I spent three weeks in Texas when I was 14 and when I showed up to the ranch that, unbeknownst to me until I got there, had been donated to YWAM by Melody Green (the person I am named after) one of the first things a Texan said to me was, “You’re from Michigan.” Not a statement, an observation.
“How did you know that?” Confusion. Probably the best look to describe my face.
“I can tell by your accent.”
Mind blown. At this point in my very sheltered, country-living upbringing, I had met very few people outside of the States and I thought the only accents that existed were British ones. Because those were the only people I had met outside of the USA.
I had an accent? Me? It took a minute to wrap my head around the idea. Once I realized that everyone has an accent to someone else, well this revelation was the beginning of my journey to becoming more cultured. A journey that hasn’t stopped since leaving Michigan, the home of my accent, and living in South Africa, South Korea, and now… Australia.
The people I am in cahoots with the most are diverse and come from a broad range of countries and backgrounds with a variety of accents. This has caused me to forget accents exist. I meet someone and once I get to know them I think, “That is how so-and-so sounds.” Their voice becomes like the color of their skin, their eyes, their hair, it’s not an “Australian accent” or a “Kiwi accent” or a “British accent”, it’s “Danielle’s voice” and “Joanna’s voice” and “Ryan’s voice”. This in turn has caused me to forget that my voice isn’t “Melody’s voice” to strangers I meet. It’s a very thick “Michigander’s accent” that may have become slightly convoluted by years of international living. I’m sorry, is that one too many quotation marks? I’ll move on.
For example, when I order at restaurants or chat with cashiers at Woolworth’s a strange pleasant look usually crosses their faces as they pause. “What accent is that?” A lovely woman asked me the other day when I was shopping for groceries. I told her where I am from and she said, “I was going to say America, because I just visited family there, but I didn’t want to offend you in case you were from Canada.” Haha, those sensitive Canadians. I told her it’s always okay to guess Canada first, because if they are from my neighboring country they will be so happy that someone guessed Canada before the USA and if they are from the States they won’t be bothered too much. And people say Canadians are the nicer ones (okay, okay, usually true…).
I was ordering food at a restaurant when a handsome waiter started bantering with me (not unnecessary details) and asked where I came from. He then proceeded to try and guess which state, and he didn’t say California or New York. Mad props. He guessed Colorado and another state that I can’t remember. This impressed me greatly as the majority of Aussies I meet don’t know where Michigan is.
While living in South Korea I started losing the ability to remember skin color. When people asked me what someone looked like that I just met I would sometimes have to guess if they were Asian or Caucasian because I would actually forget. Now, I am losing the ability to pick up on accents. It’s a wonderful thing, living abroad.