american idiot

Oh, my, this is wonderful. It reminds me of my first few weeks in England, the most noteworthy moment was when I went into The Royal Bank of Scotland (because, being American, it was the closest bank to where I lived, so naturally, it was where I thought I’d do my banking). I walked up to the counter and informed the teller that I was an American student on a student visa and would like to set up a student bank account. The conversation (if one could call it that) went something like this:

Me <23-years-old and proud of herself for studying abroad>: “Hi! I’m doing a master’s degree here and would like to set up an international student banking account! Do you do that here?”
Clerk (who, to my surprise, is actually Scottish, imagine that, in the Royal Bank of Scotland): “Oh, why, certainly <begins speaking indecipherable polite speak at superhuman levels>, aaaaand we can do that today, if you’d like.”
Me <bewildered and ashamed that I had absolutely no clue what had just happened> : “Um, I’m sorry, I didn’t get that, could you say that again?”
Clerk: “Oh, certainly! You’re American, are you?! Well, we have <begins speaking indecipherable polite speak at somehow increased superhuman levels>, if one of those options works for you”.
Me: “Gosh, I’m really sorry, but I still didn’t get that… Could you go just a little slower. I’m jet-lagged.”
Clerk: “Why, CERT-AIN-LY, dear, <begins speaking indecipherable polite speak at superhuman levels>.”
Me : “Um, I’m so sorry. Do you have a pamphlet?”

When he slid it across the marbled counter toward me, I sputtered a thank you and fled in shame. I spent the next two years learning how very little I knew about the world. Like, telling my housemates I didn’t like pudding, then trying to describe why I was sad when they brought out Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for everyone but me. To me, pudding was, well, a sugary paste you make for people who’ve had their wisdom teeth out. Or put in a pie and cover up with whip cream. And a biscuit is NOT a cookie, and if you ask me if I left my jumper over by the piano, I would tell you I haven’t owned a jumper since I was four. Oh, you mean my sweat shirt? Yes, yes, that’s mine. Yeah, there’s some adjustment, and in the first few weeks, you feel like the people speaking your language are more foreign almost, because they’re speaking familiar words, but they’re using all the words differently.Oh, and don’t get me started on the pronunciation of “skeletal” and “aluminum.” *shudder*

dana cass

“D’ya want [incomprehensible noise]?”

“Um, I’m sorry, what?”

“D’ya want [incomprehensible noise]?”

“I’m–um–sorry, one more time?”

“D’ya want [incomprehensible noise]?”

“I… no. No, thanks.”

I am in London, in a cafe on Charlotte Street, where I learn in short order that drip coffee is an American thing, and there is something else that I could have on my avocado toast, but I don’t know what it is and I’m not going to say yes on the off-chance it’s Marmite. That seems like the kind of stunt they might pull in a country where coffee is served in cups that look like doll furniture. Nobody’s awake enough to know better.

It’s the first time I’ve left America in nearly a decade. I live in a world where this is rare: as an employee of a multinational corporation, and also a white person who went to liberal arts college, my unmarked passport is a curiosity…

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