Sounds like a pretty straight forward question, and in Canada it’s usually asked when someone thinks you AREN’T OK. After months of living in England and wondering what vibe I was giving off that made people ask if I was OK, as well as the surprised reactions when I answered the question positively and asked why (thinking they thought something was wrong), I soon realized that it is the equivalent of ‘Hey how are ya?’ that we use in Canada.
What finally gave it away was the perplexing situation when people would ask ‘You OK?’ while walking towards me in a corridor at work, and not even slow down. Not only do they not think anything is wrong, they actually don’t care. It’s just a ‘Hey how are ya?’ type acknowledgement.
There are other things that are ingrained in my Canadian mind, and so I am still not used to hearing certain things here in England. One is being asked for a rubber at work, (they mean an eraser). I now managed to hide the little jolt of surprise and giggle at the question that I feel every time I’m asked. As I’m sure my English friends feel doing when I slip up and say pants (underwear to them) when I mean trousers and politely hide their surprise at the mention of unmentionables.
I have an English friend who tries to help me assimilate into English culture doing her best to get me into good habits when speaking “her” English. Some things you learn fast, like asking for crisps when you want chips in order to avoid getting fries. She was great at correcting me on the more subtle points and getting me to use the correct phrases, such as garden (yard), shop (store), and for telling time quarter past (not quarter after).
Those are the more subtle changes in speech needed to fit in. I like to think that I retain all my Canadian accent though. But on my last trip to Canada I became a little concerned something has changed, 3 people in BC asked where I was from. I have to rule out my having an East Coast accent because I was never asked that when I lived in Vancouver. Next trip to Canada is to my hometown (on the east coast) in October, it’ll be interesting to see what my oldest friends hear when I speak. My concern is that that one day I have bits of both the Canadian accent and English accent (and being from London with friends from all over the world who knows what that will sound like) that I have no identifying accent.