One of the things I love most about my home in the United States how I'm never overtly treated like a foreigner. Perhaps it's a function of the diversity of faces, but you're never made to feel as if you don't already belong.
Not all of the US is like this. Much of my time interacting socially with the locals in New England made me feel acutely marked as foreign and out of place on the basis of my physical appearance. And now, so is my time in England proper. This in itself is nothing I haven't experienced before. No big deal.
Besides, I get it. Legendary university town, millions of poorly-Englished students and tourists from East Asia moving through every day. And sure enough, the way in which people either pretend I'm not there or visibly brace themselves when I try to engage them is palatable. It's annoying, and I could whine at length about it (cue the violins)...but I won't 'cause it just ain't worth the trouble.
What is new to me is how people react after I open my mouth. Back home, if people were expecting some Asian girl forcing out a string of halting, broken English and instead they get the pera pera Jersey girl, you could see the inward shrug and readjustment, but it was always very matter of fact. Here, though...sometimes I get the inward shrug, but more often--I'd say half the time--it's more like an inward sigh of relief...and then for a split second they look almost obscenely pleased that they don't have to deal with a really foreign foreigner.
(Did I mention that the university has no international society for Americans? Even though there is one for Australians? I cry foul!)
If you didn't know better, you might think they were happy to see me. Or that they like my accent.
Still, it does make me wonder what English people really think about American accents.
Interestingly, my accent thus far has not proven to be a barrier to communication here. No one ever asks me to repeat every other sentence when not in a crowded room where you can only hear every third word anyone says anyway. (By the way, crowded rooms are very popular in Cambridge.) There was even one time, while in a group conference with a lecturer who is neither English nor American, that I noticed said lecturer kept asking one particular Brit to repeat his questions--but when I asked a question, no-problem-immediate-answer!