bombard me with questions about being British. I am not saying it’s annoying. At first, I took it as a compliment. However, as time went on it became tedious, like an endless cycle that I am trapped in and can't get out of. I am in that sunken place. I think the worst for me is when people ask me to repeat words that British people commonly use, or British slang. I feel like a ventriloquist doll, opening my mouth but someone else is speaking for me, and then I am just drowned out by all the laughter and amazement at my voice. 

2. People are big on football and not the good type.

Okay, that may have been ill-phrased or may have sounded rude, but I hate that now I have to say soccer for anyone to understand what I mean. My friends just can’t understand that I  do not like football. A lot of them are surprised at my lack of interest in American football. However, being from the UK, the main sports played are Football (A.K.A. Soccer), Tennis, Rugby, and Cricket, which many people do not know about or understand. Although I have enjoyed tailgating, I still do not know all the rules of American football. When our school team wins a point at a game, I just sit there bewildered as to what is going on.

3. Americans know more about my culture than I do.

People automatically assume that I know every single thing about the UK and every single British movie or show (i.e. Doctor Who, or Harry Potter, or the big one: Black Mirror). We get it, you love British culture. People sometimes bombard me with facts about British culture that I didn't even know. I just nod my head and pretend to understand what they are talking about. Sometimes, when we are talking about American music or shows, they ask me if I understand what they are talking about. I get maybe not understanding some aspects of it, but I am not five. So yes, I know what Drake is talking about. Another thing that always makes me laugh is that a lot of American people do not understand places in the UK. It is understandable since I do not know every state in America, but I at least acknowledge a few. I just always say that I live in London because it saves me the trouble. I mean, I live in London. Well, Greater London, but if I say where my University is (Kent), people will not know where that is. So, I just do not bother.  

4. Nobody can do a British accent.

Seeing as I’m in America, I have attempted to do the most popularized accent that people from the UK often come across in popular culture: the surfer dude. This usually is received with an arousal of laughs, and then my friends attempt to do my accent. The accent attempt is bad, and I mean awful. I would say I have only heard two people that are good at it. British people can easily adopt an American accent. Americans seem to assume that all British accents are like Mel B or James Corden, and they put me in that category. Britain consists of four constituent parts (i.e. England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland). Everyone tries to adopt the archetypal ‘posh British accent’ when there are several accents such as a Scottish, Manchurian, Welsh or Birmingham accent, which are very broad and similar to many dialects in the US, so I am confused how they sometimes don’t understand this. I'm hoping that maybe with practice, my friends’ impressions of me will get better. 

Nevertheless, my time abroad has helped me step out of my comfort zone in engaging in a new culture and trying new things that I usually wouldn’t do. I am surprised at how easily it has been for me to assimilate and become familiar with everything. It has given me the confidence to live anywhere in the world. Though, to all my American friends, we do need to work on those accents.