“Where are you from?”
The answer to this question is a bit complicated, but the short and honest answer is: I’m from Scotland. The thing is, to many people, I don’t necessarily sound like I am. In fact, here’s a list of nationalities people have thought were mine in no particular order;
American, Canadian, South African, Polish, Russian, Irish, Scottish, English…
Only two of these are actually correct. Although I consider myself more one than the other. Much more.
The Long Answer
I was born in California. (Which makes me an American citizen.) Both of my parents are Scottish. When they had me, they soon moved to France. (No I don’t speak French before you ask, that’s a story for another time.) When I was six years old we all moved back to Scotland. I’ve basically lived there ever since. So, Scottish parents, and living most of my childhood, teenhood and adulthood in Scotland gives me enough reason to call myself, and actually be, Scottish. However…
“You don’t sound like you’re from Scotland…”
Is the response I frequently get. Or they’re slightly more polite and they just look at me funny. And I understand that. If you have a particular accent, chances are you’re from that area. So I don’t hold it against anyone. But this statement does tend to make me feel the need to go into my entire backstory. I have since found ways to shorten my answer. “I was born in the states and came here when I was six.” But even then, people do tend to have questions.
Not only that; The people who tend to question this the most are, in fact, Scottish themselves. This results in me feeling like I need to prove that I’m Scottish. Which I am.
Ironically the folks who tend to be a lot more accepting of the idea of me being actually Scottish are not from Scotland. Funny that.
The Even LONGER Answer
But even though I DO identify as Scottish, (check Scottish on ethnic background questionnaires, support Scottish sports teams, sing the national anthem etc), it might be more accurate to call myself ‘International’.
Older sister and myself both born in the U.S.
Younger brother and sister both born in France
Lived in Scotland, studied in England and worked in many countries across Europe
Married to a Chinese National
My family is indeed pretty global. So it’s only natural for people to assume that I am. (Doesn’t quite explain why I was confused for a Polish/Russian person, the guy who said that was half cut on white russians though so make of that what you will…)
But it doesn’t stop there… There are many other reasons for my accent being the way it is. For starters, it’s hard to deny American culture has a huge affect on everyone in the western world. We’ve watched their films and TV shows for decades, even social media is steeped American culture. And since I was born there, I tend to feel a bit of a connection, even though it’s technically only on paper. So naturally I find myself following American trends. Cultural, Political, etc. I would say I’m quite well informed when it comes to American politics in spite of the fact I don’t actually live there. (And don’t intend to. Sorry, I’d rather live in a country with free healthcare and gun control…)
So is that it? My accent is a weird Scottish/American hybrid because I watched too much American TV? Well… a little. But again it’s not that simple. Because also… I’m an Actor.
“Eh? I mean I’ve heard loads of actors do tend to be consumed by ‘ACTING’, but does it really impact you so much that it changes your accent??”
Yes. It’s not always intentional, and it doesn’t happen consistently, but it does happen. A person with a ‘regional’ accent may decide they want to get into acting, but they don’t want to be typecast or their accent isn’t taken seriously for whatever reason. So what do they do?… They get a voice coach. And sometimes their original accent gets voice coached right out of them. Did it have a particular affect on me? It’s hard to say for sure, and in what way exactly, but I certainly can’t rule it out.
So basically I’m a Scottish actor who watched too much American TV. That should sum it all up right?… NOPE!
I’m also middle class.
“Now surely that doesn’t matter!”
It shouldn’t. But there are many people in Scotland, and everywhere else, who consider anybody who sounds Scottish as being working class. This is probably down to Scottish popular culture (television, films, music, comedy etc) which usually tells the story of Scotland to the rest of the world from the perspective of working “lower” class Scots. (Billy Connoly, Trainspotting, those guys who sing 500 hundred miles etc) This may be a huge factor in the assumption that:
Scottish = Working Class
Which means the very fact that I come from a middle class background leads people, especially Scottish folks, to assume that I’m not Scottish. When I am.
So… with people from outside Scotland recognising (just about) that I’m Scottish, and people in Scotland thinking I’m from anywhere else, it can be hard not to feel like an outsider no matter where I go. But I suppose it’s not the end of the world. Because after all, I’m International. And as far as identities go, that’s not a bad one. So with that being said I now have a question for you. Where are you from?