mandag, august 22, 2005

So, where am I from again?

The guy at the Safeway checkout counter near my home town (who from his accent clearly grew up in a non-English speaking country) the other day said to me, quite confidently, 'You're from England, aren't you?' I answered, I think bemusedly, 'No, I'm from here.' And then added, for honesty's sake, 'But I have lived for a long time overseas, including in England.' 'Oh, so that explains it' was the response.

And then I have spent the last few days wondering how much I can read into this. Keep in mind that I have, shall we say, issues with my own American-ness, as the stereotypes that people have of us are just so negative (and the general tendency of Europeans to equate Americans with the American government does not help). One result of this is a particular fascination with/revulsion of my most noticeably American feature, my accent. And what is that accent? Well, on occasion, Americans comment that I have a bit of an English thing going on (for the past 7 or 8 years, my main contact with native English speakers has been with Brits of one variety or another, and I have picked up quite a few British expressions), which is generally viewed as affected or pretentious. The English of course find me American, which seems to be equated by many as by definition aggressive or just generally unpleasant. So, you could say that my accent is the worst of both sides of the Atlantic, joined into one voice. But, I sound clearly American overall, I would say.

When I have previously been mistaken for someone from somewhere else (which has only happened to me when speaking Portuguese, BTW, never in an English speaking context), I have been overjoyed. But I didn't feel that way at all this time. I felt just really and truly...bemused. Why is that? Is it that my anti-Americanism is really just a misplaced desire to fit in? Of course, I am and have always been quite proud to be a Californian ('state-riotic' as my brother and I call it) and a San Franciscan. So, perhaps the test would be to try and have the same experience, but in another state, and see what happens.

And, most importantly, does this mean that I am finally becoming so ex-pat that I am no longer a native anywhere? I hope not, as I am proud of where I'm from (on a local and state level, if not a national one). But perhaps it is inevitable.

4 kommentarer:

Vanessa sagde ...

While I've never lived abroad to experience the generalizations towards Americans, I did live in Boston and experienced the generalizations towards Californians. "Oh, Vanessa? Yeah, she's an odd one... she's from California" I was expected to be this quirky goofy type who knew exactly what to do in the event of an earthquake. The opposite also held true whenever i came home to visit and for quite a while after I moved back to California - friends and family pointed out that I was much more fast paced in both speech and gait. I think that while you maintain some of the inherent characteristics of your native home, you also pick up bits and pieces from everywhere yo go and everyone you meet allowing you to become this beautiful and unique person that you would not be had you not ventured outside of your comfort zone.

kimananda sagde ...

Yes, that makes total sense...you are clearly very wise. Thanks for that. :-)

Daphnewood sagde ...

yes I grew up in Southern California (the superior part of the state- just had to say that Kim!) and whenever I visit any other state the line is: "oh so you're from California, the land of fruit and nuts" ha ha ha. yes. like I haven't heard that one a million times before.

On the American part-wear it proud girl! yes Americans have problems but overall this country rocks! Every nation has trouble but we just like to show ours off a little more. Don't be afraid to be American just try to change the things you don't like about it. That is all you can do. Besides America is made up of tons of cultures and accents, don't you agree?

Chibithulhu sagde ...

Chibithulhu has never considered himself an American. Spawned partly from the brain of an American author, he probably should, but the author was an Anglophilic wannabe-tory. Chibithulhu comes from death's dream, yet he is wary of claiming "dreamer" as his nationality.