We Speak English in Australia

On the flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco on Saturday I was seated next to a guy from Austin in Texas who was friendly and interested to know where I came from and what I was going to do in the States. He gave me plenty of helpful advice advice about things I could do in some of the places I intend to visit. On a reassuring note he told me that I shouldn’t have too many problems in the States because my English wasn’t really all that bad, good enough to make myself understood at least. I thanked him for this and smiled inwardly but didn’t think too much more of it.

Later in the flight, in fact just as we were circling to land at San Francisco International, he asked me how come I knew how to speak English as well as I did and I had to explain to him that we were a British colony to begin with just the same as America. He was surprised by this and even more incredulous to discover that this all happened way back in the 1700’s. I guess he thought about it all for a moment and then commented that it was interesting that Australians don’t speak “normal” English.

I find it perfectly acceptable that someone from the States is not aware of the history of Australia but it came as something of a shock to be find that he could think my English was not “normal” and somehow sub-standard. After all, in Australia we still spell according to the British standard so I’ve always considered that American English is the one that is below par.

A funny incident and one that made me realise (with an ‘s’ not a ‘z’) yet again how important it is to travel, to learn other persons points of view and not assume that your own perceptions are universal.