I’m an inbetweener

by Anna Blanch on January 3, 2012

I’ve been posing questions and exploring the idea of home a lot lately. And with my impending move, that won’t stop. But, what does it mean to go home?

Ziya Meral posed a similar question the other day:

For those who leave their country of origin and venture far; do we ever return ‘home’? ; http://t.co/aKRWpPRp

One of the answers offered to Ziya’s question was:

“For those of us who chose to open up to the world; home is no longer the land of origin. For us, home is anywhere, where we meet other fellow in-betweeners.”

It made me pause, and then realise: I am an in-betweener now. After over 4 years living away from my homeland, Australia, I understand now what it means never to be able to go home. Home is but a memory, the place you left has changed and when I return it will not be the same, which is why I will “return to it again, and know it for the very first time.”

I understand the feeling of anxious patriotism, of displacement that T.S. Eliot knew so well. I know too that I will never be able to look at a situation in any country without an awareness of having been an outsider, an immigrant, the xeno. So too, I am now unable not to see cultural nuance, and an awareness that my way of seeing the world is very culturally conditioned and that even when you’re moving between cultures which have the same base language – english – this does not mean you will be understood.

The culture shock of moving from Australia to the US surprised me. The shock I felt while living in France for a summer did not. We mustn’t underestimate our differences even as we seek to understand – words, phrases, concepts, are not always the same. The ways of describing churches, denominations, especially when using shorthand is often sloppy ignoring the geographical specificity of some of them. Universities and educational expectations are similar but different. The way of asking for assistance, for making your requests, concerns or appreciation known differs subtly even between english speaking cultures.

I’ve learned to accept and appreciate those tensions. It’s made me more careful, more patient, more willing to acknowledge and even expect differences in the way I understand what’s happening in comparison to how it is intended. So too, I’ve learned to recognise that being me sometimes allows me to speak where others cannot for cultural expectations; there is already an expectation of how i will speak and behave as an Australian, and as a woman, so the offence caused is lessened, and often taken in a light spirit.  If they already think you are brash, then sometimes it’s okay to live up to that expectation. Sometimes the outsider can speak truth in a situation that those within know but cannot speak or cannot find the words for.

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