How to feel at home when moving countries

January 17th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

I’ve been on the move for the last nine years. From the small country town of Bathurst to the bustling political base of Washington D.C, the longest I’ve lived in one place has been two years.

Moving around can be quite stressful. You feel misplaced, reborn, a fish out of sea. These are the ten things I do to calm me down when travelling:

 

  • Paradoxically, get really close to the people you’re going to leave behind. This will motivate both parties to keep up the long distance love for a greater duration.

 

  • Pick a passion other than your job and embed yourself in that community. I assisted at a yoga studio in exchange for yoga classes. By doing that, I became friends with the yoga teachers I admired and there’s nothing better than having friends you admire.

 

  • Stay curious. Find new nooks and crannies that excite you. Isn’t this why you moved in the first place? Remind yourself every now and again.
In Washington D.C

Exploring museums in Washington D.C

 

  • Don’t look back too often. This was my biggest mistake. My first year in the states was spent comparing everything to Australia. For example, I was drinking sub-par Australian beer at the Outback Steakhouse when there was beautiful locally produced beer at a pub down the road.

 

  • Keep a piece of sanity. Your figurative home. It could be a watch your father gave you, a statue of your chosen religion. A boomerang or bag pipes. Choose to believe that as long as you have that object, you are home.

 

  • Cook for yourself, especially if you’re backpacking or moving around every week. You’ll reap the benefits and it will remind you that “hey, somewhere people are still doing laundry.”

 

  • Listen to music from your home country/city. It will keep you in touch with your culture and you can introduce bands to your new friends.

 

  • Skype often with your family, but not so often you forego a social life.

 

  • If you’re moving for work, make friends with the people you find interesting. They’ll introduce you to their network and before you know it, you’ve got a warm, loving group of friends. I find with work mates these things take time.

 

  • Have a coffee shop where they know you by name. My husband swears by this. Nothing makes him happier than walking in at the same time every day and saying “the usual”.

 
Any tips you would like to add? Have you moved lately?

Third Culture Confusion

January 13th, 2012 § 5 comments § permalink

My parents were living in Dubai when I was conceived. A month before I was born, my mother moved to Sri Lanka to give birth, a common thing for expats living in an Arab country. Within six months we were back in Dubai. When I was six, we moved to Australia. Through some gentle teasing, I lost my thick Sri Lankan accent and went to school and university in Australia. I turned 21 and in a hunt for adventure moved to Washington D.C for 2.5 years.

I came back to Australia with a strong American accent and a mish mash of a dictionary. My taste buds had evolved from craving simple meals to strong contrasts of sweet and sour i.e blue cheese and spiced walnut salads.

To add a splash of confusion, I went to an American school in Dubai, which meant people were asking me if I was American even before I lived there.

My husband had basically the same upbringing but ten years apart. He thinks it’s our constant moving that allowed us to assimilate to American culture in such a short amount of time.

I suppose that’s why I employ a Sri Lankan head wobble when I talk to my mother.

My cousin in Dubai told me empathetic people are more likely to lose their mother-accents. I like that reasoning.

I’m always in the quest for belonging. Some placement.

On my most recent trip abroad, after I had been back in Australia for 1.5 years, I met three lots of Australians. Each one asked why I sounded American. It’s confusing for all involved. A big gray area.

I wonder if I would have a stronger Australian accent if I had lived here my whole life.

I wonder how I can feel a part of one country.

A possible solution is to keep on moving. Always be an expat, a foreigner. Easier said than done, moving can be heart-wrenching stuff, as joyous as it is.

This section will be my exploration of all things third culture. The world is getting smaller. So definitions should get bigger.

Sydney

October 15th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Downtown Sydney feels different, as if I visited here ten years ago.

As I walk through the streets, I can remember spending hours in the botanical gardens and restaurants where I ate with friends. And good coffee. Good coffee everywhere.

But, I feel different.

I took a photo of a man covered from head to toe in campy Australian flags and when he asked where I was from, I didn’t know what to say.

When I was in America, my answer was succinct, distinct.

I am Australian. I’ve lived in the country for 16 odd years. The bulk of my memories are in Australia. But now…I’m an Australian with an American accent? It really doesn’t make any sense.

I romanticised this city. Everything here is more expensive than I remembered. Perhaps I’ve lost touch with the creative pulse.

It’s different. I’m different. And we’re just getting to know each other again.

But I can’t really say I miss D.C. Because when I was in D.C I missed Sydney. So now what? I just miss?

There’s a Buddhist haiku that is exactly how I feel:

Even though I’m in Kyoto,
when the kookoo cries,
I long for Kyoto.
– Issa