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Dazed and Confused in America: My Homeland Makes Me Feel Like a Foreigner

September 27, 2014 in Blogs

By Tim Dowling, The Guardian

Trying to buy beer on a recent trip to Nashville left me more than a little humiliated.

America is my homeland, but it hasn’t been my home for almost 25 years. Whenever I return I spend a lot of time pretending not to be lost or bewildered by changes effected in my absence.

I’ve just returned from a week in Nashville with English friends who constantly deferred to my local knowledge. I’d never been to Nashville before, but I still knew the difference between a dime and a nickel.

I remain capable of explaining the procedure for negotiating an intersection governed by four stop signs. I know that the man on second base can run even if the ball is caught, provided he tags up first. When asked for my opinion I can confidently assert that cream soda is, at best, an acquired taste. But a lot of the time I’m as confused as any foreigner and hiding it.

As we pass the Capitol building I announce that this is where the Butler Act, banning the teaching of evolution in schools, was signed into law in 1925. Nobody needs to know that I had to look up the date on my phone first.

I am sent to buy beer on the grounds that I will know what kinds of beers are good, but I don’t recognise any of the brands. I pick one at random and read the label in case someone asks me what it’s like. “It’s got a bready malt aroma, balanced with maize sweetness,” I will say.

The man at the counter regards me blankly as I put down my beer. I hold out a $20 bill. He doesn’t take it. Could a six-pack possibly cost more than $20? How would I know? For a long moment neither of us speaks.

“Can I see some ID, please?” he says finally.

“Sorry?” I say.

“ID,” he says.

“I’m 51,” I say. “Look at the state of me.”

He stares back. Clearly the only absurdity he sees in the situation is my failure to furnish him a valid photo ID as required by Tennessee state law, like everyone else …read more


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