In the past I have shared my dubious wisdom on how to not look like an idiot in America and the perils of being awkward and British in a foreign country. This week I want to share with you my rather silly and tongue in cheek take on how to fit in in the US.
1. Understand US sports. Now you don’t have to actually watch or participate in said sports but it is helpful to have a little working knowledge about them. The first phone interview that I had in the US, the interviewer asked me what I thought of the Patriots season. This was obviously meant as an icebreaker but I genuinely did not know what sport the Patriots played and there was an awkward silence. Well there is always an awkward silence when I’m on the phone because I’m just awkward but this one was even longer than usual.
I’m getting better at understanding some of the sports; correct me if I’m wrong but American football is a series of adverts where the occasional sports game breaks out in-between right? I’ve even been on a tour of Fenway Park where I learned that the Green Monster wasn’t a giant lizard as I had hoped but a wall. I have found it useful to understand US sports in the context of British ones; I wrote “go New York” on a coworker’s whiteboard (this is Boston remember) and my coworker threatened to write Chelsea on mine in retaliation. I then understood the importance of the rivalry and have not repeated the activity!
2. Learn American words and acronyms. When I first heard the acronym GOP I thought it was referring to a perfume brand or a beauty product. GOP! pour homme or something like that, it makes sense doesn’t it? In the UK the term is not used to describe the US Republican Party, they are generally known as the Republican Party or by slightly less kind names. Interrupting a conversation to ask “what does that mean?” or using Google every time you have a chat with a friend doesn’t add much to a conversation so it helps to learn about what people are talking about.
3. Learn US pop culture. A number of people have been amazed when I haven’t heard of important TV shows, movies or music artists. Until I moved to America I thought that SNL (Saturday Night Live) was something that teens might say on MSN and I am regularly asked by people “how do you not know that?” I feel like there are probably Americans living in the UK who are being castigated for not knowing who “Del Boy” is in a similar fashion. My coworkers actually have a list of important American films and TV shows that I “have” to watch and it seems to be growing every time I have another conversation. Top of my list is apparently Golden Girls but we will see about that!
4. Get used to hearing impressions of your accent. People love to do fake impressions of my accent, except that in 99% of cases they sound even worse than Dick Van Dyke did in Mary Poppins which is some achievement. In about 50% of cases they use words that I would never use like “guvnor” or “jolly good” to make it even worse. I have now become immune to this and sometimes I even enjoy the banter. For my part I have a really bad fake southern accent that involves the use of “I do declare” a lot and an even worse fake Boston accent that I can use in response if necessary.
5. Embrace the coffee. I didn’t really drink that much coffee before I moved to the US but now the coffee run is an important part of my day. There is nothing more American than walking along the street with a coffee cup in hand. I started drinking coffee because good coffee is far easier to get hold of than good tea here but I do still drink tea while I’m at home. You’ll never keep me away from a cup of Earl Grey on a Sunday morning.
Did I miss anything important here?