Friday, September 13, 2013
(Bridge cooperatively built of Kapla blocks by three American, two British, and one Canadian child.)
The other day, I was reading this post by the mother of a family of SIX that is taking a year to travel around the world (Gulp!). I found myself nodding along with the list of challenges she enumerated, although of course she's tackling some much harder stuff than we are. And one of the things I think anyone getting used to a new culture can relate to is this one:
"Always being the foreigners, the odd ones out, the ones who can’t understand properly and make mistakes all the time."
I certainly do feel that way regularly -- anxious lest my American accent instantly set me up as a gauche, loud, obnoxiously entitled visitor. Foolish when I get on the wrong bus and everyone watches me ask apologetic questions of the driver. But no one here has yet responded with, "Oh, you're American!" when I open my mouth. And that's probably because Cambridge seems to be a truly international city. "You're not from around here," could easily apply to a huge percentage of the population, as far as I can tell.
On Monday at our first French class, for example, I looked around the cozy den where we were sitting. Assembled cast: British family (hosting), New Zealander family (here for a 6-month sabbatical), Hungarian family (immigrated three years ago), and us (Americans).
The Professor, at his office, works with a Scotsman, a Frenchman, a South African, a Greek, and a Brit..
American, Polish, Canadian, Chinese, and British voices worship together in our church meetings.
The guy who delivered our dining table was Bulgarian.
The guy who gave us his spot at the cycle park on Wednesday was from Brazil.
The gal who works the cash register ("till") at our little neighborhood grocery store is from South Africa.
(In case you're wondering, yes, I usually ask. Nosy American.)
And on and on. It's kind of like being on a cruise, except, of course, totally different.
But if you happen to meet me -- like if I'm asking for directions to the library, for instance -- and you answer in an American accent, watch out! I might beam at you. I might be tempted to hug you. I'll stop short of asking you to join me in the national anthem. And we certainly don't want to be mistaken for loud, obnoxious Americans.
Posted by Hannah at 7:57 AM