9/30/09

"Terribly sorry, I don't know them"

Now I know that most Americans think the UK is tiny in comparison to the USA, and they would be correct. But there are an awful lot of us packed cheek by jowl into that small landmass. So I am regularly entertained by new aquaintances here, assuming I might possibly have met their friend or relative!

Seriously, this actually happens pretty regularly. They might not always ask me directly, but it will definitely be inferred that they thought I might. They will sometimes overload me with detailed information on 'Auntie June', who lives in Portsmouth, has a blue rinse and a Labrador, in the hope I might recognise her - UH NO!

Now you could say this is because of the 'rural smalltown' area I live in. Where everyone knows of, or is related to everyone else and so this is just normal life for them. But the same thing happened to me in Chicago with someone I met who was from there!

The last time I checked the UK population was about 66 million, so the chances are slim to nil of this happening, even if they lived in the same town. My outer London hometown had a population of 88,000, most of whom I did not know!

I also get asked regularly if I have ever met the Queen. Well I did get a direct wave from her, whilst standing in a clear space during a parade when I was 12. But no, the closest I have come is by association through my bestfriend, who met her at a Royal Garden Party a couple of years ago. But I realise this is in part due to the American fascination with royalty and meeting one.

I actually find the whole thing kind of quaint. It seems many Americans (who have never been) still have an idealistic '1950's chocolate box village' impression of how the UK is. And certainly there are still a very few places that would fit this nostalgic impression. But the majority of places would blow that image out of the water completely, and they would know why these assumptions amuse me so much.

18 comments:

A Brit in Tennessee said...

Sarah, I just had to laugh out loud when I read this, I guess it's something that happens to most expats now living in their new country.
It always amazed me when I would be told of a fourth cousin and dance partner, living about three thousand miles outside of London ??
So that would be where?
Do you know them ?
Isn't it great, when folks have this image of 'Mayberry' all over the UK.....bless 'em.
Great post !

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Sarah said...

I get this too. My neighbours Mum did the same thing to me when she was visiting trying to trace relatives from Liverpool. I was from Plymouth which is in the south west and she had long lost relatives 450 miles away in Liverpool which is north. I do try not laugh though.

Snippety Gibbet said...

Believe it or not, it happens with Americans ABOUT Americans. When I was in New York City, I struck up a conversation with an older New Jersey couple. I told them that I was from Virginia and to connect with me they excitedly told me that they have family down in Texas. I think they were trying to relate to the "southern" thing, but were a bit geographically challenged. jan

Sunny said...

Over the years, many people have asked me if I ever met the Queen. I, like you, got a wave during a parade, when I was a small child.
I enjoy reading your blog.
Sunny :)

Daryl said...

Eons ago when I was in London I got lost and the kind gentleman who gave me proper directions noticed my accent and asked me where I was from. I said New York. And he asked me if I knew someone he knew who lived in Poughkeepsie. I explained New York City was quite a distance from Poughkeepsie and I didnt know the person in question. He then said 'ah New York City, do you know ... ' ... I explained NYC was HUGE, bigger even then Poughkeepsie and no, I didnt know his acquaintance.

So you see its not really only in small towns it happens everywhere

Lynn said...

This happens fairly often among Americans from different parts of America. I think it's because people don't want to miss the chance of making a connection even if it's only a very small chance.

It happens with surnames too. My mother is really bad about that. Every time she meets someone with the same last name as someone she knows (usually very common names) she is just so certain there must be a relationship.

pam said...

Oh yes, that is a familiar theme for sure. And everyone wants to tell you that an ancestor came from England, but they usually don't know where. But if you are from Oklahoma, chances are you MIGHT just know someone else from here! Ha. Or know someone who knows them! Really, it is just conversation, isn't it!!! Hope you are well, how are you feeling?

Rob Inukshuk said...

Oh, I get that - "So you're from Africa" ....

Brit Gal Sarah said...

I had a feeling this might strike a chord with a few, especially the expats amongst us.

Lynn - LOL at your mom, the Hubster does exactly the same thing and it drives me nuts!

Sherri said...

Sarah, you had me giggling about this! Why do people always assume that when you come from a certain place you know their friend, relative, etc? I get this from people where in live in Charlotte when they find out I'm originally from NJ! So you can see it isn't only Americans with the UK. I think it is just people in general.

Smitten by Britain said...

Sarah, you are right on all counts. So is Snippety Gibbet.

Expat mum said...

My family members are always amazed at how many Brits come to Chicago and I actually DO have some connection to them. It's usually either through past work or uni, but the 6 degrees of separation is very much alive.

Brown English Muffin said...

oh lord this happens to me all the time...it truly gets annoying after a while I am sorry!!! I don't think I've ever done it to anyone...I just assume they won't know them.

Brit Gal Sarah said...

Yes I think in general British people don't really do this. I don't ever remember doing it either, especially with foreigners!

NFAH said...

I apologise for my fellow Americans if they really do ask you if you have met the queen. That is embarrassing. Sigh.

Katrina Chambers said...

Haha! Very funny! But I guess people love to feel that connection to you somehow because you are from a different country :)

soubriquet said...

I was sitting on a plane, flying from Stockholm to London. In the seat next to me was a woman from New Zealand. I mentioned I'd worked with a New Zealander, a guy from Auckland.
"I'm from Auckland!", she said. It turned out she knew his family, and she'd been his babysitter.
She told me things that I'd heard from him about his childhood home, and his father's business, so she was genuine.
But she was disappointed I didn't know her cousin in Manchester, a mere fifty miles from my home in Leeds.