Expat Diaries: In Which Rachel Rambles About Living Overseas

As you’re reading this, Alex and I are either somewhere in the air or have just landed back in Australia, ready for our “holiday”. Not that it feels much like a holiday, but you try convincing a bunch of Europeans that three weeks in Aus isn’t really a holiday. I’ve given up.

As I’m writing this, however, we’re on our train, about an hour out of London. It’s been a productive journey (for me, at least). Masters research is in full swing, and I’ve loaded up my macbook with PDFs of journal articles to get through over the next 40-ish hours. Alex has been asleep for most of the journey, but I can hardly blame him.

I’ve done the train journey down to London from Edinburgh enough times that it feels familiar – I recognise the landscapes, I know the routine (the refreshment trolley isn’t available between Morpeth and Newcastle because of a staff changeover), and it’s not quite as exciting as it once was. That said, I still love staring out the window between Edinburgh and Newcastle, watching the Northumbrian coast pass by and imagining hoards of Vikings descending upon the shores. It feels comfortable, familiar in the way flights between Adelaide and Melbourne feel.

I think one of the weirdest things as a “expat” is the simultaneous feeling of familiarity and otherness. After 10 months, Edinburgh feels incredibly familiar. It’s home, as could be expected. I’m still in awe of the architecture and the the fact there’s a bloody castle in the middle of my city, but on the whole it’s become the new norm. I catch the bus to work, stop off in tesco or sainsbury’s for groceries, walk to the local pub on Sundays, hang my washing on the line, and mostly live a pretty mundane life. I know Edinburgh probably better than I know Adelaide, partly because it’s MUCH smaller, but also because I’ve wanted to explore, and often found myself wandering off to investigate a close or inviting row of Georgian houses.

At the same time, there’s still so much that feels foreign. I want to write a whole blog post about these differences, the little (or big) things that stand out as being different and remind me that no matter what my passports say, I wasn’t born here. It doesn’t bother me, necessarily (in fact, it makes my identity-nerd brain whir with possibility), but it’s hard to avoid. In a way, one of the things I’m most looking forwards to about our trip back to Australia is being surrounded by Australians. It’s the little things, like being asked if you want chicken salt rather than “salt and vinegar” or hot chips, or having to specify hot chips because crisps are also called chips. Or being in a country where everyone knows what a TimTam is. My manager thought they were a type of hat. I wish I was kidding. It’s not necessarily a desperate longing, but there are so many things you don’t realise are typical to your part of the world until you leave it.

Of course, none of this is necessarily a bad thing. I thoroughly enjoy bewildering my workmates with Australian cultural tidbits (my most recent favourite being the woman who threw the shark out of the Cronulla ocean pool), or comparing Australian and Scottish attitudes to things. They still don’t understand why Aussies and Kiwis talk so much when they bump into each other overseas, or why we talk to anyone at all, but I enjoy confusing them with my enthusiasm. It’s fun to say “sweets” instead of “lollies”, and it’s definitely fun to use Scots words/phrases (or pronunciation) in day-to-day conversation (we only eat “fud”, not “food”). It’s all a part of living overseas, and I’m enjoying embracing it (even if sometimes they use stupid names for things).

But fuck me am I looking forwards to some time in a country where saying things like “Hooley Dooleys”, “Wagga Wagga”, and “thongs” isn’t met with immediate confusion or laughter. Just for a little while.


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