05.06.2006 08:22 - Becoming David Niven
The whole subject of expatriatism is a sticky one indeed. I have, now, lived long enough in Germany to be taken as one of the locals, by the locals. Germans are frequently surprised when, after talking for a while, it is revealed that I'm English. I'm not boasting that my German is fantastic, but they normally clock me for a foreigner of some type, but not an Englander. The locals seem to believe that no-one in England has any interest in learning the language, for some reason. This is probably due to their experiences of English Tourists coming up to them and shouting, in the sort of voice used to talk to the mentally-retarded or small children, "EXC-USE MEEEE! DOOO YOUU SPEEEEAK ENGLISSHHHHH?!" I've often got that sort of treatment myself, and when I've said "Yes, I do actually, as I am English", the interrogator shrugs their shoulders and walks off, assuming me to be another tourist. I got so sick of this that the last time I was approached by some huge idiot woman from the Home Counties I replied "YESSSS I DOOOOO!! ARRE YOOOOU MAKING FUNNN OF MYYY SPEEEECH IMPEDIMENT?!?"
However, back to the Germans. I have found, that over time, I've started over-compensating my Englishness in front of Germans. This leads to me, in extreme cases, turning into David Niven, without the diamond-stealing and insulting of incompetent faux-French detectives, of course. (Or, for that matter, getting blow-jobs from American Starlets, although I'm working on it.)
There have been occasions where I have found myself speaking in a Rank Charm-school accent, saying things like "Ai Really em most Tirribly sorry", and generally coming on like Mr. Chomondley-Warner in some sort of 1930's British B-film. Fortunately I haven't descended to the self-parodying depths of Terry-Thomas, or even worse, Leslie Phillips ("Ai sai old Boi, Tick-Tock!"), even though the accent does seem to have certain knicker-loosening properties for a certain type of Fraulein.
Ai'm rilly tirribly sorry, but one simply must get on. Pip-pip.