Monday, September 22, 2008

To be posh or not to be posh

Having grown up in Iberia, I went to an International School. It was an amazing experience because it enabled me to learn about so many different cultures. There were kids from Germany, Holland, France, Canada, US, England, Portugal, Spain – you name it, they were there. It was a whole new world ripe for exploration.
Being just ten when I first entered that school, and boasting a strong Yorkshire accent, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to be someone else. I remember trying very hard to speak without my accent and telling everyone my name was the (rather posh) one on my birth certificate, as opposed to the (more common) one everyone has called me since I was born.
I wanted to fit in with the posh kids but I probably looked and sounded like an idiot. Eventually my efforts diminished, the accent returned (albeit strangely less pronounced) and I was known as my simple name once again. I was happy though. My posh friends only sounded posh – they were not in the least stuck up and I soon began to realise that it was the little things like our widely differing accents that made us so unique.
I had many Dutch friends who I could have listened to for hours. I just loved the way words rolled from their tongues. And I loved the way they spoke English too, almost with an American accent. To me, they were the coolest of the lot. I remember staying at my then best friend’s house for the weekend and for breakfast the whole family sat round the table chatting. There were all kinds of fascinating foods and fruit juices that I had never even seen before, let alone tasted.
To them, breakfast was the most important meal of the day. It’s a shame it never sunk in – my husband has to practically force feed me to eat food first thing in the morning these days! (Note to self: remember the Dutch, eat a hearty breakfast)
After 22 years of living in Southern Europe, I no longer have a Yorkshire accent. The only time it rears its head is when I say words like ‘bath’. According to my brother and sister, my accent is now a posh one. Funny, considering that’s what I wanted when I was a kid. A couple of years ago I appeared on a regional BBC programme about expatriates living in the region. I couldn’t believe myself how ‘posh’ I did sound! It was actually embarrassing.
Why has my accent fallen by the wayside? Perhaps due in part to my mixing with different cultures, or perhaps being with my husband since I was 16, who knows? My husband is also English, but he hails from Essex – although I do remember calling him posh when we first got together. But that’s a story for another time!