It takes me a moment to register every time. There’s this look that passes over their face when I first speak. You can literally see some kind of switch flip in their brain. Their eyes show it. It’s a small movement. A widening perhaps, or a gentle flick back and forth.
The brain is registering
You’re not from round here.
But each time, it happens, for a brief moment, I wonder, “Do they know me? Did I say something strange? Do I have lipstick all over my teeth”
And then it clicks.
“Where are you from?” they ask. Or, “Well, you’re not from round here.”
Some don’t even ask the question, they just listen. You can tell. There’s a slight smile and the hang comes. The hanging off every word until finally they feel brave enough to ask.
Then comes the questions and the, “I just love your accent.”
My favorite was the young girl we met lining up for the waterslides at Great Wolf Lodge. She kept talking to me and showing all the signs that she knew I was different until eventually she asked,
“Do you speak a different language or something?” I just can’t understand what you are saying.”
I laughed. “Not a different language but a different accent. I say words differently which is why you’re having trouble understanding. “
“I’m so sorry,” she’d say, “but I just don’t know what you’re saying. Maybe if I talk to you for awhile longer, I might finally get it. “
For the remainder of the conversation, Kalyra, with her American accent became my interpreter.
We are quite the novelty in Minnesota so far. I’m not sure a lot of Australians come here (and they should!) so the exposure to our accent is probably minimal. I saw that click and then the smile and the hang with every single person who worked there that we interacted with. It meant that we chatted to every single person we interacted with. And it led me to say to the General Manager, “You have the friendliest staff here. I’ve never experienced such warmth and kindness before.”
I love how travel allows me to have these experiences. Sometimes I feel like it might place me in a little bit of a bubble, but why not live in that kind of a bubble if it help you to believe, and experience, that people are mostly kind and good. Why would you want to pop out of that bubble to see anything different?
But, these are conversations we’re not just having in Minnesota. We have them a lot in the US.
It seems so strange to me as I feel Australians have such a slow and drawn out accent. It feels like every word is easy to understand, but the USA is the country we’ve had the most difficulty with people understanding us. I’d love to hear what they hear so I can understand why we’re so hard to understand.
Aussies, be warned, when you visit the USA and you’re thirsting for one of their delicious craft beers, make sure you pronounce that ‘r’ on the end or you might not get it!
Or better yet, drop the ‘r’, drop the Aussie accent and allow it to open up a fun conversation.
It’s one reason I love living and traveling in the US.
We are a novelty, especially when you get away from LA and New York.
That might sound completely vain, but I’m not talking from the perspective of everyone has their eyes and strained ears on me, but of how much being Australian opens up a path to conversations and connections.
Once they know you’re Australian they just want to talk. They want to know everything: How long does it take to fly here. Why did you move to Raleigh? How come so many things can kill you in Australia? And of course, I love talking about Australia and convincing Americans to take that long flight to their dream destination.
If it wasn’t for our accent we wouldn’t have half the enjoyable and fun conversations we have.
We wouldn’t experience the incredible warmth and curiosity if the American people. We wouldn’t learn more about their own culture. It’s in talkign wtih people who are different to you that we learn how not to be afraid. We learn to rejoice in the differences and find similarities amongst them.
So when I see that look pass over their face, I get excited.
I’m about to have an exchange that helps me warmly and openly connect with another human.
Do you experience this much when you travel? What has been some of your favorite connections that have opened up because you sound different?