Hi, I am from Australia

June 1, 2012

Today, I was reminiscing about the awkward situations I encountered whilst on student exchange in London. These awkward encounters were mainly because of my accent. I personally don’t think my accent is thick, but people tell me all the time that I sound very ‘Aussie’.

Here are some of those moments:

  • First day in London I went to the bank to open an account. The supervisor setting the account (who was of probably Caribbean) just couldn’t believe I was from Australia let alone born there. When I first told him, he said ‘Seriously’ and I said ‘Yes. Born and raised’. He thought I was lying. When I showed him my passport for identification purposes he said ‘Oh wow you were being serious!’.
  • Two of my mates visited London just before Christmas and I took them on a shopping expedition down Oxford Street. We went to Footlocker and there was a Ghanaian guy greeting customers at the door and when he saw us he started speaking French as a fluke because he had a feeling we were Ghanaian and probably could not speak French. I responded to him in French, not that I speak French, but I was able to fool him for a few seconds and then I got stuck. The general questions followed − Where are you from? Why are you here? We told him we came from Australia. He was so surprised. He said he had Australian friend who worked next door but she was Anglo. He started mocking his friend’s Aussie accent and then started to pay attention to my accent. He quickly realised that my accent sounded very Australian and then he said ‘Your accent sounds disgusting. It’s not meant for black people!’
  • I was at my cousin’s place in East London and the doorbell rang, I went to answer it and two Jehovah Witnesses (An Anglo male and African female) were doing their door-to-door rounds. I said ‘Hi’, they started with their introduction and within a few seconds I said ‘Sorry. I am not interested’. From that sentence, the female asked, ‘Are you Australian?’. I think after I responded she forgot why she knocked on the door in the first place. She seemed so interested in my accent, background, the reason for me being in the UK, and began to tell me how much she wanted to go to Australia. After our 5-minute conversation she said ‘I hope you enjoy your stay in London’. After that my cousin asked who was at the door and I told her that it was the Jehovah Witnesses doing their usual rounds, however this encounter was different. The conversation was about me being from Australia!
  • There were occasions when I would go to the store and ask a sales assistant something and they would answer my questions followed by a question about my accent.
  • One of my housemates told me that when she heard that an Australian was in the house, she was expecting a blonde-beach loving-surf girl and instead she got an African girl who doesn’t surf or live near the beach. She said that I was probably lying about about my birthplace and I have a Ghanaian accent. She used to tell me virtually everyday that I am not Australian. I am not sure if she believes me now! I didn’t make it easier by having skype conversations with my friends speaking a mixture of English and Akan, which to her sounded like a totally different language!
  • When I went to Hamburg, I was walking with my Uncle and he met one of his friends and introduced me as his niece from Australia. His friend said ‘Wow! Where you have come from is far! So Ghanaians have travelled that far across the Earth! Australia is the end of the earth. Once you get there, life is over!’.
  • I went to Ghana after London, and I was hanging out with one of my cousins. I met one of his friends who had been living in the UK for about 4/5 years and had come to Ghana for holidays. My cousin introduced us and told him that I was from Australia. He said ‘Oh really. No way. I heard that they kill black people in Australia to make UGG boots‘. I just couldn’t believe he said that to me. He was joking, but yet he seemed so serious about it. He was telling me that I need to get out of Australia. I told him that I was born and raised there and if they did kill black people for UGG boots, I wouldn’t be standing here. Then he said when I go back, it will probably be my turn!

In all these scenarios, I just laughed it off and there are days when I remember and still laugh. There was some frustration at the time with some of the scenarios, but what could I do? Bring out my birth certificate? Call my parents in front of the person to verify my birthplace or call UGG Boots Australia to verify the material they use to make their UGG boots?

It was interesting to hear and see people’s reactions when I told them I was from Australia. It even became a little game where everyday I would wonder what would come out of someone’s mouth when I tell them that I am from Australia.

At first, I thought ‘What is wrong with this country? There are Australians everywhere, what makes an Australian black person so different’. I later realised African-Australians are not represented in the media. For example in the UK, they love Australian soap operas Home & Away and Neighbours. There are no black people in those shows. Once in 10 years there is a black person who is on for a few episodes and dies or something random like that. So it looks like other nationalities don’t exist in Australia, in particular Africans. But we are, alive and kicking!!!

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