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The folks here are friendly, inquisitive and oddly fascinated by Brits and British culture, which means I often find myself fielding the following well-intentioned inquiries.
1. Do you know the Queen?
The idea that our head royal is somehow a kindly grandmother to the nation, who makes regular tea dates with her loyal subjects, persists here. Sometimes I tell people I used to take her meals on wheels, so now she follows me on Twitter.
2. Are you Australian?
Americans can confuse our flat vowel sounds with the ones made by Antipodeans. In my experience, West-coasters are far more likely to make the mistake and I’ve no idea why. So far, all the New Yorkers I’ve met have correctly diagnosed my Britishness.
3. My great uncle’s priest moved to Manchester in ‘95 – do you know him?
Because Britain is tiny compared to the U.S. (we’d fit comfortably into Oregon, with room for most of Belgium), some of the less worldly Americans I’ve met assume the population is similarly small, and therefore we must all know each other. Alas, the opposite is true. When I lived in London, I couldn’t even point out my next-door neighbors in a line up.
4. What’s it like living under socialism?
It’s a tricky one, this. Because I’d quite like to reply with a confident: “Splendid, thanks for asking.” But I also don’t want to perpetuate the U.S.-born myth that Britain is a socialist state, just because our doctors will treat your broken toe or cancerous protuberance without sending you a bill afterwards.
5. Can you repeat that please?
The more clearly I think I’m enunciating, the more difficult it is for some people here to understand me. Lately, I’ve started experimenting with squishing my words together and substituting Ts for softer Ds. It’s working quite well.
6. Why’s there an X at the end of your email?
Sadly, I’ve yet to receive a written message from an American sealed with a kiss, but I have received more than one baffled inquiry as to what the X I’ve lovingly typed after my name is there for. A few do the hugs-and-kisses “xoxo” thing, but adding an unadorned kiss — or several in a row — will either confuse an American or make them uncomfortable.
7. Are you here on vacation?
Understandably, American strangers will assume you’re on holiday rather than a U.S. resident. Actually, this can be handy if you don’t like the person you’re talking to and are hoping to avoid future interactions.
8. So, do you like it here more than the U.K.?
Assuming you’ve admitted to being a full-time U.S.-dweller (see previous point), the follow-up question is often something like this. My answer changes depending on what kind of day I’ve had. Ask me after I’ve spent six hours sparring with a call center employee who doesn’t understand what I’m saying no matter how many Ds I substitute for Ts, and I’ll tell you I’m ready to jump on the next plane home. Ask me after a plate of pancakes and bacon, and I’ll pledge allegiance on the spot.
9. What do you miss most from home?
Again, my answer to this changes from minute to minute. Though, quite often I find myself ranting like a lunatic about how I’d happily murder a kitten for a single mouthful of curry that doesn’t taste like vomit laced with cumin (i.e. every Indian meal I’ve ever eaten in the U.S.).
10. Is England near Europe?
Okay, I’ll confess that this isn’t a question I get asked by many American adults. But it’s a regular query from children and teenagers, who also want to know whether I’ve been to Paris, the capital of England.
What question do you get a lot?
View all posts by Ruth Margolis.