Brits may claim that their accents haven’t changed, mine hasn’t after more than twenty years here (see what I mean?) but there’s no doubt that, after a while, Americanisms seep in all the same. From the ever-so-slight rhotic R to the “Have a nice day”, we all succumb to some degree.
1. Talking at a raised decibel level.
Many Brits quickly notice that the average conversation in the U.S. tends to be fairly loud, but how many of us eventually find ourselves projecting too? Although “I’m standing right next to you” is second only to “Because I said so” in my lexicon of parental guidance, I must confess that I can often unwittingly match the kids in volume. When I’m back in Blighty, I’m accused of shouting at least once a week; I suspect that’s because my detractors are desperate for any signs of Americanization though.
2. Taking a child-like delight in Halloween, Christmas or Valentine’s Day.
Guilty, although in my defense I have a small child and we are having his friends round this Halloween. Even so, the house looks like a set for a semi-scary movie. It’s also excusable to get into the spirit of Valentine’s day as a parent because many schools have a class celebration and children are encouraged to bring treats or cheap cards for their friends. As a sometime crafter, I might have been known to put together twenty red net favor bags full of Hersheys kisses for pre-schoolers. I draw the line at seasonal Christmas wear though.
3. Saying “holidays” for Thanksgiving and Xmas, and “vacation” for holidays.
“What are you doing for the holidays” in the U.S. isn’t a question about your plans for next summer, it refers to either Thanksgiving or Christmas, depending on when it’s spoken. “Holiday weekend” refers to what Brits might call a “bank holiday” although naturally they’re not the same. Here, the biggest ones are Presidents’ Day (February), Independence Day (July 4th), Memorial Day (May) and Labor Day (September); all but July 4th always fall on a Monday, making for nice long weekends.
4. Chatting to complete strangers.
Hailing from the North East of England, where you can hear about the aches and pains of your fellow bus passengers within five minutes, I’m not fazed when addressed by complete strangers, but I hear many Brits comment on how often this happens in the U.S. And it’s true, it’s almost rude not to speak to the only other person in an elevator. I forget how American this is until I do it to unsuspecting Brits, including British tourists in the U.S. On a recent trip to Legoland in California, my ten year old and I were guesstimating the wait for one ride; the English kids standing behind us were, we believed, grossly over-estimating and worrying unnecessarily, so I turned to them and, with a big smile (and an English accent) said, “Oh it can’t be more than fifteen minutes I’m sure.” You’d have thought I’d asked them if they’d like to come with me to see some puppies! They literally fled to find their mother, who returned, clearly rankled by the stranger danger.
5. Rinsing dishes.
It’s true. I’ve crossed the cultural divide; when hand-washing dishes, I run them under cold water to get rid of the suds. I even do it at my mother’s in the U.K. and she only has one sink. (By pouring water over the dishes when they’re in the dish rack, in case you’re wondering.) So sue me!
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