For the most part, when I was living in England I tried to conform to the local traditions, once I became aware of them. I’m sure I annoyed many a fellow passenger on trains before I realized that I was the only one ever talking to strangers!
There were times, however, when I deliberately followed my cultural norms instead.
When I was on my way home from a weekend trip to Brussels (the sole point was to leave the country and return in order to receive the Student Entry Clearance stamp in my passport – such was my life!), I was so excited. I was now legally in the country for an entire year! I talked to people on the plane, and then on all my train connections. I was too bouncy to settle down to read. Fortunately for everyone’s sanity, I was seated next to either fellow travelers (in the American, not British sense) or people that fed on my happiness or at least led me to believe that, which was good enough for me.
Another of my deviations from the norm also involved trains. [Can you tell that I seldom ever drove over there? It is SCARY! Everyone is one the wrong side of the road, and all the cars have manual transmissions!!!!!] Well, in the winter it is cold … except on the trains that are jam packed with people, which are hot! Custom would dictate that people keep their overcoats on while traveling on the train. I was mainly voyaging to interviews, and the last thing I wanted to do was create an easy bake oven in my coat and steam/bake myself sweaty and smelly before meeting people who might wish to hire me. I took off my coat and kept it in my lap. Fortunately, it being England, no one said a word to me. So there I was, the only comfortable person in the cabin. That to me was well worth any negative thoughts people might have had about my action, assuming anyone actually was paying attention to me!
My favorite example of breaking the rules involves my final 4th of July in England. (Check out Smitten by Britain to read about my first 4th out of country. MY FIRST GUEST POST!!!!) I was working at Debenhams department store, and I made it well known in advance that I was going to speak exclusively American English that day. I was banned from the sales floor (I worked in HR, so that wasn’t a huge issue), yet most of the staff made their way to the administrative offices to see me. That day, instead of binning things, I threw them in the trash. I shunned the lift and went for the elevator. I asked about cash registers, which threw the younger employees who only knew them as tills. I weaved the American pronunciation of Nike and Adidas into conversation. In my world there were cell phones, and not a mobile to be found. At the end of the day, people were amazed at how much translation I did on a daily basis! It startled me as well when I sought the Americanism for something and couldn’t come up with it right away!
I loved living within a new culture (I really miss it and would jump at another opportunity!), yet there were still those remnants of my native land that never left me … much like my accent!
4 thoughts on “Standing out”
That’s a really funny story about changing to speak American English on the fourth. A good way to celebrate and be patriotic and I’m sure fun and interesting to those around you too. I have to say that I didn’t realize how many words you’d need to change to fit in with the words in Britain until I actually traveled around there for awhile.
Everyone at the department store also understood my patriotic gesture. I was amazed at how many words, even though the same, are pronounced so differently that they became unrecognizable to me. I’m sure you encountered that as well in your travels … that feeling when you know they are speaking English yet you still have no idea what they are saying.
When you start dreaming in another language then you’ve really mastered it. Much, I suppose, like when you have a hard time recalling American slang. Going to chek out your guest post mow
I like your dream analogy with language. For me, after a while I quit hearing accents altogether. I was sure at that point that my accent had disappeared as well. I remember speaking with one of my British friends telling her that I was glad my accent was finally gone. She very politely informed me that I might be mistaken. 🙂
Thanks for checking out my guest post!