Stateless

Since leaving Australia on a backpacking trip over thirteen years ago, this is first time I've really bothered connecting myself with other Australians abroad. It's not an active policy on my part, but I have never felt the need socialise with other Aussies in the different countries I have lived and worked in. After six years in Japan, two in Hong Kong and five in the UK I have only known two or three other Australians, and could only call one a true friend. If there was a nationality that I have identified with above all others, it would be the Canadians. A disproportionate number of people in my close personal circle are Canucks. I've often wondered why, and I guess it's because they have all the best qualities of North Americans minus a few of the negatives more often associated with their Southern neighbours. I don't dislike Americans, it's just preferences. Butter v Margarine.

I read Megan Lynch's article, Alien Nation and felt it resonate with me unexpectedly. I'm not depressed, I feel happy, my professional life has expanded beyond expectations, and I am engaged to a wonderful woman from Devon. Yet in the last two years I have felt that same otherness and dislocation that Mergan describes. I am another nomad, a modern gypsy, part of the diaspora. I see Australia and Australians now more as an international observer, in much the same way I view the British, the Japanese or the Chinese. Having been so long exposed to North American, British and East Asian cultures I now keep this hybrid perspective of my homeland. It is not always flattering or sympathetic. Yet I find if there is a slight against Australia or it's people I can react aggressively and with as much jingoism as your next Aussie. It is a strange duality.

Every two years I come home for Christmas. I enjoy it greatly and I am evangelistic about the benefits of the Australian lifestyle to my long suffering English fiancé. The promise is made each time that I am setting a three year extension to my self-enforced exile and the plan must be set in motion to return. Yet I never do. Three years later the same doomed declaration of intent is made. Perhaps there is a subconscious fear I will feel out of place there.

A foreigner among them. How long will it take me to get fed up? Itchy feet. Looking in the classifieds for positions abroad over breakfast. Will I begin whingeing about how difficult it is to buy a simple bloody coffee? Will the island insularity smother me? Am I destined for a fight in every pub and backyard BBQ for defending the American people and sounding decidedly unpatriotic when I criticise Australians? They will ask, "Who is this pretentious dickhead? Why is everything better somewhere else? Why doesn't he piss of then and leave real Australians for Australia?"

My friends and family are still there. I love them just as much. However the divide is hard to ignore. They still know me as the person who left 13 years ago, yet that person and I are virtually strangers. I find myself increasingly at odds with them on many topics. Food, Music, Religion, Race relations, politics, economics, you name it.

Is Megan right when she says we may be part of a New World Order? Are we the first to eschew nationality and ethnicity for a truly borderless planet?

I am not motivated by any utopian ideals of World citizenship, when borders eventually dissolve and differences are consequently forgotten. Yet it seems that I am the product of Globalisation, part of the the new tribe. Can I ever truly come home? I will always be Australian, I will always love Australia and I don't ever see the day come when I will give up citizenship. But I'm a little less Aussie every year away. Does it hurt I'm a little more British? Will I be better for all the Japanese traits I have absorbed? Am I more balanced for understanding the North American viewpoint?

I'll tell you in three years when I go home to Brisbane for good.

Martin J Smith
High Wycombe,
UK 9th September, 2004