My Accent is not as strong as YOUR accent, AKA: Autistic vs Artistic and THAT awkward misunderstanding

I’ve lived in Canada for over two years now, and sometimes I feel like I’m speaking Cantonese when interacting with the North Americans (I can, for the record speak some Cantonese, but it’s mostly Dim Sum and swear words…so you can tell I’m popular at parties).

My Australian accent is nowhere near as strong as it could be because of a combination of the fact that I have really not lived that many years of my life in the Land Down-Under and it has burnt off, because I mainly had British and American teachers in those formative first few years of school, and because of accent Osmosis, where you absorb part of the accents around you.

I frequently get accused of being British.


And yet despite speaking ENGLISH, I am constantly misunderstood, laughed at by friends and have had people stare at me bewildered by simple requests because, turns out, we share many of the same words, and yet some of our lexicon is COMPLETELY different.

Here are some amusing examples I have compiled for you:

The Letter “R”
Not brought to you by Sesame Street today, but by me. As an Australian I pronounce this letter of the alphabet much softer than the Canadians. I say “Ahgh” almost, where as the Canadians pronounce this letter “Arghh” like a pirate.



The difference in pronunciation is what creates most of the misunderstanding between myself and simple Canadian folk.

My Name
My parents have kind of boring names, and they endeavored to make sure we (my siblings and I) had cool, interesting, easy to remember names. I can’t speak for my brothers, but whenever I tell people that my name is Paris, most people make a face like, huh! cool! And no one has ever forgotten my name. Or if they have, they haven’t lived to tell the tale… so same thing!

pink ballons around eiffel tower

But I do find it amusing when Canadians pronounce my name back to me in my accent. Usually with a question mark. They say “oh your name is Pah-rass?…oh you mean Pearriss, like the city?”
No, like the Hilton. Dumbass.

Autistic vs Artistic
I’ll never forget the conversation I had with my boss at the TV station I volunteer at. I was describing a movie I had seen and told her “The movie was so artistic, I loved it.” She was shocked. Okay like you’ve never seen Finding Nemo. I get it. It wasn’t until she finally whispered “I’ve never heard anyone describe a movie as being autistic before” that I realized I would have to find another word. This has happened multiple times with various levels of shock/hilarity/awkwardness.

Another escapade from my first few weeks in Toronto. I had found a new hairdresser I liked and asked over the phone if they had Toner for after you get highlights (I am not a natural blonde… Q’uelle Suprise). After the hairdresser made me spell out the word (she thought I was asking for Tuna?) she laughed and said “Oh tonearrrghhh. Sure we have that.” Thank god they didn’t put Tuna in my hair after the highlights. That would have been bad…or maybe good? Fish oils anyone? BRB Tunahair



Google Translate
Hilarity has ensued multiple times (for Canadians) when I have used a word they are unfamiliar with. Funny thing is, I don’t just spout words totally out of context, so you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about, even if the word sounds funny to you. There is an improv game you can play where you have to speak in gibberish and act out a scene and GUESS WHAT?! People can figure out what the hell is going on when actors are making shit up worse than the Daily Mail.

Me: Where’s the bathroom?
You: The what?
Me: The washroom.
You: oh it’s over there!

Don’t. be. a dick. You knew exactly what I was asking. You just wanted me to feel bad. Well guesswhatIdon’t so HA!

Australian: Jumper > Canadian: Sweater.
Australian: Bin > Canadian: Garbage, or Trash (i forget, some of your words get mixed up with American words, and we’ve already established that i’m bi-lingual in Cantonese and English, so it’s a lot to remember).
Australian: Thongs > Canadian: Flip Flops (how many times has THIS been an awkward conversation?)
Australian: Soft Drink > Canadian: Pop or Soda
Australian: Sticky Tape > Canadian: Tape (derp…what does she mean sticky tape?)

There are just too many to list, but the list does go on.

Today I tried to buy stir sticks for the office I am working in this week. You know what those are right? The wooden sticks used to stir coffee and tea in the office. Well fine what would you call them?
Because the person I asked looked like I was completely. fucking. insane.
And I am, sure, but not today.
And what I don’t feel like doing at 10am on a Tuesday, is acting out what a stir stick is.


