YAY. I’ve finished with all university work in Australia. And ultimately until late September. I’m going to have to make some effort over the next few months to ensure my brain doesn’t completely turn to mush.
So, there was one massive theme in all of the units I happened to pick out over here in Aus: nationality/national identity. It’s obviously something that is important to Australia – it’s a reasonably young country, it’s far away from the rest of the Westernised world and hasn’t quite made reconciliation with its Aboriginal people.
“What is it to be Australian?” we had to ask ourselves. Now that was an awkward moment. I was the only English person in a room full of Australians, part of the nation that forced the Australians to even have to pose that question. When it was asked, I took a step back. It wasn’t for me to answer, I wasn’t Australian. But as the semester went on and I learned more and understood more Aussie jokes in class, I wondered… what do I actually think of my nationality?
I live in England and have lived there my whole life. My dad’s English. My mum is Czech. I’ve been to Czech Republic a lot, and even though my immediate family lives in England, we keep hold of Czech traditions – we eat carp and open presents on Christmas eve, my mum makes Czech food, we say goodnight in Czech and I don’t call my parents ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ to their face, I address them how Czech children would: they’re my Mama and Tata. I can’t speak Czech, but I want to learn and plan to this summer. So I definitely think of myself as English and Czech in those basic, bloodline terms and the culture of both countries on top.
But what about the other ways we think of nationality? It’s not just blood, it’s the culture, the common ideals we share, the ‘imagined community’. When I think about it in these terms, would I consider myself a little bit Australian? I have lived here a fair amount of time for it to become a part of me, for me to understand how to live here and what you do in this country. I know to take the piss out of Tasmania, I know to completely understate the danger of Australia’s poisonous creatures, I consider 20 degrees shitty, cold weather and I know that in Melbourne, you never support Collingwood in the footy. I even call it footy now, and I call my football ‘soccer’. Sick and wrong for an English person. I feel at home here, and it is and has been my home since pretty much the beginning of this year, and I’ll miss it so much when I leave. I don’t think any of that ultimately makes me Australian, but I do think I have gained or moulded myself an Australian part of me that’s deeply rooted in now.
Sometimes I forget I’m not Australian and hardly notice the Australian accent anymore. So do most others until I do or say something which gets the response: “You’re so British”. Only then do I remember that we sound different and still have essential differences in what we imagine our separate communities to share.
I wouldn’t deny my English side or my Czech side for one second. In some ways, being over here has made me more patriotic (and I’ve not really ever been one for patriotism). But I don’t think it’s me to be in a country for this long and not grow a sense of attachment and not feel like it’s had an effect on me and my views and opinions.
P.s. Allie. Had to mention her name here somewhere, it’s become too frequent in my blog posts to go without.
My three favourite cities/homes in my three favourite countries/homes:
Prague (lovely picture my cousin Tereza took):
NB: Last 2 pictures not mine – from the searching powers of Google!