Thursday, February 9, 2012

Call yourself an expat?

The sun has made a rare appearance this afternoon in Sydney so the back garden is now festooned with washing in an attempt to get to grips with the backlog that has been building whilst wet and grey has been the default weather pattern. February is generally the hottest month in Sydney but to put things into perspective when I went to bed last night my feet were cold and my good old RM Williams boots, the stockman’s standby designed to stand up to life on the rough side, have gone mouldy in my wardrobe – and I can’t face looking to see what else in the clothing line is sporting attractive white spots and whiskers.

The bright and cheery high spot of the week though, was a performance by Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre Company of ‘Midsummer’ at the Opera House last night. It’s a really clever modern take on a romantic comedy complete with songs and guitar solos, all set in Edinburgh. It’s riotous, raunchy with the main prop a double bed and has a couple of laughing through your fingers in front of your eyes type moments. Conjured up Edinburgh for me – partly because it is such a small city centre that even though I haven’t lived there since I left university, I could immediately imagine where the two participants were in their mad weekend trotting round the town – though I should perhaps clarify that whilst I knew where most of the settings were. I have never popped into a bondage club in Leith. Am sure part of the reason I loved the production so much was because the accents and humour reminded me so much of home – and that’s an interesting concept in itself. When does one stop being an expat and become a local? What’s the difference between an expat and a recent immigrant? And at what point does home become where you are, rather than where you’re from?

We’ve lived in Sydney three times – so we’re serial Sydneysiders, (try saying that after a few beers at a barbie) – and Sydney definitely feels like home in many ways to us BUT I do still listen to Radio 4 – (got to love the internet radio Husband got me that has transformed my listening), and just the thought of being plonked into the UK high street sends me into paroxysms of joy – but that may just be a combination of unfamiliarity and the strength of the Aussie dollar.

A great friend has just moved to Amsterdam with her family, and reading her emails about the excitement and frustrations of family relocation is unsettling me as I have come to the conclusion that now I no longer really count as an expat, I do miss some of the addictive aspects of life on the move. There is something in me that craves that adrenaline rush of a new place, new people, situations that make the eyes boggle and the brain buzz – the sense of being you as a unit, be it couple or family, standing together in the face of a city of strangers, never mind the more mundane questions such as where you buy a kettle. One of my favourite, reread again and again books, is ‘Diplomatic Baggage’ by Brigid Keenan, subtitled ‘The Adventures of a Trailing Spouse’ that should be required reading for anyone contemplating life as an expat as it conjures up the ups and downs of life perpetually adjusting to life on the other side of the comfort zone. Dangerous reading for a change addict like me!


  1. "Festooned" - apparently we use this word all the time us Brits. When I was watching coverage of the Royal Wedding back in April, everyone was laughing at how many times "festooned" was used by the English commentators!

  2. Perhaps that's the defining thing - based on my vocab I'm definitely a Brit! Found things going pear shaped puzzled my American neighbours too.