Canada you have a population of around 3million people and according to wiki, in 2011 there were about 250,000 NEW immigrants! That’s about 8% of your population.

Everywhere I go I hear Irish accents, South African accents, Asian accents (all kinds) European accents… There is a huge Aussie and British population over here (duh… we run Whistler!)

So the next time you think about laughing about someones different accent, just remember…

Your accent sounds totally weird to me too.


And the Cowardly Lion asked for Courage

I always loosely refer to the reasons I decided to stay in North America. I write about it mostly in a jokey way, making light of the cultural differences between Australians and Canadians, social commentaries on Torontonians, and the little idiosyncrasies of adapting to a lifestyle far from the those of my childhood and early adulthood.
When I meet new people, they all quickly pick up on the foreign accent, and ask me inevitable personal questions like:

“Were are you from?”

Which can then migrate to much more personal questions very quickly, such as:

“Do you miss your family?”

“How long are you staying?”

“Don’t you get homesick?”

                                                                                                                                        “What made you decide to stay here?”

“Isn’t it hard?”                

A lot of times, the conversations about me being in Toronto will end with the interviewers pronouncement of:

“Wow! I could never do that!”


“I’m so jealous! I wish I was brave enough to just pick up and go.”

I appreciate that people find my journey and life experience interesting (if I didn’t, I wouldn’t keep a blog), but sometimes I feel like I am an exhibit in the Zoo, even more so than I did when I lived in Australia, (where I had the right accent) and in Asia, (where there was a large community of expats I fit into.)

The truth of the matter is, I am not especially brave.

“Yes. I do miss my family.
Every single day.
They are my foundation.
A collection of my best friends.
A huge part of my life.”

“I don’t know how long I am staying.
It’s an adventure.
It could be a year. It could be ten.
I haven’t put a time limit on myself.”

“Yes. I do get homesick.
Of course I do.
How could I not?
I miss the familiar,
My friends,
My Cat,
My favourite Coffee shop.”

“I chose to stay in Toronto because I like Canada.
I had the visa, I knew of a job I could get.
I knew of an apartment for rent.
It seemed like the easiest option at the time.
It saved me the cost of the flight home.
It was different.
Something new and exciting.”

“Yes. It is hard.”

And when people tell me they could never do it, or that they wish they were brave enough, I smile politely and make some kind of socially appropriate remark, but really I want to make a face like:

Because I don’t feel so brave.

I have huge meltdowns. I cry, and I think about packing it all up and going home, regularly. There are days where I speak to members of my family and it’s so great to hear their voice or see their faces over Skype, but when they are gone, when we hang up, I feel empty and far away from their every day lives, and I hate it, and have to ask myself repeatedly what I am doing with my life.

Some day’s there is a crushing sense of loneliness, and I realize just how far away from the people I love I am. It hits me that my friends in Australia and Hong Kong, and I, are drifting apart, and that the places I loved are not the same now as they are in my memory. We’re all growing up and changing.

I know from experience, that the first year is the hardest, when you move to a new place. I’m getting there (it will be a year in June), but for now I’m kind of trapped in that place in-between. Things aren’t totally new and shiny, but I still get frustrated because I don’t know simple things everybody else seems to know, and I can still get so, so, lost. I hate feeling like such an outsider, when every day I feel more and more like I belong.

Rationally, I know it’s a process. On a human level, that is difficult to take day after day.

It’s exhausting and emotionally draining, and I feel like this:

So what is the alternative you ask? If it is so hard, why don’t I just go back where it is familiar and easy.

And the answer is, because if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.
And the thought of that unchanging routine, scares me more, would be more damaging to my soul, than the difficulties and hardships of trying to break in somewhere new.

That is the reality which keeps me struggling through the tough bits day by day, because even though it is hard, the reward is adventure, experiences, fantastic stories to tell. The new and exciting contribute to my creativity. The hardships and adversity help me face other challenges in different aspects of my life.

My attitude is if I can move to Toronto with a backpack, $1000, and the will to make it work, then really, I can do anything.

I guess that’s a little bit brave.


(dedicated to JS for reminding me)