Looking for Sean McLachlan? He mostly hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog these days, but feel free to nose around this blog for some fun older posts!

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Thursday, 3 July 2008

Where Have All The English Gone?

I was researching in the British Library last week and went into the cafeteria to get some lunch. The special that day was Cottage Pie. Having spent way too long staring at obscure tomes and not nearly enough talking to actual, live people, I tried to be witty by asking the two women behind the counter, "Is the Cottage Pie made with real cottages?"

They looked at each other in wide-eyed panic. Uh-oh, had I made some English faux pas?

"I'll get the chef," one of them replied in a Polish accent, running off.

"Um, I was just kidding," I said.

"Don't worry, he'll know," the other said in a Caribbean accent.

The chef came out and asked in an English accent, "What would you like to know, sir?"

Too embarrassed to repeat a lame joke twice, I feigned like I didn't know what Cottage Pie was and he patiently told me in his most polite explaining-to-the-clueless-Yank voice that it's made of minced beef and vegetables. Well, yeah.

A couple of days later the wife and I got a taxi to London Bridge station. The Arab taxi driver didn't know how to get there and I had to give directions! OK, I've written a guidebook to London, so it's not a problem, but this guy's a taxi driver!

I don't have anything against immigrants--how could I? I've been an immigrant twice, and so has Almudena--but it is a bit strange to spend a week in London and have the majority of my interactions be with people who aren't English. Even most of my London friends are from elsewhere. Does London even count as an English city anymore?

(I hear a chorus of English voices from the counties shouting "NO!")


Elizabeth Platt said...

Hehehe, can I add a voice from the North East of Scotland to your Home Country Choir?

But it's not just London, you know. I can go out in Aberdeen for lunch and barely hear a Scottish accent either. Our cleaners at work are Polish. The people at the deli down the road are Polish. Even the woman at the Tourist Information was Polish. I've no issue with it personally, being a teeny bit of an immigrant myself (English in a Scottish city), it just amuses me to see people worry about it.

The world changes, the United Kingdom has always been a sponge, sucking in all kinds of new people, races and ideals. That's part and parcel of our way of life, really.

Sean McLachlan said...

It's going to be more of our lives as time goes on. Here in Madrid we "guiris" (Anglos) hardly get noticed anymore. Nor do the Moroccans. With the recent influx of Poles, Romanians, Russians, Chinese, and West Africans, we're almost considered Spanish now.

Sadly, all this immigration is making Spaniards realize they're racist. Africans who've been here for a while say they never heard racist comments until a few years ago. They got stared at because they were so unusual, but until recently they were look upon with simple curiosity.

My only complaint with the African immigrants is they haven't opened any suya restaurants! C'mon folks, look how successful they are in London!