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Feeling out of control with no idea how to navigate your new homeland? It’s not uncommon for a freshmen expat to feel like the new kid in school. But fear not, U.S.-dwelling Brits. Learning how to use your national identity to get a leg up in America will make everything better. Try your luck with some of these cunning ploys.
1. Get Reductions
So long as you hang on to your accent, American strangers will forever assume you’re on holiday. This can be frustrating but a crafty British expat will, on occasion, use this to his or her advantage. Announce that you’re a tourist in many of the big name stores and they’ll give you a 10 percent discount.
2. Charm Call Center Staff
There’s nothing quite as frustrating as being on the phone with someone whose job it is to help you but they seem incapable or unwilling to do so. In these situations, apply some faux British humbleness: “I’m terribly sorry, it’s my fault entirely that you mistakenly charged me $1000 to make a 20 second phone call. If you wouldn’t mind refunding it I’d be awfully grateful. Thank you so much.” They will melt and do what you want. Probably.
3. Up Your IQ
Let’s suppose for a moment that there are creatures squelching about on the seabed that could out fox you in a brain-off. Hard luck, but all is not lost. Disguising your lack of smarts is easy if you’re a Brit living in the U.S. Ideally, you’ll sound a bit like one of the upstairs dwellers from Downton Abbey because folks over here tend to associate a posh English accent with intelligence. Add to this a scowl and some thick glasses and it might be enough to cover over the cracks at dinner parties.
4. Get a Date
Your British accent is as effective as any known flirting technique when directed at an American. Even the lilts other Brits find a total turn off seem to loosen loins stateside. For best results, scour the moss off your teeth first.
5. Woo Realtors and Landlords
Finding a rental is one of the toughest challenges for any U.S. newbie, so it’s worth playing up your bumbling Britishness. Tug mercilessly on their heart strings, mention that you’re Hugh Grant’s second cousin and they’ll rent you a place even if you have no credit score and only half the required security deposit.
6. Get Free Stuff in Restaurants
The owner of a Mississippi lunch joint once gave some friends and me a complimentary Chess pie, just for being British. Ignoring the fact that it gave all four of us crippling food poisoning, I was impressed. So far, it hasn’t happened again but that could be because I live in New York where Brits are about as novel as rats on the subway.
7. Avoid Chuggers
In case you’re unaware, “chugger” is Brit shorthand for “charity mugger.” These are the people who pounce on you in the street with a clipboard, a cause and a smile the size of Texas. They want your credit card details, but not if you’re foreign. If you’re too nice a person to simply growl in their smug, philanthropic face, try the ever dependable: “Sorry, I’m on holiday!” You could also add an “Aww, hard luck” shrug. Works every time.
8. Trend Set
Strut confidently in your tracksuit bottoms, boob tube and stilettos; get a nose tattoo; wear Ugg Boots on your hands! Anyone questions your super-stylish get up, simply answer them back in your most clipped British accent. Explain that this is THE look in London right now. They’ll say no more about it and a hipster journal will write an article about you.
9. Get a Job
If you’re somehow living here without a paycheck, you’re probably seeking employment. Bagging an interview as a foreigner won’t be easy but once you’re in, that accent will take you far. Plus, most Americans don’t understand our education system so you can afford to massage the truth. Tell them the “G” in GCSE stands for “genius”, so the fact that you got straight Cs means you’re only really a couple of grades sub-Hawkin.
10. Leave Your Dinner
On the rare occasion that you end up eating somewhere with inedible food but lovely staff, you might feel politely obliged to clean your plate. Don’t bother. When your server asks what’s wrong, just explain that Brits don’t eat as much as Americans. Taking one or two bites is totally normal for us. We have slower metabolisms, you see.
Have any of these worked for you ~ tell us your story!
Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.