Today Aunt Kelly and I were in a cafe, and there were a couple of late-middle-aged guys sitting at a nearby table, speaking (what I correctly identified as) Finnish. One guy kept looking in our direction in an overly-familiar way, and at one point Aunt Kelly said, “That guy just said something to you,” but I just ignored him.

Finally they got up to leave and the guy came over, put a hand on each of our shoulders, and said something to us. Aunt Kelly said, “Sorry, we don’t speak… Russian,” which is kind of silly because I do speak Russian, but she didn’t really know what else to say because at that point we weren’t sure that they were speaking Finnish.

So the guy says in English, “You don’t speak Russian? Where are you from?” “The U.S.” “America!” he said, and then to his friend, “Aaaa-me-ri-ka! Hallelujah!”* His companion said (in Spanish!), “Norte America?” The first guy said, “I was sure you were Finnish girls and you understood every word we were saying.”

I said, “Well, we take that as a compliment.” And we do. The Finns are classy people, and we certainly don’t want to be seen as obnoxious Americans. (Last week a guy on the street asked us if we were French, but I think that was just an anomaly.) We were both wearing cozy sweaters, and mine was even from Norway, so that certainly helps our Scandinavian image. That’s the third time I’ve been mistaken for a Finn. Now I just need to learn to speak Finnish.

* Which reminds me of the scene from The Barbarian Invasions when the main characters cross the border into Vermont from Quebec. (Hugh will remember this.) If you haven’t seen the film, I recommend it.

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