Monday, December 12, 2011

The Only American in the Village

by Expat Focus Columnist Michelle Garrett

Some expats like to completely blend in and not draw attention to their differences and I have been one of those expats. However, I have learned to make the most of my American background, because I enjoy how it makes me unique amongst my friends, and sometimes I don’t want to share the uniqueness!

There is a comedy sketch show in the UK called Little Britain. Two comedians have constructed a series of sketches making fun of aspects of the British people. In many cases, the themes are not exclusive to Britain—in other words, you’ll get it even if you aren’t British.

One sketch is The Only Gay in the Village, in which a gay man, Daffyd, flaunts his homosexuality by wearing outlandish outfits and making bold statements about his lifestyle. The villagers are completely indifferent, which causes Daffyd to react with further attempts at provocation. He is also outraged when ‘other gays trespass on his patch,’ clearly relishing the self-imposed title of The Only Gay in the Village.

While living in London I had to get used to the occasional ripping apart of some aspect of American life by pop opinion writers, stand up comedians and people at dinner parties. This was all part of the skin thickening process for an expat. Here’s one thing I learned about that: The British aren’t targeting American’s specifically, they do this to everyone, even themselves. I accepted this aspect of the British sense of humour, and I didn’t stop being proud of my American background, but I was certainly a lot quieter whilst living in London. Who would want to draw attention to themselves in that environmen

After seven years of that I moved to Essex where everyone is nice and friendly and loved talking to me about the States. The woman on checkout at the local grocery store enjoyed telling me about her favourite holiday to Yellowstone, or the car mechanic spent 20 minutes, tools in hand, describing in great detail about when he did a fly drive around California. Postmen stopped to chat about the different states of origin on my parcels. Farmers paused to say ‘that doesn’t sound like a local accent!’ which launched a conversation about where I grew up. When friends of my children find out I’m American they say ‘oh cool!’

I eventually got used to being special and interesting in a positive way. I realized that...

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