Australia is home, but there is so much more to the world

Australia is home, but there is so much more to the world

GIRL ABOUT LONDON | So many expats, including myself, struggle to escape the clutches of home.

There’s no escaping the common belief that UK-based Aussies (and Kiwis, for that matter) like to stick together, and not always in a good way.

You will more often than not find large, obnoxious groupings of Aus-made folk in establishments like The Walkabout and The Church or, indeed, any pub, club or shoebox with a license to sell booze in the UK capital.

Despite spending 25+ horrendous hours moving half-way across the world, us Aussies (and by ‘us’, I obviously mean ‘not me’) are set in our ways.

Of course, the tendency to cluster in groups of one’s own kind is natural and by no means unique to Australians. Yes, Italian boyfriend and his group of merry Mozzarella-eating men, I’m looking at you.

Now, I’m not saying I don’t like Australia, Australians or things that remind me of home. I deeply adore that stupid sunburnt country of ours in all its flawed, 45+ degrees-heat glory. Sure, I have a few Australian friends in London. Hell, my own sister lives a 40-minute Tube ride away. I am not immune to 3am Milo cravings. I understand that Dairy Milk only tastes good in Aus. The tone of my voice still goes up approximately 97 decibels (scientific measure) at the end of every sentence.

Call me a snob, a hypocrite even. I am, after all, writing this column for a publication targeted at Australians living in the UK. When I told my fair-dinkum middle-class mother about my literary pursuits this week, her only words were: “please, be nice.” But I just can’t shake it. The ease in which I could walk into every second South London pub, exploit my Australian accent and be rewarded with several instant ‘friends’ makes me so uncomfortable.

In an ironic display of the ‘cultured Australian’ abroad, I caught up with an old friend over flat whites and sourdough toast at Exmouth Market’s Caravan cafe recently. Newcastle born and bred like me, she had been engaged, steadily employed and paying off a newly-acquired mortgage. After things went pear-shaped, she ditched it all, cashed in the house and headed to England. The result, she says, has been a thrilling mix of everything a 24-year-old in the privileged world should be experiencing – terror, homesickness, wanderlust, excitement, enlightenment. To bluntly paraphrase her words, she dodged a bullet.

But she, like so many other expats including myself, has struggled to escape the clutches of home. Too often, we find ourselves clinging to the familiar, often materialised in yet another night getting wasted in the same bar with the same people. This is nice, sometimes. But how is it possible to grow?

London, for me, is special because of the international smorgasbord of friends and acquaintances I am able to surround myself with. My beautiful Italian boyfriend who everyday opens up a new world of food, culture, language. My closest pal, half British half Turkish, who shares endless stories of adolescence spilt between Asia, the Middle East and the UK. My former Brazilian housemate, lighting up every room with her infectious South American energy. The long-haired Swedish guy who invites us over for regular rooftop gatherings. Jumping the fence for impromptu cocktail tastings courtesy of the Spanish bartender neighbour. A bunch of weird guys from Naples trying to understand exactly what it is I do for a living. The typically proud French friend who won’t let me open my own presents out of fear I will destroy the immaculate wrapping (“This is a French box!). I want to surround myself with the world.

Australia is there. It’s home. It always will be.

But there’s more, so much more.

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Lee Tobin

Lee Tobin

Lee Tobin is a twenty-something journalist from Newcastle, Australia living in the London East End. She spends her spare time adventuring Europe, eating pizza with her Italian boyfriend and restraining a crazy kitten named Minji.