- cracking the code

Integration in Norway: Mimicking or mocking a foreign accent?

Integration in Norway: Mimicking or mocking a foreign accent?

Was I a victim of prejudicial accent bullying? Or am I being overly sensitive and over the top dramatic (read: ridiculous)?

First:

It happened again just yesterday. Hearing the doorbell ring down the hall at work, I’d gone to open up for a man arriving for a meeting with one of my office neighbors. Showing him the way to the meeting room, I started making a bit of small talk about the weather.

Only to be interrupted with his blurting out, ‘So where do you come from?’

Exaggerating his ‘r’ in ‘where’ and ‘from’ so they came out like ‘wherrrre’ and ‘frrrrom’.

A bit flustered, I glanced over my shoulder with a quizzical look and a ‘Hmm?’ [translation: What are you getting at, mister?]

So he repeated his question with even more ‘r’-related emphasis, and of course I realized what he was doing. He knew I came from the US, could hear it the moment I started speaking, but for whatever reason needed to point this out to me by mocking my American accent.

But was it mocking, or was it just mimicking? Is there a difference?

In an instant I felt my face getting hot and my temper rising. Who was this guy? Why did he feel a need to power play me into my place? Because isn’t after all that what he was doing?

And why did my sense of politeness take over, leading me to answer him with a bright smile, ‘I come from the US’. (Please note that I didn’t say, ‘I come from Amerrrrrica’ for obvious reasons. Didn’t want to add fuel to the mimicking fire, as it were.)

Next:

Him: ‘Oh, I lived there for 12 years.’ Me: ‘Oh?’ Him: ‘Yes, I lived in California.’ Me: ‘Oh.’

And that was the extent of our conversation. Having arrived at the meeting room, I waved him in and wished him a pleasant day.

Walking back to my own office, I thought that I’d made a big deal out of nothing. Hadn’t I? After all, people go through a lot worse things at/outside of work than having their accents ‘highlighted’ by strangers in this way.

Last:

Yet with all the talk today about inclusion and making outsiders feel welcome in their adopted homeland, I felt very excluded by this thoughtless individual, who reminded me once more of the fact that I come from a different place, that I’ll probably never become a member of the club.

Or am I being an immigrant drama queen? Should I and others in the same situation just stop complaining, put on our big boy/girl pants and ignore it when something like this happens to us?

Or should I just go home and starting working on my ‘r’s?

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