Monday 7 January 2013

A Brief Encounter with America

I've returned from America. The immediate consequence of this is that I no longer have a cute accent. People remarked on it in shops over there, 'Oh my gad, I just luuuve it!' was the general consensus.
Would I be right in thinking the British accent to an American is what a French accent is to a Brit?
Incidentally, part of my reason for going to America, apart from spending Christmas with my husband's family, was of course to correct my 6 year old nephew's pronunciation of Water. It's an annual exercise with repeatedly disappointing results and goes a bit like this:

Me: War-tah
Nephew: WARRA
Me: No, Waaaar-tah.
Nephew: WARRA!
Me: Oh whatever.

America is the place where I feel most British. Anywhere else I consider myself European with allegiances to two countries although little inclination to belt out the national anthem of either, and much less with a hand on my heart. Although to be fair, the Spanish anthem doesn't have any words, so I couldn't belt it out even if I wanted to. But in America I do feel and have fun being British. There I feel a desire to befuddle people with cockney rhyming slang or echo the well spoken characters of Enid Blyton books.
While secretly I think American spelling makes a lot of sense, there are some words I can't take seriously. For instance the word 'restroom'. A temple is a restroom, a yoga room is a restroom, but as for the lavatory... really? It's childish but I enjoy asking where the loo is, or the toilet is, because in America they sound like rude words.

America is different. More so than I expected. I didn't realise that they didn't have Boxing day over there or that they would look at me blankly when I asked for mulled wine. I asked for it at a fairground and the woman shook her head, 'This is a family park, we don't serve malt wine.' They didn't have any mulled, malt or ordinary wine in the family restaurant where we ate later. It seems quite common in America to separate alcohol from family establishments, which is strange, because when you're with all the family you generally need a proper drink. As for their no alcohol until 21 policy, don't get me started. You can be married, have kids, a driving license and own a gun by 18, but you can't have a drink... How did that happen?

What stands out most of all about The United States is that everything is bigger. My sister in law has a fridge that would be sold as a one bedroom flat if it were in London. The second thing that stands out for me, and I feel like a country bumpkin for saying this, but everything looks like it is in the films. Before we headed to Washington DC, we spent a couple of days in New York.
Arriving in the Big Apple was so exciting to me. I loved the traffic lights, the taxis and the policemen carrying their coffee and doughnuts. I loved the blinding lights and the bagels.

It's funny and wonderful how the ordinary for one person can be extraordinary for somebody else. That's the great thing about travel. So here's wishing that the New Year brings us all more adventures in distant places!


Unknown said...

It's funny to read a British writer's perspective on America. I agree everything here is bigger. I have not only one enormous refrigerator, but two. There is one in the garage to keep frozen meat, water and cans of pop. You see we shop at Costco, a warehouse store, where you buy in bulk. Instead of buying a pack of eight paper towels, I buy 18. Why you ask? Because I am American and that's what we do. LOL!

Shop Girl said...

Yes, my sis-in-law also had two massive fridges! I don't even buy a pack of 8 paper towels I buy a pack of 4!

PS. By paper towels, do you mean loo roll or kitchen roll? Google translate just isn't helping...

Thanks for reading! :)

rodgriff said...

I think the biggest shock when I first visited america was seeing half gallon gin bottles in a supermarket. There may even have been gallon ones.
I agree that size hits you from every direction. When we came home we knew we had to buy a bigger house and a bigger fridge/ freezer.
I think the other thing I brought back was working harder, I was amazed at the students I taught in Texas. They may not have been typical, they were medical students and many of them had wives and husbands working to pay their fees. I hadn't seen that in England either.

Terry said...

Emily, paper towels in America are kitchen towels, and a loo roll is called toilet paper here. As for the loo, in addition to restroom, it's also referred to as the Ladies Room or Mens Room, depending on your sex. At home, I believe most refer to it as bathroom. I have a Canadian friend, who calls it a washroom.

As for water, it depends what part of the country you're in, how it's pronounced. I work for a company that has water as part of it's name, and I'm constantly having to spell it out when I leave messages, because they aren't understanding my Philly accent.

I'm excited waiting to find the extraordinary in England come September!

Shop Girl said...

Thanks for the clarification Terry! :) I think washroom sounds like somewhere you wash clothes. Ah well, we all understand each other really!

@rodgriff Thanks for reading. The problem with wanting bigger things is you have to work harder to maintain them! Re- students I can't speak for anyone else but I always had a job while I was studying, although it's very impressive that there are people able to support a family as well!

MommyHeadache said...

Ha ha yeah I am a Brit who has lived in USA for 12 years and I still can't get over how great it is that people think my accent is amazing and sooo cute!!
Since I moved here I expect things to be bigger although I still drive a normal sized car and won't buy a mini van.