Before I left for my year abroad in America, all I heard was, “Oh, the Americans will love your accent.” My nana was keen on me returning with an American husband, citing examples of previous cousins who ventured to the States and, with the help of a British accent, had returned with much more than a job.
Even before the plane touched the ground, it had begun. A fellow passenger heard me say “water,” proceeded to repeat the word back to me in a makeshift British accent and told me how incredible my accent was. I said thanks and awkwardly laughed. “Alrite guvnor” or “would you like some tea” was, and still is, the expected response to “Hi, my name is Mae.”
I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the confidence boost at first. The attention was nice; all I had to do was speak, and I had already made a friend who was “just obsessed with British culture, especially the Queen.” Yes, perhaps I could have done without being told about your love of “Downton Abbey” or asked repeatedly if I had met the Queen, but life was great as I flicked my hair and basked in the ego wave.
However, I have now reached my last straw. A girl in my class, who I’m sure is lovely, approached me with the usual, “I love your accent, and I love British people” because, of course, all British people are the same. I responded with my usual, “That’s very sweet, thank you.” I’m not really sure how one is supposed to respond to a complete stranger saying they like the sound of your voice; it isn’t really something one is taught at school. For the next 15 minutes, she continued to tell me about her love of British boys and how when I speak in class, she doesn’t even know what I’m saying but just listens to my accent. This was nothing out of the ordinary, and I’m sure she thought I would appreciate this apparent compliment. However, salt was added to my now gaping wound when, after such a captivating conversation, she asked, “What was your name by the way?” Whilst I appreciate the expression “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” I would personally find it much more flattering if you knew my name. I’ve been in the States since August and I have learned to accept that when I say football, I am not referring to a 90-minute game, but a sport
played for several hours with an excessive number of ads. I have also accepted that despite wearing an Arsenal F.C. shirt (with the F.C. standing for “football club”), when I say, “Oh, you’re a fan?” you, an American, will respond, “Yeah, I love soccer.” I’ve accepted that it makes sense to name the sport soccer, drawing inspiration from the word association in the phrase “football association.” And yet, in your football, the ball is rarely touched by one’s foot. When I get told “I love British culture,” that’s great; I, too, am not opposed. However, I’ve come to learn that our perspectives of Britain are very different. I don’t know how to break it to you that the day-to-day Brit does not drink tea or eat scones for every meal and probably does not know a member of the Royal Family. I appreciate your love of Britain, I really do. I love America too, but please stop asking me if I love “Peaky Blinders.” When I say the word “bin” or “rubbish,” please don’t laugh and ask, “Oh my gosh, what is that? Sounds so exotic.” Bin and rubbish translate to trash. Other highlights have included being told I don’t sound British because I don’t sound like the people on “Love Island.” Just like in America, there is more than one British accent. I don’t know how else to explain this phenomenon.
I know British sarcasm can sometimes be a struggle to understand, yet I assure all aforementioned experiences have not been exaggerated but truly experienced by me and my fellow Brits on campus. I love America, and I love how American college is so like the movies I grew up watching. The red cups and kegs are all I ever dreamed of! But, the cherry on top of my incredible American adventure would be if you could please learn my name before you learn to imitate my accent. In exchange, I promise never to imitate how you say “tomato.”