Sunday, January 18, 2009

"I don't mean to be rude but the American accent..."

Ask any Canadian abroad what it means to be Canadian, and nine times out of ten the answer will be "not American".

I've been mistaken as an American a million times over, and I'm always quick to correct the error. But today I am proud of our neighbours in the South.

I had promised myself to keep my politics out of this little blog of mine, but I just have to say it. The American voters have redeemed the States by electing Barack Obama. Today I am proud. Call me an American today, and I might just say "Sure." Hypocritical? Perhaps. But the hope that has been instilled the world over by this one man is enough to make me not care if I'm mistaken for an American.

Let's face it. To most people in the world, Canadians & Americans are exactly the same. We sound the same, we like the same entertainment, we eat the same food and we look the same. Canadians wear their flag to announce their "non-American'ness" but really - to most people around the world, we're pretty darn similar.

I can safely admit that I don't have the world's quietest voice, and I seriously developed a neurosis about speaking too loudly on the underground while living & teaching in London, England. Brits are quieter than North Americans as a general rule. So hearing a Canadian voice on the tube is just like hearing an American one - too loud.

Most of my family are from England and we can tell the difference not by their accents because they've been in Canada for so long, but by how loudly they speak. I think the British members mumble, and the Canadian & American family members shout. That's my family anyway.

Some of my teachers have mentioned this difference in volume between our cultures in London, England.

One of my teachers even had someone walk up to her on the tube and say, "I don't mean to be rude, but the American accent..." and before she could finish her statement, the teacher interupted her to say, "I'm Canadian." She shut her down before the rude person could say she was too loud, too nasal, too American. We had a good laugh at this story & I related my own stories of being told to "shush" and how I have to force myself to speak quieter than I usually do, especially in my teaching. Take a London classroom and speak louder than the students are used to & you've got a behaviour management nightmare before you've even taken the attendance. You've disturbed the balance. Chaos reigns. So, I just speak quietly. Or try to anyway.

But today... well today's a different day. Today the Americans have Barack Obama. So call me an American, call me too loud and I will still be proud. Bring on the change Americans - bring on better education, universal health care & a new sense of hope.

For all those North American teachers out there that want to teach in London, England, please check out our website & the book, Guide to Teaching in London. Sign up for our newsletters & share your thoughts below!


  1. I've always found that the Brits are louder than us! Maybe it's a West Coast thing and we're just quieter, more chilled than all of you Easterners haha.

    As for your comment on my blog, you can definitely cut and paste some stuff.

  2. Hi Reba,
    You might be on to something there! It's so hard to make generalizations isn't it? The group from the west coast of Canada does seem a bit quieter in volume, but judging by their Classroom Canada Scavenger Hunt photos I'd say the "I Love Hackney" shirts were pretty loud. ;-) I wonder what people on the tube thought that day...

    I'll be "stealing" from your blog in the next couple of days - thanks for that!


Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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