Tag Archives: expat

Things Americans say to me when they hear my accent

15 May
  • Where are you from?
  • [Said without introduction] Are you British?
  • Ooh I love your accent! Where did you get it?
  • Oh you have an Australian accent! I can speak in one of those. (No, you can’t)
  • [Said accusingly] Hey, are you British?
  • Why are you here?
  • [Said in the tone of a man defending the colony of Massachusetts from Imperial aggressors] YOU’RE BRITISH!
  • My aunt went to Australia once
  • Are Australia and New Zealand, like, the same?
  • No, really, where are you from?
  • Bitch, just tell me where you’re fucking from
  • Excuse me, my daughter was wondering where you were from. (Lady, your kid is 18 months old. She doesn’t know where she’s from.)

When this happens, when someone talks to me as though I’m leading a British invasion of colonial Boston, I like to fuck with them. Sometimes I tell them I’m from Cape Town and remain in my version of a South African accent all day, knowing most Americans won’t hear the difference. Most of the time though I just fire back “where are YOU from?” and watch these very comfortable white people plunge into existential crisis before my eyes. It’s the best part of my day.

I wrote about the damage done by America’s cultural navel-gazing in my essay Australia’s moment: why NBC didn’t need to make The Slap.


Up the Ohio without a driver’s license

28 Jun

I’ve been a resident of the United States for seven days now. It was a move three years in the making, almost on the anniversary of meeting my fiance in a dingy London bar. Right now, while I’m writing this in a corner of our living room in Oxford Ohio, John is playing FIFA with his groomsmen. It is an absolutely joyous, ordinary day.

Ordinary days are something new to us. People in long distance relationships don’t get them. They get days that crackle with anticipation, heavy with the responsibility of being one day out of a limited number. For the first time, I can enjoy hearing his voice in the background while I write without wondering if we should be spending our time on something more meaningful.Photo of a street in Oxford.

Like all first weeks in new countries, this one has stretched. Each of the seven days has brought its own little crisis of adjustment. I’m not homesick yet, but small town Ohio came as a shock. We’re spending my first month in a college town… in summer… when squirrels outnumber humans 3 to 1. I get to walk down canopied avenues without passing another person and buy groceries without waiting in line. It would be nice, if it didn’t make me lonely.

The hardest thing though has been losing my independence. Last year, when I was in Paris with my dad my wallet was stolen. This made me even more dependent on him than I already was. Instead of reacting calmly and graciously, I was more like a puffer fish; my spikes coming out at the nearest opportunity. Poor Dad.

In Ohio I’m not just reliant on John, I’ve stepped out of my life and into his. On my third day here that hit me. We were driving around town running errands like setting up a phone account and buying coat hangers. After one fruitless conversation at the Verizon store (is there any other kind?) we got into the car and John started pulling out. There came my spikes. “Where are you taking me? Just because you’re the one driving doesn’t mean you can just cart me around town like cargo!”

John blinked, halfway out of the parking space, as heaving sobs started coming from me. I had, apparently, only just realised I had moved overseas for a man. Not only that, I had done it before learning to drive. I was useless, helpless and almost alone.

The solution was found at Walmart for $89. It’s a light brown fixed-gear Huffy bike and with it I have conquered Oxford, Ohio. With it I have access to food, non-squirrel interaction and the town’s only espresso machine. With it, I am unstoppable.