I made it to Glasgow tonight, but not without an expat adventure. I had a reserved seat on the train (thanks to those who had informed me of the details of how to do this!) and so was captive to my local seat-mates. By the time we arrived in Glasgow, I had finished the book I started back home, and the train was pretty empty, but for a few incomprehensible Glaswegian speakers in front of me (not that I wasn’t trying!) and a mixed group at the 4-seater table to my left. There was one Brit, one Aussie or NZer (still can’t always tell, my bad!) and one American. By the end of the train ride I knew the following about the American:
- He was gay.
- He had broken up with someone named Jeremy and one or the other of them had gained the Louis Vuitton bag in the settlement (I truly can’t remember which one)
- He was angry that his life in his thirties was not different from his life in his twenties, because he had no “wedding, house in the suburbs, two kids” scenario to look forward to because he was gay. (But is this true? I know plenty of partnered, happy gay couples who have the lives they wish for including babies and homes…)
- He had little knowledge of American Geography, due to his lack of explication when trying to explain the “Ozarks” without mentioning either Missouri or Arkansas. Or anything else near there.
- He had been in the military (!) and worked on Kerry’s campaign before moving across the pond.
- He had an understanding of “homesteading” in the middle-US that extended as far as the movie “Far and Away” and no further. And this was nothing like, say, the experiences of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family in homesteading my neck of the woods. But the movie version was presented to the foreigners as fact.
It was this last transgression that had me a bit miffed by the time we pulled into Glasgow Central: he was representing all of American history without the appropriate background knowledge, and the non-Americans would have taken it as written. The combined sum of the trip was that I whispered my “excuse me” to this group as I went by to prevent my being identified as American to those in the group who were likely to notice my origin.
Suddenly on this trip, I had new respect for those who were annoyed by Americans in the UK because I could have knocked this guy’s lights out by the time we arrived. I don’t care that he has been in the UK for more than 5 years (again, something I know now) because he showed no cultural acclimation at all. Aside from the occasional use of “whilst” you would not guess he had been here in the UK for any length of time. And of course, his commenting to his junior (Brit) colleague with the starting line “I am not just your boss but your boss’s boss and I say…” made me want to smack him and say “wanker!”
Just goes to show, I am not immune to the phenomenon of being annoyed by annoying Americans in the UK, even though I could perhaps be seen as one on occasion. To soothe my nerves, I leave you with a shot of my view from my hotel in lovely Glasgow.