Our return to the States is still a bit over three weeks away, but a shift as big as this takes some time to prepare for, so I’ve already begun to plan. Specifically, I’m trying to decide which European habits and customs I should affect when back in the States to constantly remind people who may have forgotten that I’ve just spent three months in Europe.
I’m sure you know what I mean. Suppose, for example, that it’s 6 p.m., I’m talking with some friends, and one of them should demonstrate that he has forgotten that I’ve just spent three months in Europe by saying something inconsiderate like "anyone want to grab some dinner?"
Obviously, this would be an perfect time for me to remind people that I’ve just spent three months in Europe by saying something like "Dinner? It’s only six o’clock! Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot how early Americans eat. You see, in Europe, we don’t even think about dinner until 9 or 10 in the evening!"
Now, under ordinary circumstances, affecting an English accent would be the no-brainer solution to my problem. Asking for a "spot of tea", then exclaiming "bloody hell, I could murder a lorrie of it" when refused is a simple and direct way to communicate that I’ve been overseas to people who may have forgotten.
The problem, in my case, of course, is that we were only in England for a few days at the beginning of our trip (roughly three months ago, if you must know), and so it seems like it might invite a certain speck of ridicule to begin lilting like a limey. Moreover, asking if anyone’s got a fag, in the wrong circumstances, could just get me punched.
Affecting an Italian accent is out, as well, as it would be difficult to explain how being around people speaking a completely different language should change how I pronounce my own. This isn’t a deal-breaker, mind you, but it shuffles the accent lower in the list.
More credible is simply shuffling some Italian, Spanish or French phrases into my everyday speech. For example, when my phone rings, I could answer "Pronto!" Then, after waiting for the appropriate baffled pause to play out, I could laugh and explain "oh, sorry, I mean ‘hello’! You see, in Italy, where I’ve been living, that’s how we answer the phone. It means ‘ready’."
Unfortunately, this one will only work when my phone rings, leaving me high and dry in those long spells in between when my phone is not ringing.
For those times, I have considered eating with my fork held in my left hand, tines down, while using the knife in my right to maneuver food onto the back. However, I’m afraid this may be too subtle. I would hate to have to draw attention to it by repeatedly asking people things like "could you please hand the salt to my right hand, because my left hand is occupied with my fork, tines down as we do in Europe!" A bit of mouthful, if you’ll excuse the pun.
I’m really at a loss here. Affecting coffee snobbery (e.g., "oh, I don’t know how you Americans can drink this…black water!") is right out, as well, seeing as I’ll be returning to Seattle. It would be like acting stuck up about coal in Newcastle, which would be dumb for several reasons.
Wait, I’ve got it! I’ll just greet people by kissing them on both cheeks. This has the advantage of being clearly European, frequent (once per interaction per person!), and virtually impossible to overlook. Spot on!
So get ready America, because next time I see you: kissy-kissy!