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Not from around here

I have never been so elegantly asked about my alienness as I was on Saturday by friends of nou. One of them asked, "Where are you from originally?" Another followed up with "Do you still have voting privileges there?"

Conversely, I have rarely been so persistently not asked about my alienness as I was yesterday when I was out running errands. A stop at Lush was among these; that it was the Covent Garden one, tourist central, didn't help. All three of the staff members who at one point or another briefly talked to me presumed I was a transient alien. It's quite a reasonable assumption, given my accent.

I stood indecisively by the facial scrubs, trying to decide if I really wanted to buy more Ocean Salt or not. I wasn't entirely out yet. "You should consider whether or not you can get more of it easily when you do run out." said the sales assistant. "I can." "It's not too inconvenient for you to get more of it?" "No." "If sourcing it is going to be a problem, you might want to buy more now." "No, really, it won't be." And so on. Entire, brief conversations. Three of them.

So clearly, since I am so obviously a transient alien, I should embrace this status for the purpose of casual shopping trips. To enhance this, I need to be prepared with appropriate repartee. Since sarcasm is obviously such an American trait, a few appropriately reinforcing sarcastic remarks wouldn't go amiss either. Sadly, for all my good misleading intentions, my mind is blank of actual exemplary remarks.

Comments

( 43 comments — Leave a comment )
taldragon
Feb. 21st, 2007 11:44 am (UTC)
i tend to prefer 'where are you from originally/where do you live/where were you born' as asking me where i come from gets a blank stare and a request for elaboration :)

and obviously you need a 'not a tourist' tshirt :)
owlfish
Feb. 21st, 2007 11:52 am (UTC)
Wouldn't only tourists buy a "not a tourist" shirt? ;)

i tend to prefer 'where are you from originally/where do you live/where were you born' as asking me where i come from gets a blank stare and a request for elaboration

Exactly. Then I have to guess whether or not they're asking where I live. Actually, they usually don't even care about where I'm from. They're most frequently asking where my accent is from. Which happens to coincide largely with where I really am from originally, conveniently.

I love Iowa dearly, but I didn't move here from there, which doesn't help the answer to confusing questions either.
(no subject) - taldragon - Feb. 21st, 2007 11:59 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - targaff - Feb. 21st, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
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owlfish
Feb. 21st, 2007 12:00 pm (UTC)
You're a very sneaky tourist to have a chip-and-pin card! Very clever.

Even in the UK, banks are required to allow their customers to use signature confirmations instead of chip-and-pin if they require it. (Say, if the customer is incapable of remembering number sequences etc. Whatever reason.) I suppose that doesn't mean that shops are obliged to accept signature confirmations from current UK bank cards though - does it? Hmm.
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a_d_medievalist
Feb. 21st, 2007 12:11 pm (UTC)
I've always got weird responses in England and Scotland. When around other USAmericans (not with them, mind) in a shop or pub, I invariably get included in the eye-rolling at the aliens, even when I've already opened my mouth. I'll mention that they may not have noticed I'm also a Yank, and get a response along the lines of, "yes, but you aren't like one." I've never quite understood that. What, because I'm reasonably polite? Maybe because I don't speak that loudly?

I tend to pick up accents pretty easily -- I think that's why Germans assumed I was from another part of Germany or at least Europe. Put me among Scots, Irish(wo)men, or South Africans for a week, and I start sounding like them. But oddly, despite living with a Londoner for 12+ years, I've never picked up a trace of a sarf London accent. You live there -- has your accent changed?

Wrt responses, why can't you simply stop the long list of irritating questions by saying that you live just down the road? It seems a simple solution.
taldragon
Feb. 21st, 2007 12:20 pm (UTC)
it's the way you behave, i presume? tourist behaviour and i-live-here behaviour are very different - you're adhering to the local unwritten rules and conventions and behaving in an 'appropriate' way. whereas tourists...dont.

(no subject) - a_d_medievalist - Feb. 21st, 2007 08:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
owlfish
Feb. 21st, 2007 12:22 pm (UTC)
why can't you simply stop the long list of irritating questions by saying that you live just down the road? It seems a simple solution.

Had the conversation gone on any longer, I would have! It's just the questions were so short and easy to answer, and it was so surprising that that conversation went on as long as three of them. I had three short conversations with three different people in three parts of the store. None were long, but all operated on the same presumptions.

I don't pick up accents easily. I'm more likely to have my speaking influenced by Lancashire than London, given who I live with. I sound much more like I'm from the American midwest than anywhere else, although I've twice been asked, while in Des Moines, where I was from, based on my accent.

