There's a great quote from Stephen Fry about what happens when you're British in the USA.
I shouldn't be saying this - high treason, really - but I sometimes wonder if Americans aren't fooled by our accent into detecting brilliance that may not really be there.And it's true. Since most Americans can't hear the difference between British accents, you don't even have to be posh either.
It might have something to do with the fact that most British TV shown in the US is highbrow drama like Downton, or scary-smart crime stuff like Luther. Perhaps we're all being lumped into one Masterpiece type Brainiac unit which is fine by me as it frequently comes in handy. Going full-on Margaret Thatcher when attempting to return an item or register a complaint is incredibly effective.
Dare I say it, we are even said to sound sexy to many Americans. In a 2015 global dating survey by Time Out, 11,000 people in 24 cities voted the British accent as the most hot and "dateable" with a whopping 27% of the vote. (American came in a distant second with 8.7%). As we know, there are many different British accents, and what will floor many Brits is the British Airways survey of the same year. Polling 1,000 Brits and 1,000 Americans, the survey found that Americans thought Glaswegian the sexiest British accent (but the most difficult to understand), and Geordie the most intelligent sounding. Ah - Maybe that's why more than a few people have asked me to record their voicemail message. (Disclaimer, - I'm from Geordie-land.)
Other flattering things that your Brit-in-America status can bring include:
- Being handed something to read aloud in a meeting or a class, simply because "it sounds better when you say it".
- Being asked to read at a wedding for the same reason, and yes,
- Being asked to record someone's phone message. (I've always wondered what people think when they phone an American and hear a British accent on the other end.)
- Getting out of a speeding/traffic ticket with your bumbling Brit impression.
- Standing out from the pack when applying for a job by phoning up and "confirming" that HR has received your application (I got the job!).
- Starting a conversation almost anywhere just by saying something. Anything.
- Success with the opposite sex on a night out. This seems to work particularly well for British blokes by the way.
- Disciplining your kids' friends without having to raise your voice or be known as the "mean mom". A simple "Please don't do that" instead of a detailed explanation of why you don't want little Ricky climbing on your sofa or sitting on the dog resolves the matter quite quickly.
- Swearing like a trouper and finding that most Americans laugh or tell you that "only you could get away with that".
- Complete strangers saying "I love your accent" when all you've done is told them the time. It's like getting a pat on the back for doing nothing at all.
When back in the UK, it's a relief not to have everyone in the dairy aisle eaves-dropping as you and your kids decide on dinner, but it's often a bit of a let-down to find that you're nothing special. Just another run-of-the-mill Brit.