‘US Americans should have maps’ -Miss Teen South Carolina
First impressions of a person are often given too much gravitas. Everyone recognizes that you cannot judge a person solely on a first impression, if this were so there would be no chance I would be friends with the moody, pre-drink tea sipping, night out hating first impression that Digger West gave me in Leeds circa 2010. However out here there is a test that enables you to gleam some understanding of the person you are dealing with upon your first encounter. I call it the ‘see how they try to relate’ test.
In London next year I can envisage myself meeting an American. After introducing myself I can imagine enquiring as to where they are from in America and the response being somewhere unassuming like Kentucky. To this, in common conversational manner, I might reply, “oh I studied in South Carolina last year.” Now depending on their conversational nous (remember they are from Kentucky) they might jump at this point with legitimate interest, recognizing that we have gleamed some small bond of understanding that goes beyond what we were taught by the gospel of ‘Friends’ or ‘Monty Python.’ However, when I say to someone, “I’m from England” and they say, “Oh my god I’ve got a friend from New Zealand” I have to hold myself back from spitting in the young girls face. I want to say, “that comment has led this conversation one of two ways; to either how appalling your geography is or how awful you are at common conversation. The bond we’ve established from that comment, far from tying our spheres of understanding together, breaching the cultural differences that have been put before us, has just shown me that your mind is as wet as a soggy Cheerio.”
We have heard numerous attempts of people to relate to our Englishness and have started our own grading system which, like the amp in Spinal Tap, goes up to eleven. On the scale one equates to, ‘I am planning my escape from not just you but the country as a result of what you just said’ and eleven I guess means ‘I hope to imminently fornicate with you.’ Good responses have been “Oh I’d love to go to Europe!” which ranks in about an eight, though this figure immediately plummeted in the case of one guy when he proceeded the statement with “yeah I’ve heard there’s way less blacks there.”
A knowledge of the fact there’s a world out there is the first thing for a high rating but if they’ve actually themselves been outside the state they’re flying. One guy said, “I studied abroad in England!” and we exchanged enthusiastic high fives. Then he said, “yeah I did a year in Hull. Best year of my life!” Whilst I stood open mouthed Digger and him proceeded to bond over the Hull aquarium for longer than anyone has ever bonded over an aquarium ever.
We have met some great people out here who have passed the ‘see how they try to relate test’ with flying colours’. The guy who responded with ‘You’re from England? I’ve got two words for you: Peep Show” has not been able to get rid of us, Digger following him like a little dog (a westy perhaps) continually asking him if he prefers Superhands to Johnson or what his favorite part of season three episode two was.
However some people we have met have shown themselves up within a sentence, a sentence meant to show they can relate to us that achieves the opposite end, a sentence like, “I love Dr Who!” “Do you know Kate Middleton?” or “I went to England as a kid but my favorite part was Ireland.”