Tuesday, April 30, 2013

T is for Tourist - images of America

I've already talked about some aspects of being a tourist in a foreign country. Coffee, motels, fabulous scenery, (and here too) driving, but I haven't mentioned conversations or the near impossibility of reading street and town names let alone pronouncing them well enough to be understood by locals.

It can be a problem at times.

Scenario - "Hi could you direct me to ..... street?"

The person looks at you as if you were speaking some rarely heard strange language, possibly unheard by any living person for the last three thousand years.

Their eyes open wide, you can almost see their brain gears grinding painfully.

"Pardon?" (Americans are incredibly polite - none of our "whadjasaymate, ay?")

So in an effort to get the directions, you ask more slowly, enunciating each word clearly and carefully.

They squint, screw up their face in an effort at concentration ... it sounds a little like English.

"Sorry, could you ... ?"

Smiling hopefully, but almost despairing, you repeat the request for a third time.

A light goes on ... It is English, but different ... So that's what an honest to goodness, dinky-di Australian accent sounds like!

Everyone who's travelled tells tales of mime, misunderstandings, embarrassment, confusion ... and hilarity!

I experienced the joy of attending a professional training session with some 360+ psychologists and social workers, the majority of them from the US. I really appreciated the camaraderie and sharing professional information .... but of equal pleasure was the opportunity to interact and have fun together - and be teased mercilessly by some of the wonderful participants!

Being an Aussie tourist in the US can be kind of weird. We sort of speak a similar language, though our words and phrases often mean quite different things and there are lots of cultural stereotypes to be kicked under the chair. Film and TV has a lot to answer for.

And just when you think you've got a handle on the accent, whump! you come undone.

Awful offal? Offal Offal? Why would my colleagues be inviting me to a lunch spot where they serve offal? I know the saying is "When in Rome do as the Romans do", but  ... yuk. These guys seem nice - and normal - but was accepting the lunch invitation going to be a wise decision?

But I'd never be here again, and isn't that one of the "rules" of travel? to sample local foods?

So wondering what the hell I'd let myself in for, I toddled along trying desperately to understand the nuances of rapid-fire conversation between locals. Sigh - fail.
I mentioned in Images of Reno that my inability to get a hang of the accent let me down again!

The Aweful Aweful burger served at the Little Nugget Diner rates 4 1/2 stars on Urban Spoon - which is pretty good no matter what language you're speaking. It was a great burger if somewhat on the gigantic side. It's a place I wouldn't have found in Reno except for the welcoming locals. Thanks guys!

More on language here ;-)


Liza said...

I had such fun reading this! It reminded me of the first time my brother-in-law came to visit oh, about 30 years ago. Once we figured out where we say "a" he says a long "i" we got it. On the other side, my sister got herself in a bit of trouble with she was first in Australia...but using a phrase that is perfectly acceptable here, but means something off-color where you live. :)

Sue Travers said...

Oh Liza, do share!

Travel is huge fun, and whilst I love virtual interactions, there's something special about talking with people in real life ;-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. I couldn't speak English at one stage .. I used to play squash with an Australian, I had South African friends and I went to America for a short visit .. I got back and couldn't work out anywhichway to speak - it was a garble!! Very strange time for a while ...

I used 'knock-up' for warming up before a squash game - and was nearly banned .... before we all realised it was normal in England - definitely no acceptable in the States!!

Now blogging I get asked questions re the differences .. it's a great melting pot of the world ..

Cheers Hilary

Sue Travers said...

Gosh Hilary, that does sound confusing! And those expressions that have people looking at you with complete shock - you can see them thinking "I thought she was a well brought up young lady"

cheers - keep warm :)


Emily richardson said...
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