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 Slug 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.
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. 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. After all, I wrote this very article for a publication targeted at Australians living in the UK. When I told my fair-dinkum middle-class mother about my pursuits in London 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’ made 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 on time. Newcastle born and bred like me, she had been engaged, steadily employed and was 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 said, was 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, had 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 you are able to surround yourself with. My closest pal, half British half Turkish, who shared endless stories of adolescence spilt between Asia, the Middle East and the UK. A former Brazilian housemate, lighting up every room with her infectious South American energy. The long-haired Swedish guy who invited 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 did for a living. The typically proud French friend who wouldn’t let me open my own presents out of fear I would 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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