I don't have much of an ear for accents either, which is frustrating. I can tell that accents are different from each other, but it's a very long, very slow process for me to identify a rogue accent in the wild. I miss out on all the basic information which Brits all have about each other: where they're from and often a certain amount of class information as well. I generally notice Received Pronunciation these days, but not even always that. I've had moments when I came away from a conversation with a large group of people I didn't already know and have someone make a comment about the other American there... and I'd failed to notice there was one.
(no subject) - taldragon - Feb. 21st, 2007 12:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - a_d_medievalist - Feb. 21st, 2007 12:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
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owlfish
Feb. 21st, 2007 12:36 pm (UTC)
I'm a tiny bit jealous: I've never had anyone admire my ability to "speak English" by using English vocabulary.

I may have a decent ear for vocabulary, but it's sadly lacking in ability to detect accents. I can relate to the difficulties of placing even what continent a given accent is from.
(no subject) - purpletigron - Feb. 21st, 2007 12:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
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tisiphone
Feb. 21st, 2007 12:18 pm (UTC)
Lush amuses me. I typically buy their stuff from the shop in Cambridge (UK), or have Nicolai buy it for me, because it's actually cheaper there than it tends to be here (this does mean that my luggage is pretty heavy coming back.), but on occasion I've gone into the Newbury St. store in Boston to top up in between visits. They invariably ask me if I've shopped there before, then go "Oh, what store?" and then "but we don't have one in Cambridge!" I am sad that now they have one in Harvard Sq. and I will no longer get this reaction.
owlfish
Feb. 21st, 2007 12:28 pm (UTC)
A tragic loss of a good conversational gambit! How inconvenient of Lush to open a new store there.
(no subject) - tisiphone - Feb. 21st, 2007 12:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
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justinsomnia
Feb. 21st, 2007 04:34 pm (UTC)
So just to be clear, it isn't a problem to get more because you live fairly close by? I would just bluntly state something like: "I live x minutes away, so really, it's fine." Or if there's a Lush store even closer to you, you could say: "Well I usually go to the ___ one ..."

That's all I've got. I hate when store clerks assume that I have no idea what I'm talking about ... like the other day when my friend and I went to order sandwiches ... I'm vegetarian and she's vegan, so we both ordered the only sandwich option, me without the avocado and her without the cheese. The guy behind the counter was baffled, and tried to explain to us that we might want to reconsider because that sandwich doesn't come with much and here we are deleting options. Morons. Seriously, we walked right in, didn't look at the menu, and ordered by number (the #6, no avocado) ... he should be able to guess, from that, that we know what we're talking about and we don't need to be counseled as to our dinner choices.

Ok now I'm rambling in your journal. I also hate the ambiguity of "where are you from." I'm not even in another country ... but when I got here (PA) everyone was completely baffled, because I am "from" California but didn't come here from there, since I'd been living in NYC for the last few years. Of course, everyone is already confused when you say you're from California if you don't look like a beach kid ... so apparently they all decided I was from NYC, which is flattering, but not true. I have friends I have known for years now, both here and in NJ, who probably still think I am from NYC.

And then there's the issue of the NYC ID card (I don't drive) ... those look fake. I actually got refused entry to a bar in Cali that I used to work at over five years ago.

Ok that's enough from me.
owlfish
Feb. 22nd, 2007 08:27 pm (UTC)
"Well I usually go to the ___ one ..."

That's a good suggestion!

I hate lunch places where you have to be taught how to order. I know you're giving an example of one in which you already know how to use it, but it reminds me of times I've been in a sandwich shop and ordered all wrong and had to be corrected, and everyone else was moving through quickly. Frustrating.

Feel free to ramble away whenever you like, especially if it's even vaguely on-topic. You have interesting things to say.

Being from a flyover state, I'm more used to general ignorance about where I'm from than not living up to stereotypes, although I suppose I can't count how often I've been asked if I grew up on a farm.
ex_hedgies507
Feb. 21st, 2007 11:02 pm (UTC)
"You should consider whether or not you can get more of it easily when you do run out." said the sales assistant. "I can." "It's not too inconvenient for you to get more of it?"

Now you are far too kind to say this, but if I heard that one too many times, my deadpan response would most likely be something along the lines of, "No, not since we got the flying monkeys. Now shopping is a breeze. Could you ring this up, please? Thanks."
owlfish
Feb. 22nd, 2007 08:23 pm (UTC)
I'm fond of my telekinesis machine myself.
(no subject) - ex_hedgies507 - Feb. 22nd, 2007 10:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 43 comments — Leave a comment )