Thursday, February 07, 2013

Dear America: Just Because I'm British Does Not Mean I Know The Queen

When I first moved to the United States in 2008, there was naturally an inordinate amount of interest in my background: who I was, which part of Australia (yes, Australia) I was from, and why I said funny phrases like bugger me. But the most unexpected question - asked of me by one of my wife's relatives - was this: "so... do you know The Queen?"

I assumed at the time that she - the relative - was joking. Clearly, thought I, the family I'm marrying into must possess a brilliant sense of humo(u)r, and that this was some kind of gotcha.


I waited for the punchline. The relative waited for my answer. The longer she did so - her face painted with puzzlement - the more painfully obvious it became that no punchline was coming. She legitimately wanted to know if I was buddies with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

"... ", said I.
"What about Prince William?", she persisted.

Did I have the heart to tell her the truth? Would I somehow become ostracized if I divulged that, in fact, I had not even so much as met a Royal family member?

I looked at my wife, who offered an awkward if knowing smile. It was the sort of smile that said "yeah, so, this is my family." It also said "Laurence, it's rude not to answer someone when they ask you a question."

"Sadly, I do not know The Queen," I conceded, after taking my first sip of American tap water. "But my brother touched Prince Charles on the shoulder once. Does that count?"

Now don't get me wrong: not everyone can be expected to know all the ins and outs of another country. Indeed, it took me four years to work out that America did not use the word "trowel". But, the idea that the Queen somehow bears an intimate friendship with every person in Great Britain - an island of roughly 62 million inhabitants - is, in the words of my new compatriots, messed up.

It's pretty much the same thing as asking the crew of Apollo 11: "so when you went to the moon, did you see the Mother Ship from Independence Day?"

Four years on, and I still periodically get the same question. Only now, after years of experience, I have learned to respond swiftly with the only comeback that truly makes sense, which is this: "so... do you know the president?"

5 comments:

Marina said...

Haha, so many of my English friends who have traveled to the US have had similar experiences. One guy even had a girl at Burger King ask for his autograph. Although I will say that in all cases this happened in, um, less metropolitan areas of the country. I don't really have any excuses for the accent ignorance except that most Americans haven't traveled much, and since we have such awful immigration/visa policies a lot of people just don't ever hear an accent in person. That said, they should know better!

Laurence Brown said...

Yes, it is always rather stunning to be asked this question. Still, because some (by no means all) Americans have never met a British person before, I am usually treated like royalty by many of the people I meet. Which can't be all bad.

DoNotGoQuietly said...

I lived and worked in the Hollywood (yes, that one) for most of my live and whenever I've mentioned this to someone from any place other than California, people invariably ask me, "Oh, what stars do you know!"

Tara said...

We don't say "trowel" in America? This is definitely news to me lol. I'll stop at once!

Hasan said...

Really good articale and thanks for sharing with us but the most interesting thing is that you don't know the queen of Great Britain people who live in third world like myself ( i live in somalia by the way) can recognize every member of royal family that is little bit embarrassing but hopefully you got a wife in the place where you live and one last thing you live in Indianapolis one of the most coolest states in USA

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