You know what is the single most annoying thing about being British living in North America?
The other day I was in a bar, chatting to a colleague over a glass of wine, when we noticed a young server was trying to surreptitiously sidle up to us. She wasn’t our server, and we had drinks and menus, so I raised my eyebrow at her.
She took this as invitation to bounce right over, and in hallowed tone she asked, “Ohmygod, are you English? I just loooove your accent, cheerio, pip pip!”
I nodded in affirmation and withdrew eye contact to subtly shoo her, but now she was on a roll…
I should point out that at this point of the conversation, there are three, and only three, options as to what will happen next:
1. They will start talking loudly at you in a Dick Van Dyke -Mary Poppins era accent, convinced that you will thoroughly enjoy this remarkable impersonation of NO BRITISH PERSON EVER! And then helpfully trace their lineage back to the rise of the Druids to prove that they had a modicum of affinity with you.
2. They will start quoting entire episodes of Monty Python at you, whilst telling you that Monty Python was the funniest thing to come out of England ever, (with the possible exception of Benny Hill(!) ).
3. They will combine 1. & 2.
My non-server chose option 1, and informed me in her Disney Cock-eyed Cockney that she was British too. (I believe she said she was Scottish, but her Pakistani sounding Scottish accent threw me off a tad).
So here is the deal: no! You are not British.
In order to save future ex-pats my pain, I have come up with a helpful flow chart to help you figure this out:
Someone I know has a Welsh-sounding name, so for his wedding he wanted to make a big deal out of celebrating his Welsh heritage. Because he’s Welsh. Very Welsh.
He has never been to Wales. Has no family or even friends in Wales. Doesn’t speak Welsh. His Welsh father? Never been to Wales. Has no friends or family that he knows of in Wales. But he too is Welsh. Very Welsh. Has a copy of the Coat of Arms for his (very common) Welsh surname. So he is Welsh.
Me personally, I am British Canadian. I can say this because I hold Citizenship in both countries. My culture and personality is shaped by my experience of both nationalities. My patriotism is split with love for both countries.
If your parents’ parents’ parents came from Britain, or Germany, or France, and started a new life in Canada or the States, then you, my friend are Canadian or U. S. Of Aian. You don’t need to specify your entire genealogy with a silly title: “I’m a fourth generation German/French Canadian with a touch of Cree six generations back”. No you aren’t. If the word ‘generation’ needs to be used, do me a favour and don’t.
Back to the accent issue: I was going to make the entire rant about how very, very annoying it is to have strangers randomly interrupt me to rave about my accent, but the other week I was at a friend’s wedding, and I met a lovely Scottish lady with the most amazing accent, and I found myself asking her, the way that we accented ex-pats do, whether she too was mad about the amount of strangers who try to impersonate her accent. Sadly, I heard myself asking this in my sad sounding Shrek-sounding Scottish brogue.
What a donkey!