After the naughts, I am still feeling fragile. I am not as ashamed of being an American as I used to be. But I’m not exactly proud. Americans are supposed to be proud. (Go USA!) And a real American would not want to live outside the U.S.
So, there is this inward shame and cringing that is probably common for expatriates. There is also something in me that can’t accept being vulgar and country-bumpkinish. Even if there is also something charming about me. (I am kind of charming. Modest and humble, too.)
For the last eight years, I have been juxtaposed with stoic, mumbling Poms (Kiwi for English people), who can’t quite conceal their loathing of vulgar American me. And I used to think the problem was me. I am too introverted. There is so much social awkwardness in my most mundane attempts at conversation. I used to be a waitress, so why can I not (at the very least) plod around bringing people cups of tea? And why can’t I have aristocratic manners like the Duchess? (I look like her, don’t you think? No? Adam doesn’t think so either.)
Source: WikipediaI have finally realized the problem isn't my personality. And it isn't my upbringing. My socially awkward encounters are because of the inferior stock of my ancestors. They were the underclass in Europe. They were probably serving maids and indentured servants. (OK, some were escaping famine, or wanted religious freedom.)
It’s not a surprise (or my fault) that Americans don’t have aristocratic manners. It's not in our blood. And yet. Maybe, just maybe, the problem is actually the Poms' class loathing.
“I could have told you that,” said Adam.
Edited to add. Most of my friends in NZ are, uh, English (perhaps of a certain class). Look out for the next article in this series: New Zealand, the Great Egalitarian Society That Isn't Really.