I am not implying that I am in the least bit fashion conscious, or fashionable, but when I first arrived in the Ozarks I stood out a bit. It was probably the linen shirts, linen capri pants, sandals and no cap that did it.
That and my accent.
On being strange in a strange land
The shop assistant squealed, she’d never seen a passport before,
Over the years shopping has been my primary interaction with average Ozarkian, and at first, no trip past a checkout could go by without someone asking where I was from.
I was buying some gifts with my credit card, this was before I had my American driving license. I was asked for my ID so I handed over my passport. The shop assistant squealed, she’d never seen a passport before, let alone a British one …
Checking out our groceries at one store, the checker asked me a question and was confused by my reply (Odd. That still seems to happen a lot). Ginger quickly stepped into the breach with the helpful observation, “It’s okay, he doesn’t speak English.” The checker then totally ignored me and I kept my mouth firmly closed until we left, at which point I loudly said: “Thank You!”
Where are you from?
Once I’d emigrated, the answer to the question of where I came from became easier in theory, “Springfield.” It sometimes perplexed people, but more often produced some variant of, “No really, where are you from originally?” Then there are those bold enough to take a guess unbidden– They are almost always wrong. “Are you Australian?”
Personally, I would never be so presumptuous as to call out someone’s country of origin. Unless that is, someone has a very clear Brit accent — like my fellow expat ‘Airbourne Rambler’. And now I’m doubly cautious since I discovered that a guy working in Lowes, who I thought was a Brit, turned out to be Australian.
After ten years the questions about my origins and the faux Cockney imitations that often follow are getting a bit old (Dick Van Dyke has a lot to answer for when it comes to appalling Cockney). But it still keeps on happening … ‘Rinse & repeat.’
I still need an interpreter and odd pronounciations
To this day I need an interpreter to get a drink of water at a restaurant. I am congenitally unable to ask for water in the local dialect — “Wadder.” Though I have caught myself feeling sorry for the servers at Subway and asking for … Toe-mate-toes. Am I feeling sorry for them, or am I just working on my disguise?
I once caught myself using the dreadful US version of the word herb — ‘erb.
Which reminds me, I cannot bring myself to say the US version of the ‘erb they pronounce baze-ill. Haven’t these people ever watched Fawlty Towers?
I don’t think I’ve lost my accent, but my manner of speech and vocabulary have become more localized, as has my clothing. I venture out in camo or plaid and wear a cap. That means that nowadays, apart from the eccentricism of my footwear, most of the time I pass through life unnoticed for the legal alien and Brit that I am.
However, from time to time I still get the “I love your accent,” and “Where are you from,” comments. Ginger has come up with the perfect answer to the former.
Stranger: “I love his accent.”
Ginger: “He sounds just like a husband to me.”
Copyright © 2018 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.