My Study Abroad Overview: Every Barb, Zinger, & Burn Thrown My Way

Considering the last post might very well be construed as negative, I thought I’d do something a little more light-hearted today. I thought it might be of interest to you to read some of the comments I received during my exchange. I think it’s worth documenting, because nothing is of greater interest to me than the way we interact. I am intrigued by attitudes, perceptions, and the differing ways in which we express ourselves. Hopefully, this post will serve as a window to the past.

  • You, sir, are an Englishman. I don’t want to make you feel self-conscious, but literally everyone turns around in their seats when you put your hand up and talk in class.”
    It’s true. I got quite a few stares. This one was said to me during one of my American literature classes. I’m not gonna lie, a big part of me enjoyed being thought of as a mysterious, exotic novelty. Probably because I’ve always considered myself such an aggressively-boring person. But here, all I had to do was speak and people would be like “Check out Andrew Lincoln in the back there,” or so I imagined. Back home I had to be funny and interesting in order to stand out (two things I’ve never been good at), whereas in the USA I just had to open my mouth and the whole class would give me their utmost attention.
  • “Did you go to the Olympics?”
    This one kept coming up. During the summer of 2012, the Olympic games were held in London. As I’ve said in other posts, I’ve found that one of the defining traits of Americans is their raw enthusiasm. It’s in stark contrast to the dry, deadpan mannerisms of the English. Every American I met thought that it was “So awesome!” that my country was hosting the Olympics, and assumed I would be interested in making the most of it. Americans love an excuse to party and celebrate. They couldn’t believe it when I said that I had no interest in the Olympics and barely even noticed it was on.
  • “Hey, remember when we kicked your ass?”
    I got loads of remarks about the Revolutionary War of 1776. Obviously, it’s the most important part of American history and every American kid is taught about how the tyrannical British Empire tried to oppress the American colonists. So a lot of Americans assumed that because it’s so important to their history, that we Brits would also be educated on it. But most British people haven’t got the faintest clue about George Washington and the War of Independence. It’s just not a big event in British history. I only know about it because I’m infatuated with American history and culture. In school we learned about Henry VIII, the Romans, and William the Conqueror.
    Americans like to tease each other good-naturedly, and on several occasions people tried to get a reaction out of me by bringing up George Washington crossing the Potomac with a bunch of Prussian mercenaries and slaughtering their British oppressors. They were disappointed when I didn’t defend my homeland. As faithful readers know, I’m practically the opposite of a patriot. I don’t believe in loyalty to a man-made construct you have no control over being born in. Patriotism as a concept just makes no sense to me; I think it’s just another way for those in power to treat ordinary people like cattle. Add to the fact that I’m a shy, agreeable person by nature, and you can see how a debate never got going. I just endured a few barbs here and there.
  • “I am just fascinated with your culture. I bet it’s just like Harry Potter.”
    Revolutionary banter aside, I found that most Americans I met were enamored with the British way of life. Several people even idealized it. My roommate was crushed when I broke it to him that most British schools aren’t castles and abbeys, with little moss-covered cobblestone walls and the whole student body wearing ties and blazers. The reality is a hellish landscape of run-down utilitarian buildings populated by little twatmouths with upturned collars who delight in launching spit-balls into each other’s throats and carving the word “CUNT” onto the classroom desks. When I told him about people I went to school with who dared each other to masturbate in class and set the crotches of unsuspecting nerds on fire with a deodorant canister and a lighter, he said that his rosy vision of England had been utterly tarnished forever. I found that a lot of Americans thought of Europe as being more classy, less commercial, and even morally superior. I remember a secretary in Hibbard telling me how much she adored my culture and envied our long traditions. The British Monarchy in particular was a source of endless fascination for those I met.
  • “You’re gonna have to say that one more time…”
    The British don’t tend to enunciate like the Americans do, and this got me into all sorts of trouble. When I asked my host dad if there were any bears nearby, he made me repeat the question at least 4 excruciatingly awkward times; in my accent, the word sounded to him like “Baz”, because we Brits seem to have some kind of vendetta against the letter “r”. When I asked the sales assistant in Scheels if they had any dartboards I could buy, she similarly made me repeat myself a bunch of times. Aaron could only bear to watch me say “Dah-t-baw-d” so many times, and put me out of my misery by hollering “He’s lookin’ fer a dartboard!”. The worst is when I’m in American restaurants and I ask for a glass of “waw-ugh.”
  • “You need to loosen up.”
    I got this a lot too. Everything about the way I dressed and behaved and talked gave the Americans the impression I was deeply repressed and hella uptight.
  • “I’ve never been to Europe, but that’s somewhere in Germany right?”
    To be fair, this guy was drunk as hell.
  • Terms of endearment thrown my way included “The Prince of London”, “Cocky Brit” and “That Limey Fuck”.
  • “Mick Jagger is my favorite Beatle.”
    Aaron used to say this a lot in an attempt to provoke me. I love the Rolling Stones, and it was his way of teasing me as well as satirizing the ignorant redneck stereotype.
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