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It’s no secret that the merest murmur of a British accent turns the average American into a heap of delighted, obliging mush. So I say: use this to your advantage.
When you want to spend less
Canny Brits will already know that they can play the “tourist discount” card when they shop at a major U.S. department store. But some retailers give the staff power to offer a discretionary discount—usually around 10 percent. Your accent plus lashings of awkward, bumbling Britishness will probably help you sway them, though you will also need to give them a reason to slash the price for you, other than being foreign.
When you’re trying get your child into a good school
And by “school,” I mean both the kiddie variety and college. If there’s an interview process, encourage your offspring to play up his or her background. It’ll make them seem worldly, intelligent (see next point) and perhaps less like the lackadaisical, monosyllabic teen you know them to be. If they don’t sound at least partially British, blast them with episodes of Blue Peter for a few week and hope it takes.
When you want to sound smart
I’ve no idea why but Americans assume Brits—and not just them plums-in-mouth kind—are intelligent. You could be reading out soup ingredients and you’ll still have any locals listening wondering how you got to be so clever.
When you’re apologizing
Saying sorry is basically our national superpower and sport. No one apologizes as frequently and unnecessarily as we do. Americans find it weird but also quite charming. On the off chance that you’ve actually done something wrong, a bumbling British sorry will instantly disarm the injured party.
When you’re interviewing
Job interviews will also benefit from you angling the conversation towards your origins. A beguiling anecdote or two (entirely fabricated is fine) about that time you did PR for Buck Palace (yeah right) or fetched Helen Mirren tea (not likely, matey) will have any American employer begging to put you on staff.
When you’re complaining
We’re not a people that generally likes to make a fuss, so when we have a go it gets noticed. So, your omelet was cold and tasted of fermented tramp. Don’t ignore it this time. Instead, put on your best Countess of Somewhere-shire voice and let rip. You’ll have people falling over themselves to bring you replacement eggs. Of course, this is America so that probably would have happened anyway.
When you need help
Asking for assistance in your most polite and smiling British way virtually guarantees success. But in return you may need to engage in a not necessarily brief follow up conversation about where you’re from exactly and whether you know your American savior’s friend’s cousin who lives in Aberdeen—or is it Aberystwyth?
When you want to cover up a mistake
Because Americans enjoy thinking we’re smart and authoritative, they’re very willing to go along with any version of events that keeps that illusion alive. Should you get your facts wrong, simply claim whatever it is you just said is in fact the case in the U.K. Even if you’ve just denied the existence of gravity—or horses—some will believe you as long as you back up your argument with literally any old guff delivered in the Queen’s English.
Have you ever used your Britishness to your advantage in America? Tell us how below.
View all posts by Ruth Margolis.