It’s a funny old thing being a Brit in New York sometimes – if just for the way in which you tend to get the same reaction from different groups of people about your accent.
Whenever you call up to a U.S. service center, most of which are hosted in the mid-west, you are invariably asked if you’re Australian. On replying that you are British you will then spend the next five minutes either hearing about the call center person’s last 5 day trip to London, or how they so want to go there. With the increasing number of call centers being hosted in India this conversation is however becoming an endangered species.
What’s more interesting is when you talk with another ex-pat. At first you’ll recognise the traditional mid-Atlantic accent. Traditional Anglicisms sprinkled with ‘like’ and ‘whatever’, normally set into a base of BBC World style pronunciation. As soon as the conversationalist recognises a fellow Brit the accent swings into full localized English – as with last night and one of the SVA professors who was from Huddersfield. One moment it was all “jolly good” and “smashing” the next it was “by ‘eck you don’t want to be talkin’ like this t’locals”. It is at this point I become rapidly aware that I’m a southerner (or ‘southern wanker’ in more traditional northern English speak).
The next step in the ex-pat conversational exchange is, of course, football – that’s “soccer” to any Americans reading. What team you support, how they’re doing in the league (or not) and recent transfers come flooding out un-solicited. As someone who enjoys playing football but isn’t fanatical about supporting a team this can all get quite tricky quite quickly. Politely navigating an exchange without riling up inter-team rivalries is practically impossible, especially when you’re not even sure whether the teams are in the same league.
Having said all that it’s great to hear a proper Brit accent every now and again. This is most apparent whenever I call back to some phone service in the UK. My favorite is First Direct, who have call centers in both Leeds and Scotland so you get a great range of Northern accents. Invariably on a quick call to find out my account balance I end up in a long conversation about the weather, how their new year’s eve (or other recent special day) went and where the best places are to shop in New York. Nice one guv’nor.
* The ‘Hold Music DJ’ is an original concept owned and conceived by Nicole Barth(TM), all rights reserved and then some.