Sarah J. Carlson

Contemporary Young Adult Author

On being the token Yank: “Are you British or Australian?” …um….




So I started doing a bit of creative writing teaching in the Singapore schools. So much fun. Love kids. Now I’m the token white person and the token Yank πŸ™‚ Anyway, at the end of the lesson, this little girl comes up to me.Β  Here’s our dialogue:

“Miss Sarah, are you Australian or British?”

“I’m American. Which one did think I was?” I ask.

“Australian.” She smiles up at me.


“Because of how you talk.”

Nope, I’m this:

Image(Image retrieved from

(Side note: I DO NOT agree with the above meme, let me be clear. Let’s be real for a second, we all can be obnoxious in certain…situations, let’s just say. Except Canadians πŸ˜› They’re so nice and polite. Do they even have an obnoxious chant? I guess maybe “Oh, Canada!…” I don’t know the rest, sorry Canada. I blame my mom for not teaching me.)

This is definitely not the first time someone from Singapore thought I was Australian after I talk. Not that there’s anything wrong being Australian of course. To be fair, I can’t recognize different Southeast Asian accents in English and most of the white people here are Australian so it’s a safe assumption. Maybe it’s because I wear flip flops a lot or maybe I just don’t look British. Who knows. Either way, it’s pretty amusing πŸ™‚

Have you ever had an experience like this traveling abroad? Can you recognize different groups of people based on the way they look or dress? (hope I didn’t open a can of worms with that last question)

24 thoughts on “On being the token Yank: “Are you British or Australian?” …um….

  1. Amos M. Carpenter

    My accent is a bit weird from growing up in too many places to count. I suppose that, finally living in the same place for the last few years, I’ve started sounding more like a “normal Aussie” (you can’t help it rubbing off), but people still sometimes think I sound [insert accent you don’t really know and can’t place here] – from Irish to Canadian to South African to Kiwi to whatever else you can think of. I can usually place accents quite well, except for really obscure ones (well, to me).

    A sure way to make your Aussie friends giggle, by the way, is to say “you’re rooting for someone” πŸ˜‰ Oh, and while most Americans are probably (hopefully?) not aware of this, the “USA” chant has a different meaning when there aren’t any Americans around….


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      I have to admit, I sometimes have a hard time distinguishing some Aussies from English accents. I’ve heard it’s a class thing, but it could be that they’ve lived in Singapore a long time.

      I’ll have to try that haha!

      Also, can you please please pretty please tell me what the USA chant means when we’re not around? I’m dying to know!!! I won’t tell anyone I swear!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Amos M. Carpenter

        The London Cockney accent is probably the “parent”, if you will, of the Aussie accent, but there are definite differences you should be able to pick up after a short time of being around both.

        Since you asked so nicely… *looks around to make sure no one is listening* (and please don’t hold this against me, I don’t want to encourage stereotypes)… it’s sometimes used to imply a certain, shall we say, parochial mob mentality. I’m sure when we patriotically yell “Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi oi oi!” it is viewed similarly by non-Aussies πŸ˜›


      2. sjoycarlson Post author

        Haha yes it is, but I admit this only to a friendly, open-minded person as yourself πŸ˜› I figured as much. You and me, we represent at least what the people of SE Asia regard as the most annoying expats. I get told all the time that I’m not a typical American, thank God. Though that makes me wonder what other Americans people are up to.


  2. Charles Colp

    I have found that when I lived in Monterey, California you could pick out people based on social behaviours, clothing styles, and manner of addressing others. It wasn’t really a fast and hard rule but if you were in a bar and could see the groups of people from above it turned into a game. Monterey attracted people from all over the world so it was a learning experience and a great way to get to know other cultures. I hope to move back there one day and introduce my kids to as many people from around the world as I can.


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      I totally agree. With my future imaginary children, I want them to be exposed to as many cultures as possible. I’m still researching this, but I have a theory that Americans tend to be emotive, facially expressive, and talk a lot with their hands. I’ll have to post the results of my testing at another time lol.


      1. Charles Colp

        If you tied my arms to my sides I would find it hard to talk at times. I have caught myself doing it way too often. At least I don’t move my mouth when I type, that would be more awkward.


      2. sjoycarlson Post author

        Yeah, I talk a lot with my hands. Some guy I met for the second time commented on that and how loud I was (in no way meaning offense). Gah, I can’t help it! lol


      3. Charles Colp

        My wife gets me, So she knows how far she can push a joke. Turns out pretty far. There are a few she has been doing for 17 years and I still laugh at them.


      4. Amos M. Carpenter

        Hmm, yeah – no disagreement from me about the kissing thing! I meant only for the purposes of adjusting your view that you talk more with your hands and more emotively than other cultures. Don’t think you can wave… I mean, hold a candle to the Italians in that department πŸ˜‰


  3. jbay

    I went to the Kentucky Derby this year for the first time with my friend’s bachelorette party. I was (am) pregnant, and I don’t recommend going pregnant. As we were all exiting the event, we had to go through a tunnel that felt very apocalyptic. We were Nuts to Butts, as they say,Β and all these drunk southerns are screaming “U-S-A, U-S-A!” all the way through the tunnel. As one of the only sober people around, I can say it was pretty eerie. πŸ˜‰


  4. hmclarke

    I’m the token Australian living in the USA….I’m always mistaken for being British, or from some obscure part of the US somewhere πŸ™‚ . Though, I used to work with a lot of Canadians when I was still in Australia and we used to have fun with them by always asking them what part of the States they come from πŸ™‚


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      I’ll bet the Canadians hated that haha. And I’m not going to lie, sometimes I have a hard time with Aussies. I’m not sure if there are regions of Australia or socioeconomic groups that speak more of the Queen’s English, but I’m just like, Sarah, come on you should be able to tell! Also, did I apologize yet for my countrymen inappropriately doing the USA chant at the Kentucky derby? lol πŸ˜›


      1. hmclarke

        I don’t pay attention to the derby….but why would it be odd for yanks to be chanting USA there? Especially if an American horse beat a foreign interloper to win….Like us Aussies at the Melbourne Cup chanting…AussieX3, Oix3 πŸ™‚ The Australian accent is as diverse as the US and British Accents. Different states and regions have their own ‘flavour’.


      2. sjoycarlson Post author

        OHhhh see this is how little I know about the derby! I thought they were all American horses haha

        Then I guess it’s not inappropriate πŸ˜›

        By the time I’m done in Singapore, I will be able to sort Aussie v. Brit accent!


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