“THINK of it like putting on a new coat,” she advised. “Never regret the time and money you spend travelling,” they said. It was with these thoughts I entered London in late July 2005.
I was immediately ambushed by the Ashes, a tournament I have never followed with any interest before. Suddenly, I was Australian and therefore an ardent supporter by virtue of my nationality. Of course, I have never heard the end of our defeat.
The year after, our entry into the World Cup soccer was a wonderful surprise this side of the globe. The national team’s performance to the last 16 was astounding. Thank God the locals were too wrapped up in the English team’s departure to notice our exit at the hands of the cheating Italians. I think I enjoy watching an English loss more than an Australian win.
Perhaps I am not so Australian as some may think.
The anticipated duration of my stay in the UK was three to five years. With the purchase of a property two years ago, I am now watching my sixth year come and go. I have visited Australia four times in these years. My last Antipodean trip was March 2011, after a three year hiatus. I thought everyone was over-emphasising their Australian accent, I had completely forgotten how thick it was. I couldn’t believe how friendly people were. I realised I had been away for so long. When I touched down in Melbourne, I felt at last, I am home.
At last, I can relax. I miss the sound of the birds, the cold fronts that hit in the afternoon, the beer on the back verandah, the sun on the skin, the quality of the light, a decent beach and the smell of a long, hot summer. I miss the social ease of a drink after work and not having to rush away to get home or to a prior engagement. I miss the relaxed pace and easy fluidity of life.
Perhaps I am more Australian than I care to admit.
I am ashamed, as an expat, I keep a very, very low profile. After six years of the same conversation with new acquaintances, I don’t admit to anything:
‘Where are you from, then?’
‘I’ve been to Australia/ I haven’t been to Australia, but I would like to go/ I have friends, relatives over there now etc etc..’
‘Oh yes, where did you go?/ I’d recommend visiting, but you’ll need a good month as it is a long way/ Really? Where do they live? Etc etc….’
And if the conversation does not end abruptly there, I will be deprecated about an Australian stereotype which is so ignorant and misinformed, I will one day be charged with assault. I am tired of the kangaroo jokes and trying to explain I’m not referring to intimate apparel when I mention thongs.
I have a love/ hate relationship with London and Londoners which is inversely proportional to my attachment to my nationality. If I let it go, I can adapt better to life here.
Perhaps I need a thicker coat.