It’s kind of funny. Americans have a reputation for being loud. Go to nearly any international city and you’ll be able to pick out Americans from a mile away. They don’t care much about what others think of them, they’re louder than anyone else, and they spread out – either with large gestures or just by putting their superfluous stuff everywhere. They need their space.
We’ve tried to blend in here. Hubbs is a local and I lived here long enough to be able to imitate some of the local behaviors. I know to keep my voice down, to not smile at strangers, to make myself comfortable – but not too comfortable. I know to wear winter clothes longer the weather necessitates and to keep my shoes brushed and cleaned at all times. In fact, when I lived here before we had kids, I could blend in fairly well. If people realized I wasn’t local they usually thought I was from some other Eastern European country – I learned to blend.
But now I have kids. I try hard to blend in. We try hard to blend in. But in spite of it all, my kids betray me. They’re the only ones running down the sidewalk, jumping in puddles, and giggling for no reason at all. They’re loud. They take their hats off when they get hot, even if it’s windy. They don’t eat soup and my boys don’t wear tights under their pants. My girl doesn’t keep her hair tightly pulled into a perfect braid or ponytail. They go against the grain.
I used to try to speak to them in Romanian when we’re out – you know, to blend in, to respect the people around me. But now I’ve figured it out. Not a single local will ever think we’re from here, even after just a single glance at my kids. I might as well just speak English. I might as well speak it loud. I’m not fooling anyone.