There are so many joys of living in another country, and also so many struggles.
Here in Australia, life is relatively easy for me because the culture is so similar and the language is the same as my own (mostly). Sometimes, when I am running around town or going to the grocery store, I almost forget I’m in a foreign country at all. I even forget that the steering wheel of the car is on the wrong side; everything else is so much the same. The people mostly look the same, the shops and parking lots, roads and restaurants are all very similar. Admittedly, I see far more people walking in and out of shops without any shoes on, and yesterday I saw a small boy going into the pet shop with his parents with nothing on but underwear (although I think that was unusual, even for here). Aside from the lack of clothing, it’s pretty darn similar most of the time.
Sometimes, I even forget that people have an accent different from mine, I have gotten so used to it. Consequently I am sometimes surprised when I speak, and see that little crease in the brow of the person to whom I am talking, the slight shadow of puzzlement in their eyes. Some part of my brain assumes that, since they sound perfectly normal to me, I will sound the same to them. They are more polite here than they were in New Brunswick (Lachlan got asked constantly where he was from or, worse, people would assume he was British). They rarely ask me where I am from, or question the accent, but I know that they know that I’m not from around here.
It’s a dichotomous feeling; simultaneously feeling at home, at ease, and yet still feeling the outsider whenever I encounter someone new.
It isn’t something that particularly bothers me, but it is a novel and somewhat strange experience. There are days when I relish in the difference; it makes me feel exotic, the centre of attention, something slightly unusual. There are other days when I wish nothing more than that I could just sound the same as everyone else and blend in without a trace.
There are small concessions. I now more often put things in the “boot” than I do in the “trunk.” I “reckon” rather than think. I sleep under a doona, not a comforter. I ask people how they are going, rather than how they are.
I still have a hard time using tomato sauce instead of ketchup, having tea instead of supper, and cheering or “taa”-ing, rather than thanking.
I met a lady from California the other day who said she’d been living in Australia for more than 20 years, but who had, as far as I could tell, hardly a trace of the Australian accent. I have met others who have begun to sound more and more Ozzie with the passage of time.
I can’t say what my fate will be yet, but I do know that yesterday I heard someone refer to “Kentucky Fried Chicken” as “Kentucky Chook”, and it warmed my heart.