Yesterday, a friend asked me to pop in a shop near her apartment and get her a couple of things. I must have said something a little off, or my accent must have slipped through, because the shop owner said, “AHA! You’re not Italian!” Which used to happened to me all the time, and now only rarely, because either everyone I talk to already knows me or I fit in enough to pass as an Italian, or I have my kids with me, and speak to them in English, making it very obvious where I am from and no one thinks I am trying to trick them.
“No,” I confessed.
“What nationality?” he asked.
He raised his voice and enunciated slowly: “What N A T I O N A L I T Y ?”
“Wouldn’t you rather guess?”
“Russian!” he said.
“Ukrainian!” his wife guessed.
I shook my head.
“No, no, Polish!” said another customer in the store. “Or Albanian!”
“I think she’s Russian,” said the shop owner again.
In the end I told them I was American and thanked them for the laugh.
“We never would have guessed American!” they all said as I left the store.
Of course, as soon as I saw her, I asked my friend if I looked Russian. “You could pass as Russian. Not Albanian though!”
I saw another friend later and asked him. “You could be Russian, or even Albanian. I used to see a group of Albanian prostitutes near where I used to work and yeah, you could be Albanian.”
“Albanian or an Albanian prostitute?”
“No, just Albanian.”