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Are you more expat than home bird?

Jumping in the back of a taxi, you use broken English to advise the driver where you're going while instructing him ever-so-slowly about the road you wish to take.

Before you know it, he's turned around and is looking at you as if you've gone crazy. it's then you realise you're at home and there's no need for the strange, broken English dialogue.

While your friends mock how you've 'changed' and the driver glares at you through the rearview mirror, you realise it's just another aspect of your behaviour that's been affected by living abroad.

He may have starred in 'Australia' alongside fellow countrywoman Nicole Kidman but Hugh Jackman says he needs lessons in being an Aussie

It seems Australian actor Hugh Jackman is having similar woes.

The 43-year-old 'X-Men' star has become so used to adopting different accents for films that he says he needs 'Australian lessons' now that he is lending his voice to warrior rabbit Easter Bunny in animated film 'Rise of the Guardians'.

"I had to kind of concentrate on sounding more Australian than I probably am," he said.

"I went on the internet to remind myself of Aussie phrases. Like in England you have Cockney rhyming slang and we have our version of it: 'chompers', 'ankle-biters'… I thought, 'I'm gonna try as many of these as I can'." Reminding yourself of your home culture and behaviours is something Syrian expat Bakr has had to do many times since moving to Dubai. So predisposed is he to talking in English, he now finds speaking the foreign language easier than speaking Arabic.

He explains: "You use English all the time here and you get so used it. I can see a dramatic difference in the way I speak after spending seven years in this country, I'm even starting to lose some of the Arabic vocabulary.

If I switch to Arabic, I pause a little bit to find the meaning of the word I'm trying to say before saying it."

While his new-found way of speaking doesn't affect him too much in his day-to-day life, Bakr says he does have to watch the way he speaks when he goes back home. He says he's conscious of the way he's 'perceived' as somebody who works abroad.

Like Hugh with his Australian lessons, Bakr's family probably think he could do with 'Syrian lessons' from time to time.

He adds: "If I have to speak in Arabic completely - and that happens a lot when I go back home - I try not to mention any English words because they will say 'Oh you're getting too fancy in Dubai, you won't speak Arabic with us anymore!' I now speak in English faster than Arabic, which is sad and is not supposed to happen but is only natural when you speak English all day."

It's not so much the accent but a different way of life that often causes British expat Erin Robinson to think she'd need lessons in order to fit in back home.

She says: "Last week my friends and I booked a company to come round and give us manicures at my friend's flat.

"I'd never even had a manicure before I moved to Dubai and now I'm paying to have them at home! That would never happen in Manchester and if my family even heard about me doing that they'd think it was crazy. In that respect, I can imagine my family would think I need lessons in being 'Mancunian' again!"

Fellow British expat Charles Thomasson shares Erin's sentiments and adds: "I sat in my hire car at a Heathrow gas station last visit for a full 20 seconds before I realised no one was coming to fill up. Oh, and it appears I now say gas station."

eve.dugdale@7days.ae

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Oct 6, 2012
Words:646
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