Invariably, upon hearing our accents, Mr. Bill and I would be asked either, “where in America are you from” or “are you Canadians”? The former was expected when living abroad but not the latter. We had never been mistaken for our northern neighbors, until we lived in New Zealand. The difference in speech, which is so obvious to Americans, is too subtle for Kiwis; much as the distinction between Aussie and Kiwi accents had eluded us, prior to residing in Ohope.
We humans are curious creatures. In getting to know one another, what better ice breaker could there be, than asking where one hail’s from, to start the process? More often than not, the well travelled Kiwis, were familiar with our neck of the woods.
When an American asks another American where they are from, the answer is usually a state. If from the same state, a city or town is then named and depending on the other’s familiarity with the region, it could keep on going to suburb or street, until a common connection is made. New Yorkers, if not from the greater metropolitan area, will quickly announce that they are from upstate New York. Whereas those from New York City, won’t bother to tell you, that they are from New York. Instead, they will name which of the five boroughs they call home; as if Manhattan, Queens, The Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island are separate countries. Confusing? It can be, especially when they skip the borough part altogether and only say their neighborhood. I was completely flummoxed once when a woman said, that she was from Jackson Heights. In turn, she seemed put out when I politely asked in what state was her town located, and was informed (rather huffily) that it was a section of Queens. I suppose you cannot blame someone from the Big Apple, from thinking that they are a big cheese.
When introducing ourselves as we travelled around Aotearoa, we quickly learned that after proudly proclaiming our small state of Connecticut, the inquirer often drew a blank, which prompted further explanations. In the beginning, I’d say that Connecticut was part of New England, which I soon learned wasn’t very helpful. Mr. Bill would answer that we were from the east coast of America, until the day a couple from Auckland replied, “oh, you are from California “! That lead to a gentle explanation, that although California was indeed to the east of New Zealand, it was on the west coast of The United States. I settled on saying, that I was from Connecticut, the state next door to New York and that worked the best. Once asked and answered, it was our turn. If you think that replying Connecticut, is confusing to some, imagine how perplexed we were, when in response to our query, a young woman brightly answered that she was a ‘Jafa’. *
My friend Heather, recently asked me where I now call home; since Mr. Bill and I have become snowbirds, dividing our time between Connecticut, the Nutmeg State and the Sunshine State of Florida. That was a no brainer. Home is with Mr. Bill, wherever that may be.
*JAFA-just another f****** Aucklander