The longer I live away from England, the more patriotic I get. I hung our British flag outside our front door for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee which in case you were unaware, was this past weekend. I am more obsessed with tea, English chocolate, British television, films and novels than ever before and I am an avid Daily Mail fan (mainly for the pictures of royalty!) Looking at the UK from a distance the rose coloured* spectacles, only get rosier.
I think about the gorgeous English countryside but forget that it is all the rain that makes it so lush. I pine for Marks and Spencer and do not think about how expensive everything is (particularly with the exchange rate) and I miss my friends from my school days and then remember that many of them don't live in London any more.
But living in the USA and still having a British accent impresses the natives and now after 11 years I speak American fluently too, so I am bilingual. I know biscuits are cookies, a nappy is a diaper and braces are on your teeth -they do not hold up your trousers (pants). in fact braces would be called suspenders here and I am not going into what suspenders are for in England. I even know you cannot lay a table in this country or you could be charged with indecency. (Here you set the table.)
There have been many books written about Americans trying to understand the Brits and vice- versa and one by American, Sarah Lyall called The Anglo Files details her experiences living in London. Malcolm Gladwell says "The Anglo Files should be handed out, as a public service, in the immigration line at Heathrow." One of my favourite* stories in the book illustrates how Ms Lyall has truly morphed into a British person. She describes falling down the stairs at the hairdresser, dislocating her shoulder and whilst in the worst pain she has ever felt, lying in a heap on the floor, she registers only one emotion -embarrassment. As an example of true British understatement and qualifying every statement, she tells how she said "Sorry" in a meek voice. Then "I think I'm in a bit of pain and I might possibly need an ambulance."
There is no doubt that being a foreigner trying to make yourself understood in what you thought was a language you spoke fluently, is an incredibly humiliating experience. One of my first forays to the bank in the USA, nearly bought me to tears. I stood at the window and asked to pay-in a cheque (spelt check here). I kid you not, the woman, all of 22 years old, looked at me as though I had come from another planet and was speaking in code. I asked 3 times if I could pay in the cheque*, getting more and more flustered as even the words I thought I'd known since I was two seemed to escape me. She looked at me blankly without offering any encouragement or at least trying to guess what I might need as I waved the cheque back and forth in front of her. Finally I almost shouted (remember I am British) just take the bloody cheque and put it in my account.
"Oooh!" she said "You mean deposit and I love your accent. Are you Australian?"
AAAAGH DEPOSIT!!! YES! DEPOSIT MY CHEQUE. I was so exhausted from feeling like an Australian alien, I went home and drank 3 cups of English tea.
Now, we have changed banks and the employees are a much more worldly crew. And of course I am seasoned and ask to deposit my cheques. I always stand in line (not a queue) and sometimes I even say "Have a nice day" at the end of my banking visit. But....I still go home and drink a cup of English Tea with milk and I hope the Queen did the same when she got off the barge after her wet, grey boat trip down the Thames to celebrate her jubilee.
Many Happy Returns Your Majesty. Have a nice day Ma'am!
Have a brilliant week.
*In honour of the Queen I am spelling everything Her way.
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