This week went by waaaaay too fast. Maybe it's because the seasons have changed so drastically here, we've been getting spring showers already and winter just ended a few days ago. I still get confused by the opposite seasons. Because of said rain, I was forced to stay inside a bit, but I made sure to watch Australian Idol and read old issues of an amazing Aussie magazine called Frankie. Now, I can't stand American Idol, but find myself addicted to the Australian version. There is significantly more talent, variety of music styles, and the judges actually have more constructive criticism than "A bit pitchy, dawg!" Plus, almost every contestant knows how to play at least one instrument in addition to being able to sing well. See, I'm still experiencing Australian culture even though I'm indoors! Once the weather is better, I promise to be more interesting.
I've been here a week or so shy of two months time, but for some reason this week was particularly full of people asking me questions about America. For starters, I'm shocked how little about American geography most people I've met here know. Only one person knew right away where I meant when I said Pennsylvania. It's not like it's even an obscure state! I always hear on the news that America is the stupid one where lots of kids don't know even their own state capital and other countries around the world shame us in the US History and Geography department. But I had a guy as me if Philadelphia was "near Chicago, you know, that state where the Pilgrims landed, right?" Just explaining where exactly I'm from is frustrating enough sometimes, but then I get the same top five "oooh, I've always wanted to know this about America" questions:
1. What's New York City like?
2. Is high school in America just like in the movies and TV?
3. Do you see famous people like all the time?
4. Have you ever been mugged/ have you ever seen someone get shot?
5. Do people from the South/New York/Boston/etc. really talk in those exaggerated accents?
And I usually give the same answers every time:
1. It's so big that this question is incredibly vague. I've only been to three of the five boroughs [explains and names boroughs] and I still can't begin to describe just Brooklyn in itself. But New York City is awesome, though I personally don't think I could live there. You should try and visit it for yourself. It's not anywhere near as dangerous as TV and movies make it seem.
2. Not at all. Though I'm sure there are rich California kids who have amazing courtyards they're allowed to eat fabulous lunches in. The closest thing to my high school experience would be an updated version of 'Daria' mixed with 'Freaks and Geeks,' maybe a bit of 'Pete and Pete' thrown in. [That's right, my life was and still is more of a weird, under-rated comedy than a drama or coming of age romance.]
3. I see and have met lots of musicians that I find famous, but the only really famous person lots of people would be familiar with I've seen in Philly is Jay McCarroll, who won the first season of Project Runway. So no, not really. Only B and C-List folks.
4. Um, no. I know people who have though. And if I had, I don't think I would want talk about it.
5. Yes, but not everyone obviously. I don't sound like I'm from Philly at all, thank goodness. My vote for weirdest American regional accents go to Long Island and Wisconsin. [Then I do my impressions of said accents. No offense to people from those areas!]
I can understand people being intrigued by the fact I'm from America and don't mind answering their questions, but sometimes I hate that I'm 'The American.' Would people still be interested in talking to me if I wasn't from a place that's novel to them? Do they make assumptions about me based on my accent? Sometimes I want to put on a British accent and see if I'm treated the same way. When I was in Scotland, there were a whole bunch of other Americans, but here I'm one of three that I know of on the entire campus. The other two are from New Hampshire and Colorado, so they aren't as close to the big cities as I am. Fortunately I haven't had anyone insult me for being American, but I still can't help but think the big "I'm from a famous American city!" sign that seems to be on me overshadows everything else about myself.