It’s the middle of my work day, and the doorbell rings. Someone has come by from a local charity or other organization and wants a brief chat. I pause my work and open the door, smiling as I prepare myself for whatever it is they’d like to tell me about.
Them: “Hello, I’m [Name] from [Organization]. It’s a nice day today, isn’t it?”
Me: “Yes, it’s beautiful today! I can hardly believe it’s February.”
Them: “Oh, you’re not from here, are you?!”
It wasn’t my commentary on the weather that clued them in — everyone has been commenting on it lately! — but rather my accent. It’s almost inevitable that my accent will immediately become the focus when I talk to someone new. And what can I say in response to that?
Me, in my head: Well, I have lived here for five years!
Me, again in my head: I’m not? Oh no, where am I?
Me, out loud: Haha, no, I’m not!
I’m never sure how to navigate these conversations. Inevitably people assume that I’m here on holiday, or just arrived, and I have to calmly explain that I reside here (a permanent resident*, even!) and have for some years. Yes, I like it here. Yes, I’m familiar with your organization. No, I don’t really want to talk about how you once visited and/or have family in [insert US city here] — I mean, maybe I would, but you’re stopping by in the middle of the day and I need to get back to work.
But most of all, I get a little sad at the reminder that I’m not really a local, at least not by anyone else’s standards. I have an accent, and so I’ll never really be from here, no matter how long I’ve been here. I understand, and my hometown is dear to my heart, but I wish my accent didn’t make me feel like an outsider each time I open my mouth. (That said, at least I’m not in a situation where something about me makes people ask, “Where are you really from?”)
*It actually happened! After we took the Life in the UK test we applied and received our indefinite leave to remain, so we’re officially allowed to stick around now.