I’m an American expat living in England, and whenever I meet someone new, I get asked one or more of these questions. Often it turns more toward an interrogation—either because they don’t like my answers or because I answer untruthfully and then laugh when they believe it. If the curious person doesn’t run screaming in the other direction, we become friends.
1. I love your accent! Are you Canadian?
Umm, I don’t have an accent. OK, yes. I have an American accent, but no regional accent. Nether of my parents was born in Boston, nor did I grow up in an environment where the Boston accent seeped through.
Canadian? Maybe if I drove for eight hours at 60MPH and had my passport handy. I had a layover in Canada once where I lost my luggage and had a full body search (one level below strip) conducted on me. Does that count?
2. Do you watch Friends?
After I answer “no,” they proceed to launch into something about Phoebe last-name-sounds-like-structural-terminology-for-fingers. American television creeps onto British screens. Shame we can’t access Saturday Night Live or Family Guy on demand for free here. I’ve never been keen on the Kardashians, Friends, or Game of Thrones.
3. Are you from California?
Nope. Opposite shore of the continent. Most European part of America. You should check it out.
4. Is everything really bigger in America?
Yes and no [sighs]. While food portions may be bigger in America, I can’t buy ladies’ shoes. My size is 13 in the US, which is 10 in the UK. The United Kingdom also features standard sizes, so I know that a men’s 10 is a women’s 10 too. In the US, it depends on the branding. Women’s shoes are not made past size 12, and I refuse to mail order!
I guess houses are bigger in America. Although that can be false again because no McMansion will ever be larger than an estate of the landed nobility.
5. What’s the driving age in America? You can’t drink until you’re 21, right? Why?
Slow down! One question at a time. The driving age is 16 for your permit, but you can start driving at 15½ in some states. Once you’re 18, if you haven’t driven recklessly, you can drive alone or with a friend. There are a few more rules, but that puts it simply.
No, we can’t drink until we are 21. I don’t know why. So we learn to drink responsibly? You certainly don’t do that here….
6. Do you shop at the mall?
I smile and laugh, then reply “sometimes.”
7. Aren’t holidays like Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Saint Patrick’s Day a bigger deal in America?
Asking a Bostonian about St. Patty’s is very dangerous. I don’t participate in the festivities, but I watch the local news the day after for a reconstruction of the city report. It’s big. That’s an understatement.
The last Halloween I went trick-or-treating I came home with over fifty pounds of candy. I was 18 and dressed in my cross-country uniform. Today I live in the boonies and we had a handful of young kids come to our door. I’m glad I didn’t invest in a seductive costume, because my Halloween date was the leftover sweets.
Valentine’s Day is just another day. Everywhere. Don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.
8. What brings you to England?
I’m in college. I wanted to get away from home and test my fledgling social skills. And I like British accents (OK, so maybe I keep the last one to myself.)
9. They don’t have a school like this in America?
The student population is a little over 1,000 and the honours program features a degree called Agriculture. Students brag about being on a farming course. No, we don’t have a place like this in the US.
10. Do you like it here?
“Yes. YES. YESSSSSSSSSSSS” I clear my throat, smile, and reply casually “Yeah, it’s nice.”
11. I’ll bet you miss the weather at home though, right?
There are spots in Boston that have over 10 feet of snow on the ground right now. Call me Scrooge, but I hate snow. I’d rather be in school. Snow days were my worst nightmare when I was in high school. The rain will never bother me as much as its frozen counterpart.
12. Do you know Mark Wahlberg?
Yes. Well, kinda. He brings his dogs to the daycare I used to work at and he has his restaurant Wahlburgers in my hometown. So I know of him.
This question can apply to any other celebrity that may be from your general area. I’ve never been asked if I know Obama, which is a relief. Then again, I’ve never asked a Brit about the queen. We are equal in that respect.
13. Not to be rude, but aren’t all Americans fat?
Adding “not to be rude” or “no offense” in front of your obviously offensive statement does not lessen the blow. No. Not all Americans are fat. I force a nervous laugh at this question, and I’m not easily offended. I believe everyone tries. Outer attraction is all about perspective.
14. How far is Boston from New York?
Five hours by train and about 16 by bus.
15. Why do you pronounce [insert word here] wrong/like that?
Because my mouth would have to contort uncomfortably otherwise? I don’t listen to my own twang? I was born this way? I’ve had to ponder an answer to this one. I sometimes accidently pronounce the “h” in herbs. Dreadful.
America can be fairly fascinating, I guess. But then, don’t ask me—I’ve left after all.