You may wonder why I'm here. Well, my degree is American Studies and English. What is that, you ask? Mainly it means I study a lot of American (as well as English!) literature, and some history. Why did I choose to do it? Well, I've always been interested in American history and culture, but never got the opportunity to study it before...and of course, the year in America was a major factor.
I've been to America once before, in my gap year between school and university. Me and two friends joined a tour group on a cross-country journey from Los Angeles to New York. It was amazing in places, not so much in some other places. I loved the cities we visited, San Francisco and New York in particular, but it was strange after spending a week solid in California to go to Idaho and Wyoming, such completely different states! It was then I realised what a diverse and interesting place the US was. I chose to study in Seattle because it was one of the big cities I hadn't visited on my gap year, and it was supposed to be a really cool place. Also, I liked the fact the University was in the city, as I'm a city girl, and most of the other American universities on offer were not in cities.
Anyway, having been to America before, I knew what to expect, culture-shock wise. But it is kind of different living here as opposed to being on holiday here. At first, having a different accent is nice when people comment on it. After a while, it can get exhausting. I'm not saying I mind it, but sometimes you just want to blend into the crowd, you know? Sometimes I find myself putting on a slight American twang just so I don't get noticed. I don't mind people talking to me, it's nice to get singled out sometimes; just not all the time. Not that I do get singled out all the time...but even if you don't, you still feel self-conscious and different; and sometimes that's nice, but sometimes it's not so nice. It's good that I speak the same language, but I do often still feel like I'm on another planet. And I am in completely different country, after all.
There are so many differences between 'English English' and 'American English', and not all I knew before I came out here. I knew the obvious ones of course; the pronunciation of 'tomato', the fact an aubergine is an eggplant over here, etc etc. But there are little things you forget; such as that the 'toilet' is a 'bathroom' or 'restroom', and you will get funny looks if you say otherwise; that a 'lift' is always an 'elevator' and if you ask where the former is in a department store, they will have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. In England, when asked the time, we say 'it's quarter to 1.' Here, it has to be 12.45 or people don't understand. I use the word 'rubbish' often in my daily vocubulary; it's not used here, which I often forget, and thus often get some confused looks. Americans don't shorten the word 'University' to 'Uni' as is so common in the UK; do so here and no-one has any idea what you're on about.
It is funny though how you end up adopting American colloquialisms without realising it; I know when I go back to the UK I'm going to have the same problem in reverse because I'll be used to the American way of saying things! For example, the other week I ordered a coffee 'to go', and didn't even think about it, until the woman serving me commented, 'aww, you said "to go" instead of "take away!"' I didn't realise what she was on about at first until I realised that the latter is what we say in the UK, and guessed she must have visited. But it was funny, because I didn't even notice I'd said it the American way. And then, oddly, she said to me "I watched 'Closer' last night", like that was very relevant, because it's a British movie, which I found funny; no less because it is a film that features two American actresses. It is bizarre some of the comments you get because you're from the UK. A friend had "Oh, Harry Potter!" and another "Oh, there's a programme on about the Royal Family tonight!" Odd. I'm sure Americans get equally weird comments from British people when they're visiting the UK, however; it is strange the things people will say for conversation! I find it weird too when people ask me where I'm from; I thought the English accent was obvious, but apparently not. I've been asked if I was European before, which I thought was a weird enquiry, seeing as Europe is so diverse and big with so many different accents...but hey. America is such a big country and so many of the states are so very different it seems to me that many Americans forget the world outside it; quite a few seem to be ignorant of the rest of the world. I'm not saying that all of them are, and I don't blame them for being--it's easy to be in such a big country, after all. I just find it odd, because the UK is a place that knows so much about other countries; watch the news in Britain and so much of it is about global affairs...here, it's all about America. I know where most big cities in America are, but barely anyone I've met in America knows any cities in the UK except London, and sometimes Oxford and Cambridge. Having said that, though, I've met many Americans that know a lot about the rest of the world and have done a lot more travelling than me. As I said, diverse place!
Don't get me wrong, I love America, and I think Americans are great. My point is, I guess, I suppose a lot of people assume Americans and the English are very similar, mainly because we speak the same language. And I'll admit, I'm glad I'm studying somewhere that speaks my native language (because I'm very bad with languages more than anything). Really, though, I have discovered we don't really speak the same language; we're very different. But that's okay, because we get on great.