“Now I’m the foreigner” moment #2: You American? (not that there’s anything wrong with that)

During quiz night at Stallion’s pub in Orihuela, Spain, where, incidentally, there are nothing but Brits.

Quizzer: What was the name of the Lone Ranger’s horse?

The husband unit: The Lone Ranger?

Me: I think it’s a cowboy.

Guy sitting at next table: You should know this. You’re American.

Me: I’m Canadian.

Guy sitting at next table furrows his brow to indicate doubt.

Me: If I were American, I’d admit it.

No Americans were harmed in the making of this blog. But a handful of Canadians were probably a little miffed, and at least one British man was very disappointed.


  1. That’s hilarious. I have always wanted to live in Canada. I’ve been to many cities and love the people and way of life.

    BTW, it’s Silver. As in “High-ho, Silver, away!”

    1. Ha! Thanks for the tip. I’ve never really been a cowboy kind of person. I Wikied the Lone Ranger the next day and found out there was a catchphrase and everything. :-p

      I actually love America! I don’t mind being mistaken for an American, and I can honestly understand how the accents sound similar to Brits. It’s just that this guy actually thought I was bluffing.

  2. That is hillarious. I have travelled a lot and have often been mistaken for American.

    Although I also have not-so-fond memories of being one of the “token” Canadians at an international school in Germany in the ’80s. According to my classmates all Canadians were “moose hunters” and lived in igloos. I’m so glad that people have become more aware of what Canadians are since then–although the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics might have confused a few.

    1. That’s what I was thinking too: those damned closing ceremonies kind of shoved us back into the realm of stereotypes, didn’t they?

  3. this is a funny anecdote! when i was living in the UK, i was the “token American” at the coffee shop where i worked. i didn’t mind, but i did get annoyed when people would start conversations by asking “what part of America are you from?”

  4. During my travels in Europe last year, I came to realize that for most Europeans, America generally designates “that place across the ocean”. They don’t really see a difference between Canada and the USA, not so much out of ignorance, but rather because to them, there’s no real cultural marker to differentiate the two, whereas in Europe, language and other clear cultural markers set different countries apart. I guess to them we’re all Americans because we all come from the American continent I guess is what I’m saying.

  5. I’m sure all that is true, but it’s funny – at least for me – how the tables have turned. Quite literally, now *I’m* the foreigner, and I’m the one that gets looks and the “where do you come froms” and all that.

    In Canada, the husband unit keeps getting “told” what he is: British, Irish, Australian. Nobody can decide. And generally speaking, in North America, we kind of lump the U.K. and Australia in the same category, without really knowing how to distinguish the cultural markers, or sometimes even the accent. Until someone says something in a language we understand. And I’ve found that speaking “stereotype” tends to work.

    When I said “if I were American, I’d admit it,” it turned into the sort of cultural marker that the British man could understand. Mostly based on whatever ideas this person had about Americans, but the distinction was entirely cultural. He couldn’t distinguish me by my accent alone, but he could tell what I was implying about American culture. And while it may not be entirely true (having many lovely American friends), the stereotype resonated. Which indicates that some Europeans have some idea of what being American may mean. They don’t necessarily have the same notions for Canadians, but when you tap into what their notions of being American are, they understand. No, it may not be based on the truth, but then a lot of Canadians I know romanticize Europe (myself included), and the reality is always quite shocking. Europe isn’t just lovely bike rides through the plaza and fresh baguettes hanging out of your backpack. It’s also cookie-cutter suburbs and social divides and restaurant chains. But if I say “baguette,” people understand “France,” despite the fact that they’re also produced and sold in Spain and England. Baguettes are not unique to France, but it’s all we need to understand the idea of France. And it has as much to do with the Frenchness of the word as it has to do with the way the bread looks.

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