It is no doubt that the moment I start speaking to people here in Australia, I stick out like a sore thumb. Every interaction I have had here so far has started with a short introduction of who I am, followed by an awkward pause and a few odd looks, in which I patiently wait, knowing what’s to come. I wait to get asked the one question I have been asked more than ever before: ”Where are you from?”. To which I have now formulated an answer so perfect and concise I could recite it in my sleep:
“I am originally from Brazil, but I go to school in Florida, and my family lives in Atlanta”.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not one to get easily offended or annoyed by any means from this exact question, but I have never experienced being asked the same thing over and over again.
Growing up I never really had a distinct accent, and in all honesty, I still don’t consider myself having one. My parents never wanted my brother and me to grow up lacking knowledge in one of the most used languages in the world, and so we were taught English before anything else; it has always been my first language, even though I predominantly speak Portuguese at home.
When I moved to the United States during high school, the least of my worries was my ability to speak and articulate in the language. My accent, like most of the people I was surrounded by, sounded pretty normal, and nothing truly made me stick out. I chose to study abroad in Australia for many reasons, but one of those happened to be that they speak the same language I have been exposed to my whole life, making the idea of living alone on the other side of the world slightly less daunting to me. Here in Australia, however, English is a totally different story.
Yes, basically everybody knows Australians have an accent, and I was fully aware of this. What I wasn’t aware of, was the fact that as somebody who doesn’t have the Aussie accent, I sound 1000% American. If you speak remotely different to them and cannot catch on to the abbreviated slang, they know in an instant that you are definitely not from here. I don’t really see it as a bad thing because it has honestly been an incredible conversation starter to get to know the people here, but I truly never thought of myself as having an “American” accent.
Here’s the big catch though…I’m not American! Nevertheless, having my accent be a dead giveaway of where I come from has, in a sense, been a huge advantage. It has led me to make new connections and friendships I never would have initially expected to make. People are genuinely interested in learning about me and my background, and I have felt unbelievably accepted here.