If you are a subscriber to our weekly newsletter, Displaced Dispatch, you’re already in the know. But if you’re not, listen up. (Hey, why aren’t you? Off with your head!)
Every week, when that esteemed publication comes out, we present contenders for a monthly “Alice Award,” most of whom are writers or other kinds of international creatives who appear to have a special handle on the curious and unreal aspects of being a global resident or voyager.
Not only that, but this person tries to use this state of befuddlement as a spur to greater creative heights.
Today’s post honors April’s four Alice recipients. They are (drumroll…):
1) TONI HARGIS, author, blogger, and British expat in Chicago
For her post: “Learn to Take a Compliment, Brits in America” in Mind the Gap, a resource blog for British expats in America on BBCAmerica.com
Posted on: 18 April 2014
Many British teachers admitted that they and their students found it very hard to fill in applications for American colleges because they were asked for “accomplishments and strengths” as well as academic achievements. As one contributor put it, U.K. teachers “are not very good at waxing lyrical about [their] students other than in academic terms.”
Citation: Toni, what an absolutely marvelous post! Only don’t you think you should have promoted your credentials a little more? After all, you’ve written a book called The Stress-Free Guide to Studying in the States, the contents of which we expect could be useful to Bashful Brits. Actually, you do refer to the book in passing—but don’t provide the title or a link. Hey, never miss an opportunity to blow your own trumpet! But listen, as you insist upon being so self-effacing, we feel justified in presenting you with this inspirational passage from Through the Looking Glass, where a banquet is being held in honor of the diffident Queen Alice, who can’t quite believe she’s been made a queen:
[Alice] didn’t see why the Red Queen should be the only one to give orders; so, as an experiment, she called out “Waiter! Bring back the pudding!” and there it was again in a moment, like a conjuring trick. It was so large that she couldn’t help feeling a little shy with it…; however, she conquered her shyness by a great effort, and cut a slice and handed it to the Red Queen.
“What impertinence!” said the Pudding. “I wonder how you’d like it, if I were to cut a slice out of you, you creature!”
It spoke in a thick, suety sort of voice, and Alice hadn’t a word to say in reply: she could only sit and look at it and gasp.
“Make a remark,” said the Red Queen: “it’s ridiculous to leave all the conversation to the pudding!”
One last word of advice, if we may: Should you feel at all embarrassed about accepting an Alice, rest assured, a simple “thanks” will do. No need to curtsey… Notably, this last accords with what the point you make at the end of your excellent (as well as thought-provoking!) post:
…when someone praises you, your spouse, your children, your dog or your house, a simple “Thank you” will both suffice and move the conversation swiftly along without too much excruciation on your part.
Again, as the Red Queen puts it to Alice: “You ought to return thanks in a neat speech.”
For his post: “You Know That You’ve Been Living in Japan Too Long When…,” on The Travel Tart
Posted on: 18 March 2014
You know that you’ve been living in Japan too long when…
- A room the size of a cubic metre feels rather large.
- Capsule hotels feel quite spacious.
- Wide open spaces freak you out.
Citation: Anthony, we assume you met quite a few expats during your time in Japan. Because your inference that the longer a foreigner stays in Japan the stranger he or she becomes is spot on (and one of us speaks from a too-long experience of having lived in that small-island nation). Picture for a moment what happens to Alice after she enters the White Rabbit’s house and downs the contents of the “Drink Me” bottle:
She went on growing, and growing, and very soon had to kneel down on the floor: in another minute there was not even room for this, and she tried the effect of lying down with one elbow against the door, and the other arm curled round her head. Still she went on growing, and, as a last resource, she put one arm out of the window, and one foot up the chimney.
This is actually a case where one might prefer to be Alice rather than an expat. She at least has the ability to drink potions or eat pieces of mushroom to change her body size. But many gaijin remain permanently stuck in the White Rabbit’s house (not for nothing has Japan achieved notoriety as the “rabbit-hutch nation”). Downing the contents of a bottle of Suntory whisky or taking a bite of a matsutake (pine mushroom, prized for its spicy aroma) won’t make the blindest bit of difference. Oh, and incidentally, it’s arigato, not origato, but that’s okay as it means you didn’t stay too long—though you may want to add “correcting other foreigners’ Japanese” to the list.
3) MATT HERSHBERGER, writer and blogger at A Man Without a Country, and 4) British dialect coach ANDREW JACK
For the post: “A quick video guide to the accents of the British Isles”, by Matt Hershberger on Matador Network, which features Andrew Jack’s brilliant video (produced by Philip Barker).
Posted on: 20 April 2014
Snippet: Matt, who once lived in England, says:
As an American, I can’t even replicate the accents properly, so if I tried to ask for help distinguishing an accent from a British friend later, the best I could hope would be that I’d sound sort of like Stewie Griffin, and nothing like the accent I’d heard.
Citation: Matt, we take your point that when venturing abroad to a country where they speak the same language, it is most disconcerting when you can’t understand what people are saying because of their heavy accents—a true “through the looking glass” moment. (We fear that Brits may have some of the same troubles in the U.S., but let’s face it, you’d expect that in a country of this size, not of one as tiny as Britain.) We appreciate that you highlighted the video of Andrew providing 14 regional accents from the British Isles in 84 seconds: how awesome is that? As one of the YouTube commenters says, “good for ignorant North Americans”—some of whom, me might add, may plan to be (or have already been) expats in the UK. And we appreciate it even more when recalling that Poor Alice had no interpreter for the White Queen’s methods of communication:
“My finger’s bleeding! Oh, oh, oh, oh!”
Her screams were so exactly like the whistle of a steam-engine, that Alice had to hold both her hands over her ears.
“Oh, much better!” cried the Queen, her voice rising to a squeak as she went on. “Much be-etter! Be-etter! Be-e-e-etter! Be-e-ehh!”
The last word ended in a long bleat, so like a sheep that Alice quite started.
* * *
So, readers, do you have a favorite from the above, or have you read any recent posts you think deserve an Alice Award? We’d love to hear your suggestions! And don’t miss out on the shortlist of Alice contenders we provide in each week’s Dispatch, which are sources of creative thought if nothing else! Get on our subscription list now!
STAY TUNED for more fab posts.
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Wow – What a lovely surprise! I gratefully (and, I hope, graciously) accept with beaming pride. Probably very un-British of me, but I’ve been in the States a while now. As for blowing my own trumpet, the article you have featured is one I wrote for the BBC America web site and alas, I’m not really in control of how much publicity they give my other work.
Well, it’s good to see you being un-British and British at the same time. 🙂 That’s the beauty of your work, and why we’re more than happy to plug your new book. Alas, it does make sense that BBC America would put limits on self-promotion…
Congratulations to all.
Really enjoyed Matt’s post featuring the various British accents by Andrew Jack. Thanks for the link!