Jonathan is one of 40 students from Ball State University who are in London covering the Olympics. He is chronicling his experiences as student journalist at the Games for USA TODAY College in a weekly post. This is his second entry. Read his first one here.
“Are you an American?”
It’s the most common question I have been asked these past few weeks in the United Kingdom. When someone hears me talk at an Olympic event, on the street or in a pub, they have a genuine enthusiasm and interest to ask me about my country.
I’ve seen this in the United States too, when I’ve come across various international travelers. Once, while at DePauw University for my undergraduate degree, I saw an entire room swarm around the British National Debate Team. The two men were there as part of a few weeks of travel competing against various schools, but at night their attention turned from debate to the group of women that stayed glued to every single one of their accented sentences.
I did not expect this to be a shared sentiment, but in England they want to know just as much about me as I do about them. I’ve had encounters ranging from simply talking about the differences in weather and cost of living to discussing the merits of Obamacare after it was deemed constitutional (the person I met was glad to see the bill passed). I even had someone tell me I wouldn’t understand Mr. Bean during the Opening Ceremony because I was American. I politely told the man I did get it.
When discussing the Olympic Games, it’s always a conversation discussing our difference in sports culture. The world loves football. And don’t call it soccer — I’ve been chastised a few times for using the American name. People from England, the Netherlands and Germany had mini freak-outs when I told them DaMarcus Beasley went to my high school. Beasley goes relatively unknown in the United States, but people across the world know more about him and our own country’s football players than I do. They could have talked to me for hours about this sport, and while my knowledge might exceed the general American’s, I still was left in awe hearing the love for football in their voices. It goes beyond our own passion for American football, something I doubted before these past few weeks but will never question again.
My favorite part about all of these conversations, though, is the simple enjoyment we each get in hearing words specific to our region. They love hearing me say words they deem American.
The biggest of these, I have found out, is “awesome,” which has gotten me multiple high-fives and laughs when I say it in conversation. Apparently, it is a word that hasn’t traveled across the pond.
I always laugh hearing the word “rubbish.” It’s a term used for trash, an issue I have had a few times when asking a restaurant employee where the “trash can” is located as they look at me confused.
If only they knew the looks I am hiding when someone with a thick British accent carries on a conversation with me. But, hey, at least when I can’t understand what they are saying I can bring up something about the United States and they’ll be interested.
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