Watching the London 2012 Opening Ceremony (cracking job by Danny Boyle, by the way) has left me thinking a lot about my cultural identity and where I feel I belong.
I was born in Australia in 1976 and that was a very fortunate event considering that where you are born is largely a fluke and obviously, out of your control. According to The Global Poverty Project, 1.4 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty. The project’s Australian Director Samah Hadid says “…we have been lucky in the lottery of birth…”. In that sense we really are the “lucky country” for those born here.
In 1999 I first moved to London and in 2006, I became a British citizen. It wasn’t as straightforward as that though. I married a Brit, trained as a teacher and taught in London schools, did volunteer work, bough property, had a baby and immersed myself in British culture. I LOVE the United Kingdom. It was a good home to me for almost seven years and I miss it every day.
I swelled with pride watching the London Olympics opening ceremony and part of me felt like a traitor. I mean, I have an Aussie accent, I was born here but I made the choice to become British. I endured the long application process, including queuing from 3am at Lunar House in Croydon to put my application in for “Leave to Remain”. The experience was eye-opening, to say the least. The Home Office had my passport for over five months when my citizenship application was being processed and prior to that, I sat the Life in the UK test (I got full marks, thank you very much). I cried when I sang “God Save The Queen” as I sat with others from so many other countries of the world who were becoming Brits too.
Australia is a good country. At present my children are in an excellent childcare and primary school and they are happy and safe. We have a home and jobs and opportunities. When I was a teacher in London I taught children who had to flee their homelands in fear for their lives – Somalians, Iraqi, Sudanese, Kurdish, Kosovan, Afghani, Eritrean children…I could go on.
During my secondary and University education in Melbourne I studied some Australian history and politics and aspects of our cultural identity (Gallipoli: Myth or Reality by the wonderful Dr Neil Thornton was a favourite subject). When I lived in the UK, I became acutely aware of how others view Australians and it was almost always as a cultural stereotype. (“Alright Sheila” or “G’day Skip” was a favourite greeting of a boss I had.)
At the moment (and for a long time), I feel that I am British in my heart. Why do I live in Australia? My family is here, our life is good here and at the moment, there is no reason to go back to the UK, other than to satisfy my own longing to be immersed back in all things British. It is, honestly like a heartache sometimes when I think about Britain and I wasn’t even born there!
But I worked hard to live my life there. My life in Australia has been pretty easy through the sheer fact I was born here.
I’m interested to hear what people think?
Are you a dual citizen and have similar feelings?
Does it mean more to you if you choose to become a citizen of a country?