There was a time where I entertained the notion of putting on different accents as I traveled the world, seeing if I could pass myself off as a local, or as a traveler from somewhere else entirely. As it turns out, my regular accent can be just as confounding. Back when I was Stateside, most people I spoke to couldn’t tell where I was from, on the streets or in the hostels, and I’m finding it much the same in Ireland.
Most commonly I am mistaken for being from a posh area of England. I’m starting to think that maybe I do sound like that, because the people that have said it are fairly reliable types: relatives in Letterkenny, and some of the smarter people I met in America, like James.
In America I was surprised that some people would ask me which State I was from. In that situation I would usually affect the appropriate accent and say “I am from Minnesota” which occasionally received a laugh, but was once or twice taken to be fact.
On occasion people have thought I was from New Zealand. Apparently that’s a common mix up around this part of the world, but I would have thought the differences were pretty full-on. Kiwi’s sound closer to South Africans then Aussies in my opinion.
On that note, sometimes Australians don’t even know I’m Australian. Now this might be partially because I am subconsciously altering my voice to avoid dealing with me fellow countrymen. Most of the time I try not to even speak when I’m around Australians and just let them assume I’m some standoffish non-English speaker from somewhere near the Mediterranean.
It’s not always bad. I generally have an affinity with Melbournians. They get it. And they can almost always tell where I’m from. As for the rest of the Australians, I generally try to stay away. Last night a group of American girls who have recently started studying in Cork took me for a Dubliner. When I told them I was from Perth they told me that there was a couple from Perth staying in our room. Naturally I was later forced to interact with these people and that was a mistake. Everyone else I’ve met from Perth has been terrifying in some way. This time the ‘Perth’ label was something of a misnomer. They weren’t from Perth, they were country folk that now lived in Perth. You know how it is with country folk. It’s one way or the other, and this time it was the other.
It’s all part of a collage of cultural confusion. I’m doing everything backwards and mixed up. In America I was reading European writers and now I’m reading all the Americans. In the States I mixed mostly with Brits and French, now I’m surrounded by Americans. Strangely enough all the Americans I’ve met here seem a lot less crazy / more normal then a lot of the people I met in the US. I don’t know if that’s a case of travelers having a certain mindset that can be easily related to, or if it’s just that a whole country full of Americans was a little intimidating at the time.
In any case I feel like I’ve been hitting the right balance of people. In America it wasn’t always easy to talk to locals, and I usually kept to the hostel crowds. In Ireland though the hostel crowds contain so many diverse characters that are local, as well as the usual mix of foreigners.