I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Displaced Person

I have now lived in Australia for 14 years. 15 if you count the very first year where technically I was on a student visa and not really 'living' here so much as spending all my waking moments sleeping with DH and pretending to do coursework at university. (And pretending to my parents that I wasn't sleeping with anyone at all, but that's a story for another day.) That first year I was twenty years old, which means that in a few short years I will have lived here longer than I lived in the US. What a strange idea that is for me to digest. Of course I knew it would happen eventually, but it just seems like these years of living in Oz have just creeped up on me.

Recently someone asked me if I was excited to be going "home" (we leave for the US on Saturday), and I really had to think about that one. Home? Really? I don't really think of the US as being 'home', but then I'm not sure if Australia is 'home' either. Because my parents were not apple-pie-and-Chevrolet Americans (they were immigrants to the US), I never really got imbued with that whole rah-rah-football-beer-and-flag-waving patriotism which many Americans seem to have in spades. (Although I will say that "Proud to be an American" song makes me tear up every time...but then so does "I Still Call Australia Home," so clearly I am patriotic song whore, but whatever.)

When I return to the States, it takes a few days for my accent to normalise/normalize (ha!) back to American sounding. So I'll walk into shops and whatnot and people ask me what part of England I am from. (No joke, this has happened more than once.) Or they ask me what country I am visiting from, or if I am from New Zealand (okay that one was a lie.) After a couple of days I start to sound more American and it's all fine...until I fly back to Australia. Once I'm back here, people start asking me how long I've lived here, because either a) my accent is still really strong, or b) I have hardly any accent at all. Then they ask me if I'm from Canada, because apparently all Canadians get shitty when you ask them if they are American, so it's supposedly 'safer' to ask if someone is Canadian. Apparently there is a whole population of gun-toting Canucks around here - who knew?!

So I'm a displaced person - I don't feel Aussie enough to be Aussie, nor American enough to be American. I will say that while I was raised in the US, I feel as though I did all my growing up right here in Australia. I became an adult here and spent my childhood there...even though I only got here when I was 20 (clearly, a late bloomer.) Being a displaced person is not such a great thing to be - because you never know who to identify with. Plus you're never sure if you should be watching the Superbowl or the Grand Final (thank god they are at different times of year.) You never know if you should have PB&J or Vegemite, never know if you're meant to watch CNN or the ABC, never know if you're meant to fill the car with gas or petrol, talk on a cell or a mobile, and... a whole lot of other stuff to boot (which is a shoe? or a part of a car?)

Hell, it's enough to make a girl need to engage in some emotional eating. Pass the Oreos....mate!


kazari said...

meh... have you read 'almost french'? she sums it up quite well, i think, this feeling of not quite belonging in either place.

having said that - i moved to australia when i was seven. my dad was born in the uk, but grew up in africa, met my mum will studying in australia, then took a teaching job in canada... mum followed him, and we followed shortly after.
then we moved back to australia because mum wanted to be near her family.

i'm a bitza.

emzeegee & the hungry three said...

You certainly are a bitza - I'd forgotten that fabulous Aussie expression for someone like us so thanks for the reminder. Tell you what, I'll share my oreos with you. :)


adele said...

After a decade in the US - the Americans think I'm British, the Australians think I'm American, and the Brits think I'm one or the other depending on the weather that day. When I really don't have the energy to explain, I tell people I had a terrible lisp as a child, and my speech therapist was foreign!

More words for it: "global nomad," or "third culture kid." There are quite a lot of internet communities based around the identity.

emzeegee & the hungry three said...

Hi Adele,

Oooh, I quite like those expressions for it, I've never heard of either. I love your excuse for having an accent which sounds different to different ears - I always end up feeling the need to explain and then just sound more ridiculous!

Besides, I quite *like* my hybrid accent, thanks very much! :)


Cameron said...

When I was in Switzerland, I would ask people 'where are you from', and more often than not, it would be a long story. Seems to me with globalization, this will only become more common, with national borders having more to do with politics and inconvenience than with identity...