He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich

December 2, 2009 at 10:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I was going to write tonight, and I haven’t. So in the absence of one type of writing, I’ll do another.

I’ve been in a very Australian mood lately, so much so that I’ve been really noticing it. I mean, I’m downloading Australian Crawl, Icehouse and Cold Chisel songs off iTunes, for God’s sake. That is really taking it quite far in the scheme of things, I reckon, to have Khe Sanh in my iTunes library. I was wondering why I was in such a mood, but today it occurred to me that what it actually is is shared experience, or rather, the lack of shared experience that exists for someone who doesn’t live in the place where they grew up.

A friend of mine is Scottish, but has been in NZ for ten years. He was telling me today that he met a couple of people from Glasgow over the weekend, and he had a great time talking with them about places in Glasgow where they all used to go, pubs and clubs and cafes, etc. My friend and these people didn’t grow up together, but the experiences of their youth and early adulthood were very similar, and he said he was struck by how much he enjoyed talking about all these old haunts. It doesn’t really surprise me though, because I find that too. There aren’t many Australians here, and I often find myself explaining things to people here that I wouldn’t have to explain if I was in Australia. I’ve even stopped using certain expressions, because if I say them then I have to explain what they mean, and getting blank looks about things you say gets old after a while. Obviously when I go back to Australia this doesn’t happen to me, and I do notice the difference. So I completely understand the relief that comes with being able to say anything you like and be instantly understood, or to talk about a place without needing to describe what it’s like.

What’s compounding these issues for me at the moment is that I’m reading a fantastically entertaining book set in Australia (Sean Kennedy’s Tigers and Devils, and it is so good I can’t even find the words to express it), and I’m really noticing that the characters are Australian, and not in a bad way – I said to another friend when I was telling her about how much I liked the book that “they speak how I speak”, and that’s true, and it’s something that you don’t often see, or I don’t anyway, not in the stories I read. And since I don’t get that in real life either, there’s an almost continuous ‘shock of recognition’ feeling associated with it.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this, and I don’t mean to imply that this lack of ‘Australian-ness’ upsets me in any way – I love living in NZ, and I have no plans to move back to Australia any time soon, if ever. Most of the time Australia doesn’t even feel like home anymore, to be honest. I don’t even really notice the lack of shared experience in NZ for the most part, except when something reminds me, like the book, or stories of Scottish lads and their old hangouts. It’s just funny that these things have conspired all at once to make me think about it.


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