Tomayto, Tomahto

January 25, 2012
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Growing up in both a British and American family, I’ve been very familiar with the lifestyles of people in both countries from a very young age.

We’ve all been through it countless times. “Tell us your name, age, and one or two interesting facts about you.” Many people struggle when they’re asked this, trying to come up with something that sounds new and exciting. Fortunately, I always have a backup. I may not play any school sports or participate in any school clubs, but I was born in England (Hexham, specifically, shown above). Of course, that doesn’t make me any more special than the millions of other Brits in the world, but living in Louisville, Kentucky, people find it a little more intriguing. “Why on earth would you move here?” “But your teeth are so straight!” “Can you do a British accent?” Once, even, “Oh! Can you speak…,” but fortunately for her, she caught herself when she realized that yes, in fact, I can speak English.

While my British accent is absolutely terrible (worse than the average American), and I know U.S. history way better than the history of Britain, there are things that set me apart by growing up in a British family. For example, when it comes to food, my taste might be a little different from others who live here. I wouldn’t go as extreme as liking haggis (my brother loves it and I find it revolting, even if it’s evolved from its pig stomach days), but I’d much rather have a thick slice of Gloucester on my sandwich than a Kraft Single. I think beans on toast and tuna on a potato are both totally acceptable and delicious dinners, but apparently not everyone agrees with me. And while we’re on the subject of tuna, I’m also aware that the proper pronunciation of tuna is actually “choona”, but I’ve been Americanized since I was four, also dropping the British pronunciation of “garage” and “tomato”. When I moved here as a toddler, I was asked at least three times a day to say “stop” or “Scotland” or anything with an “o”, and when I was five I had an interesting mix of a slight Louisvillian twang and what was left of my four year old version of a British accent. Sadly, it’s all gone now, but my brother’s kept with the “choona” and my dad, of course, can never be changed. People are always surprised when they hear our landline’s voicemail: “You have reached the household of…” then, “the Thomson family” in my dad’s Scottish accent (that I don’t even notice unless I try).

There are definitely benefits to having a dual citizenship, other than just being able to use it as an interesting fact. For one thing, if America’s ever in trouble, then hey, I’m British, and if Britain’s ever in trouble, no big deal, I’m American. Also, travelling to England to see my aunt and cousins is a whole lot easier when I have a British passport, and I can come back home with my American one. This is not to mention how much easier travelling to England is when I don’t have to worry about making hotel arrangements. I can always stay with my family, and my dad has friends in Scotland, so when I go I feel less like a dumb tourist and more like a friend for a comfortable visit. That’s not all, either. If one day, by some miracle, I ever get into Oxford or Cambridge or something, I could get in with British tuition. Then if by another even greater miracle, I’m ever to the level where I’m on an equestrian team, I can join the British instead of the American and, well, actually win something…so it really can come in handy.

I’m sure maybe I missed some things as a small kid, like Spongebob or Disney World (although Robbie the Reindeer and the London zoo are much better anyway), but overall I love being both American and British. It may not have a huge impact on my life, but it’s definitely a part of who I am, and who knows, maybe I’ll move back there one day. I’ve only visited once, during the summer of 2009, since the move, but I’m planning on going next summer for the Olympics and my cousin’s wedding, and I am beyond excited. I do love it there, and Scotland is the most beautiful place I have ever laid eyes on, but it was comforting to come back home to correctly placed steering wheels and some actual sunshine. It’s crazy to think about how different my life would be if my dad didn’t accept that job…right now I’d be lying in a bed somewhere, sleeping, across the Atlantic Ocean. Really, though, I wouldn’t change my hometown or the move for anything. Everything has seemed to work out just fine, and for now, at least, I’ll just enjoy my Robbie the Reindeer and beans on toast until I figure out what I want to do and where I want to live for the rest of my life.

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