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Thursday, 29 April 2010

So, you're Australian?

Two or three times a day, someone I'm talking to will remark on my accent, but strangely many people can't seem to tell my English accent from an Australian one. Having worked with Australians, South Africans, New Zealanders, Canadians and Americans over the past fifteen or so years, I have no trouble distinguishing accents, so it does feel a bit odd that as a Londoner with a reasonably refined accent, I could be mistaken for anything else.

The good news is that the revelation that I am English and from London is always received with interest and enthusiasm, and usually further questions on how I ended up in Eugene. Americans really are friendly people in general, keen to stop and chat with someone they may never see or speak to again, and I always feel I have brightened their day by being just a little different.

Beth's reception as an American living in London was a lot less pleasant on many occasions, because she was held individually responsible for the (to some British eyes) corrupt imbecilic monkey-puppet that had somehow gotten to be President for eight years. Her brief time in London after Obama was elected was much more pleasant, but Londoners are a surly bunch, and as likely to swear at you as smile, but almost never keen to talk. I think that's partly the effect of too many people being squashed into too small an area, and trying to maintain a little personal airspace.

I somehow avoid having Gordon Brown blamed on me, probably because most Americans have no interest in British politics, or knowledge of who Gordon Brown is. I am never asked about politics, but about life in London, and how I can leave such a vibrant, exciting city that so many people seem to want to visit but never do. It was easy for Beth and I to move, partly because I've done it for 40 years already, and partly because many things that are unique to London (e.g. West End musicals, and, er) are of no interest to us at all, while other features that come with the package (pollution, noise, graffiti, litter-strewn streets, long commuting times in horribly crowded and expensive public transport) are pleasant to leave behind. We have both attended evening classes and music sessions over the years, but the difficulty and expense of time and money in getting to and from them eventually outweighed any benefits. We can attend similar classes and sessions here in Eugene at a fraction of the investment.

1 comment:

  1. I'm reading Bill Bryson's "In a Sunburned Country" to Jeff. So I try to speak the dialogue with an Australian accent where appropriate. I'm not very good, but sometimes, when I get in the groove, it turns out pretty well. King's English or Cockney I can do a little more reliably. Scottish better than Irish. South African I would struggle with. I'm only really in my wheelhouse when U.S. deep southern is called for.