We shuffled out of our little English-speaking community of two last week to look further afield for other Anglophones.
Not that we’ve been in total linguistic isolation – many of the hotel staff here speak English very well and use it to good effect to pump information out of us about Canadian tourist destinations, either that or they are spies.
Normally we seek out an English-speaking church, but the town where we live has none – the very first locale we’ve been where this is the case.
In the past, all we’ve had to do to make friends was show up at a church and let divine intervention take place. Our faithful brethren would size up our ineptitudes immediately and take us under their wings.
Americans are especially quick to do this, instantly recognizing bumpy roads ahead as they wearily assume a degree of responsibility for acclimatizing me to my host country, knowing full-well I would get pegged as “another obnoxious American.” They are sick of getting grief for the stream of faux pas I commit wherever I go.
They are not wrong about this. I have a lingering southern accent, the roots of which lie in the fact that for most of my life I have spent a lot of time with Americans from Massachusetts all the way down to Florida. I also was a big fan of the American sitcom Green Acres, but for some reason I did not pick up Zsa Zsa Gabor’s curly Hungarian accent.
All this leads up to our recent appearance at a meeting of a 100-year-old English club. We arrived at Les Caves restaurant where they were gathering to mark the nuptials of Prince Will and Kate. The group looked shocked to see strangers waltz in, even though they invite newcomers on the website.
One of the senior members recovered; eyed us up and down and demanded to know, “Are you British?”
She looked crestfallen when we identified ourselves as Canadians. Just the colonials, that’s all. She turned away in disappointment, mumbling that we might want to speak to an American they kept over in the corner.
Nevertheless, we hung around and soon the wine began to take effect on the club members, who grew more welcoming. By the time we left, they were dragging assurances out of us that we would return.
See. This is the unheralded danger of over-imbibing on spirits… it makes me look socially graceful (I don’t include Dave in this – he is unfailingly polite wherever we go – I’m the one who has foot-in-mouth disease).
We’re going back to the next meeting, which is tonight. We’ll see how that goes.