We have all heard that Canadians (apparently) have a certain accent that defines us. That comical “eh” sound that gets added to random sentences and who could forget the “oot” and “aboot” nonsense that everyone keeps talking about. Sure, I’ve heard these notions and considered them too, but I was never convinced that I actually spoke like that. I was convinced upon my arrival in North Carolina that I would blend right in with the locals and shock everyone with the fact that I am actually from the Great White North. Since being in the United States, and surrounded by other international students however, I have come to understand the differences in our English speech compared to others. It was a bit of an eye opener for me– in a good way of course – as it gave me another reason to appreciate home.
It all started in my first biology lab of the semester. I had nervously taken my seat amongst a group of Americans and introduced myself. Aside from the Canadian flag pin that I proudly have fastened to my backpack, I gave no clues that I was a foreigner. Or so I thought at least. Things proceeded in an inconspicuous fashion from there on in. We talked about our assignment and the tasks that we needed to do and eventually got to know each other on a more personal level. Small talk led us to discussions about our plans to go out for the evening and the Labour Day and Fall Breaks. All along I was unaware of the seeds of interest that I had planted in my group mates heads. But that is not what gave me away. In our second lab my cultural identity was exposed when nature called and I excused myself to go the “washroom”. For all of you reading, there should be nothing strange to this sentence, right? You understand that my intentions were to relieve myself in the bathroom. Okay, good! Apparently however, the term “washroom” is not commonly used here in the South (it is referred to as the “restroom”) and it is a sure sign that you are not from around there. My group immediately stopped what they were doing and looked quizzically at me before one of them finally blurted out…”Alright, where are you from?” It was quite comical actually and we all shared a good laugh about it because they thought that I was on my way to do laundry or something. Upon revealing that I am from Canada things suddenly started to make sense to them and to help me understand, they informed me of all of the clues that led them to figuring me out.
I find it so interesting that during this whole experience, I have really been taught a lot about my own culture, as well as the cultures of the world. You really think you know a place, however sometimes it takes exposure and experiences in different places to help you understand your own way of life. Before coming to America I was under the impression that Canada shared many similarities with the States and that it would be difficult finding the factors that set us apart, however being here the first month has already shown me a great deal. It makes me appreciate the little comforts that we have back home as well as making me aware of slight differences in speech that cause us to be “lost in translation”.
Well that’s all for now. Rest assured I have many more experiences to share with you- from those in the academic classroom, to musical performances, school spirit events and travelling. Stay tuned…