Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Aussie Expat Returns Home

But not without much contemplation and it seems I am never to be freed from it. Our trips to Canada just don’t get me thinking the way coming back home does.

I’ve been gone since 1995, plus the 15 months I spent away before that, and right from when I check In at Arlanda thoughts about my homeland start. I see another Swedish-Australian family lined up to check-in beside us, they remind me of so many others I have met over the years…..
I guess my first thoughts go to categories – and fighting the ones that people box us into. I don’t want to be like anyone one else, I never have and I can chuckle and think of many who would laugh and say – don’t worry – you never will be! But I am glad I don’t live in the U.K. – like so many Aussies do. And I’m not just another expat who has spent a few years abroad – I’m kind of more lost than that – am I one of those that has been lost to another nation, another life. Was Australia never good enough for me? Never the way I wanted it to be? Or did it just happen this way.

Entering the airport and going through the motions – customs etc brings me tface to face with my contemplation of my own national identity – who am I? Where do I belong?

As we drive from the airport my mother asks if it feels good to be at the end of our journey, yet sitting in the car that last hour is probably the hardest bit. And as the city and the suburbs whirl past me I am struck by what I like least about this place – the sheer vastness of this city, its urban sprawl and the roads. They are adding another lane she informs me – that’s great but what are they doing about the infrastructure – public transport?

And the overwhelming feeling of coming home to my city – to a city I no longer know. Staring at her face and seeing so much that is familiar, but so much that is not. It fuels my irritation over the building that is going on, developing, exploiting – business is big in this part of the world – money will buy you anything you want. Or am I just overcome by the strange and empty feeling of not feeling at home in the very place where I am supposed to feel at home?

It’s now 4am in the morning, I have slept a few hours but the awoke and my mind started spinning, my thoughts racing. My children sleep peacefully beside me, their stimulation is of a different kind to mine. I’m grateful they are sleeping and not disturbed by that now.

It is funny, moreover, interesting to read the thoughts of other bloggers that reflect my own. The Hairy Swede wonders if you ever stop translating prices into your own currency. I stopped a long time ago, and in my head Australian prices are still where they were over 15 years ago – when I left.

I know I am not the first to contemplate my own national identity, and I will not be the last. My own children probably have it ahead of them. Belonging is central to our needs as human beings – what an alienating feeling it is to come home and yet not belong here…..

Yet I smell the eucalyptus as I come out of the airport and I lie here listening to the birds and their first early morning calls, and I know I am at home. And it feels good!


  1. The last time I arrived in NZ the customs lady said "welcome home" and my eyes all welled up and I got all lumps in my throat and I was really overwelmed with emotions I did not think I had.

    The feeling sticks with me now whenever I think of NZ, but for me having been gone so long, it is where I grew up, but is it my home?

    I have been displaced for many years but due to so many reasons that I really cannot discuss here, I am torn about whether NZ is still or even was my home.

    Was I yearning for something I never had? What I do know for now, is that Sweden is my home.

    Have a wonderful time in oz, I love melbourne its my fav ozzie city!
    Your thoughtful posts really do get me thinking a lot...

  2. thanks rochj - and I'm glad to hear I am not the only one who contemplates these things :D

    I know what you mean about the tears welling in your eyes when you arrive - many times someone has come and helped me when I have arrived at the airport. With two little ones and 3 suitcases a staff member comes up and says - you take the kids, I'll get your luggage - I've been SO grateful the tears have welled in my eyes. I feel silly, but oh so grateful. I've never had that sort of service anywhere else in the world - and I have travelled a fair bit on my own with 2 kids.

    Klara - hugs to you and to the rest of the family!!

  3. I've been meaning to comment on this post and the one above (Australian Dream), I just wanted to say that I find it so very interesting with all those more or less country specific phenomenas that both show that we are more alike as well as not.

    And that most countries have their issues and downsides (as well as up- ones of course) that the inhabitants themselves often don't seem to be able to really take in or question. But from a more "objective" point of view there's lots of reasons to question.

    I hope you're having a wonderful time down under, happy Christmas!