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  • I'm Jack Barsky.

  • I'm a retired and reformed ex-undercover KGB agent.

  • I'm gonna talk a little bit about

  • what it took to morph from a German to an American,

  • where I was successful and where I was not.

  • I spent all together about four years studying English,

  • perfecting to the extent possible an American accent.

  • Practicing until I was blue in the face

  • to pronounce English words properly.

  • For instance, one of the hardest things for Germans,

  • one of them is the T-H, but things like

  • the difference between hot and hut.

  • I had learned to speak English

  • and write it as well as anybody,

  • but I hadn't become an American culturally.

  • My behavior was still very German.

  • Having now learned the difference between

  • the German style and the American style,

  • I have been trying to adjust and soften

  • the way I'm approaching things.

  • Germans are in your face, they will tell you

  • what they think even if you don't ask for it,

  • and they will criticize you at any chance they get.

  • And that was me.

  • And there's still a residue of that left.

  • Americans will be a little more passive,

  • sometimes passive aggressive, and they

  • wrap everything, every piece of bad news,

  • in some kind of a velvet cloth so it doesn't hurt that much.

  • The clothes and the food, that was taken care of

  • by a three month practice trip to Canada.

  • Before I was sent to the U.S., that was I think 1977,

  • and Canada is close enough so I learned menus,

  • I learned what beer there was being drunk,

  • what wine and liquor, and I bought all kinds of clothes.

  • Obviously spent a lot of time wandering

  • around in stores and so forth.

  • That was actually a good idea by the KGB

  • to send me on this kind of a training trip.

  • First night in Montreal, I go to a restaurant

  • to eat dinner and I have a beer.

  • That place, they just gave you a bottle.

  • They wouldn't pour it into a glass.

  • So I'm looking at this bottle, I'm calling the waiter,

  • and say hey, can I have a bottle opener?

  • And he looked at me like huh?

  • And then he twisted the cap off.

  • I had never worked with a bottle

  • where you can twist the cap off.

  • Eventually, I found out watching television,

  • reading the newspaper, and so forth, and eventually

  • started to think, feel, and act more like an American

  • except for the communication style.

  • When I came to the United States, I was fundamentally,

  • culturally, and psychologically unprepared.

  • I spoke the language as well as anybody,

  • but being an American, not at all.

  • The one thing that saved me was that in the early years

  • I managed to stay away from inquisitive folks,

  • particularly say ladies who were Americans who would

  • quickly find out there's something different about you.

  • What saved me from making these fundamental bad mistakes

  • was that I started interacting with people who didn't care.

  • I worked for two years full time as a bike messenger.

  • That was sort of a transient

  • kind of a crew that worked there.

  • You know, one day they work and the next day they're gone.

  • Nobody cared a whole lot and nobody was inquisitive.

  • So I listened a lot and I learned what it was like

  • to live in the country and pretend

  • to have lived in the country for many years.

  • Includes the sports, the movies, celebrities,

  • and all that stuff that you cannot learn

  • when you're outside of the country.

  • And so I slowly got to a point where I felt comfortable

  • talking and acting as if I were an American

  • even though I was not aware that my behavior

  • was still clearly traceable to my German roots.

  • If you're looking for people who pay attention to history,

  • if you're looking for people who are spiritual,

  • if you're looking for people who

  • know how to appreciate good food,

  • this country provides such a variety to folks who live here

  • that you can always find what you're looking for.

  • The one thing that you have here

  • that I believe in no where else in the world

  • is called freedom with a capital F.

  • (relaxing music)

I'm Jack Barsky.

Subtitles and keywords

A2 BEG US bottle american german kgb learned inquisitive

How I Faked Being American

  • 366 21
    Samuel   posted on 2018/03/23
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