This month will mark twenty-two years of living in the States! I can’t really believe it, and yet somehow I still don’t feel like a native. While I don’t mind using American vocabulary, there are still some things I don’t think I’ll ever get used to:
Like men being called “Dana” (pronounced Day-na). It wasn’t a very common name growing up in England, but it was never, as far as I can remember, a man’s name. Here we have comedian/actor Dana Carvey, rapper Dana Dane, and the character on Desperate Housewives, Dana Taylor to name but a few. Interestingly, the one female Dana that springs to mind is the CNN White House politician Dana Bash (I know, what a name eh?) and it’s pronounced Dah-na.Or big, ugly college rings. Admittedly, they are usually to be seen on slightly older adults, but man they’re still ugly. Although I went to college in England, I don’t even remember having any kind of official insignia let alone merchandise bearing it, (although I know that has changed). In the States, many colleges have an official ring that quite frankly, often looks like something Henry VIII would have worn, but which seems to be perfectly acceptable for every day wear.
I’m not knocking college pride, but how can I take anyone (usually male) seriously when they’re wearing this?
Then there’s sweet and savory food on the same plate. Yuck! Breakfast bacon dripping with maple syrup, or worse, maple syrup infused breakfast sausages. Really? What are my taste buds supposed to do with that? Cinnamon is a big flavor here, which is fine, except when it’s in a sweet potato casserole. Salads quite often contain ingredients that really should be held back for dessert. A quick Google of Jello (jelly) salad is my case in point. Served with the main course, you can find a Lime Jello Cottage Cheese salad, whose main ingredients are crushed pineapples, marshmallows, lime jello, cottage cheese, chopped nuts and whipped cream. Or worse yet, a Cherry Coke Jello Salad, with more or less the same ingredients and coke! If you’re interested, it’s here,along with a really good history of the Southern American jello salad, or congealed salad, as it’s also called. (Another reason I tend to give it a wide berth.)
And what’s with the drive-thru liquor stores, and the pubs with valet parking. Aren’t we sending mixed messages here? It’s bad enough that the phrase “designated driver” doesn’t seem to mean much to most adults I know, but encouraging people to bring their cars when they’re at the pub is a tad over-the-top in my opinion.
The thing that surprises me most however, is my lingering horror at the American use of “he” or “she” when the person in question is present. It’s even more eyebrow-raising when the “person in question” is me. I understand that in the US, it’s simply not rude to talk about someone in the third person like this. No amount of tutting or “Who’s she? The cat’s mother?” (the usual British response) is going to change that. Examples include “She’ll have the pizza and he’ll have the salad” when ordering for other people at a restaurant, and “He was just talking about that” when bringing someone up to date on a conversation. Obviously I never say anything; this is their country and my silly little customs are the foreign ones here, but I still stiffen every time it happens, and look around to see if anyone else was similarly horrified.
Wonder if I’ll ever “feel” American?
Toni Summers Hargis is the author of "Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom", (St. Martin’s Press) and blogs as Expat Mum.