Issue #268 / January 2024

I have relocated to my partner’s country in the last few years with my family and find myself questioning more and more what home actually means to me. As an expat yourself, how do you reconcile this duality?

MATHEW, GREENCASTLE, IRELAND

Do you miss home?

ANNIE, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

Dear Mathew and Annie,When I’m dead and gone and they put my remains in the ground, it will more than likely be into British soil that I’ll go — because the life I have built is here, in England, specifically London and Brighton, two cities I have come to love. But the essence of those dusty, mortal remains will be fully and resolutely Australian.

This essential Australianness is in everything I do, and finds its fundamental difference in every place I go. We Australians can assimilate quite happily, people generally like us, but we can never suppress our antipodean nature. We are marked by it. We Aussies are always chaffing, just a little, against the worlds we find ourselves in when we venture beyond our glistening shores.

My generation of Australians are stereotypically loud and abrasive, our gestures are wider and take up more room, we are ruthlessly funny, unguarded, contrary and inappropriate, yet conversely conservative, stoic, compliant, fair and reasonable, and we love our mothers. What makes up the Australian character now I can’t claim to know—it’s been nearly fifty years since I lived there, and perhaps the whole notion of a national character has been brought into question — but I recognise the essential Australianness that was baked into me by a brash Victorian sun in almost everything I do, everything I create.

How do I reconcile my duality? Well, I hold nothing but the deepest gratitude and affection for the country that has looked after me for most of my life, and that has given me so much, personally and professionally, but at the same time I remain faithful to my inherent nature, shaped by where I was born and raised. I carry my Australianness with me, not as an overbearing identity, but as a true and treasured pride. I am happy when I am described as an ‘Australian’ musician. I still stubbornly hold an Australian passport. I eat Vegemite instead of Marmite. I watch Norman Gunston reruns. I still argue that The Saints started punk rock.

And at times, like today, as I look out at the English sea, stormy and crashing, and see the people on the seafront straining against the freezing wind, or when I am approached by an Australian on the street and I keep them talking just for the melancholy pleasure of hearing their accents, or I smell a Eucalyptus tree (they have them over here!) and remember the glorious, abrasive, garrulous Australian bush, I find myself quietly pining for Australia because, well, deep down I miss the bloody place — the nature, the people, my mother, my family. And then it passes, this bitter-sweet temper.

So, Mathew and Annie, I am an Australian living in England, with a wistful yearning for the place of my upbringing, but knowing I have become part of, and been shaped by, somewhere else too — Britain — and mostly I am happily reconciled to that.

Love, Nick

 

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