I’ve been living in the UK for 17 years now, and yes, I *still* have an accent. Apparently the accent you use when you reach puberty is the one you will have for life, and as I was 27 when I first got off the plane, it seems that I’m stuck with it.
It’s not all that unusual in Central London. But we live a bit further out in suburban London and although our neighbourhood is a bit of a melting pot, there aren’t that many Kiwis around. People usually ask if I’m from Orstraleah or from Sowf Efricka, then grimace when I tell them they have it wrong. I don’t mind.
Most of the time I forget I don’t sound like everyone else and the people I see every day are used to it. So it’s mainly when I meet new people, like when we are on holiday, that it becomes an issue.
When we are abroad and get talking to people. someone always looks straight at me and asks ‘Where are you from?’ Reasonable question, isn’t it? I smile and reply ‘London’. They blink and you can see the cogs turning before they ask again , ‘No, before London!’ Then I realise what they are asking, and tell them New Zealand, and they ask where and apologise because they have never heard of Tauranga or Hamilton. There is usually no point in telling people where you come from in NZ unless it’s Auckland, Rotorua or the South Island. Then we have a conversation about their cousin or school friend who lives ‘somewhere in New Zealand’.
As I said, I don’t really mind. I’m used to a bit of curiosity and to people asking me what on earth I’m doing bringing up children in London, when I could be raising my family in New Zealand. That topic is a whole different blog post.
What really annoys me is when I have to ring a bank or insurance company that has call centre not located in the UK, or even worse, requires me to speak to a machine. Both situations raise my blood pressure by just thinking about it.
The poor call centre people are obviously trained using American and English accents. We often resort to spelling words as they can not understand what I’m saying at all. Luckily they seem to have been taught the phonetic alphabet, so we usually muddle through.
However, the machines make me cry. I had to ring M&S the other day as we have some insurance with them and they asked me to read out my policy number. I did so and it got 7 out of 12 numbers wrong. THEN the machine told me I could key in the numbers if I preferred. Of course I preferred, why on earth did they not give this as an option from the start? Next we moved on to my birthdate, the machine got that wrong too then suggested I could use the keypad instead. FFS! Finally it put me through to a real person. Hurrah. They had a strong regional accent ( Mancunian perhaps?) but bless them, they understood every word I sad and they asked me questions I could answer. I was so relieved.
I wonder how many people have heart attacks dealing with these machines?
My children had mild Kiwi accents before they started school but now they sound like any other English kids. My accent may not have disappeared but I think I have toned it down quite a lot over the years. And when I speak to people from home, they tell me how English I sound and if they are fresh off the boat, their accents sound harsh to me. Apparently my accent gets stronger , the longer I talk to a fellow countryman.
And I still manage to flummox some of my old friends with a few words. One that causes great amusement is my pronunciation of ‘fair’; apparently I pronounce it ‘fear’ which has led to some interesting conversations in the past.
I guess we should all be thankful that I haven’t started Vblogging!