Life abroad on a heavier note…

I am having a bit of a down day – where living on the other side of earth suddenly seems like a questionable thing to do. After six years in Australia, I have the answers ready as to why I’m here, I’ve gone through this exercise enough times before. Unfortunately that does not make the feeling go away. Which really sucks. Reflecting on the feeling does make it better and for each time, the analysis gives me more insights to this journey. They are hard days though these days, where one is forced to reflect on self and choices and why and because…

This time I have arrived at following: it takes longer than 6 years to assimilate (integration is an illusion – last year’s epiphany). There are still many things in daily life I have to think about and reflect on. The brain is constantly running in comparisons ‘home – here – home – here’ and I have this feeling that the unconscious mind is working overtime, all the time. It’s exhausting.

Another thing I’ve discovered is that It also takes more than 6 years to integrate a second language. Some days English almost feels as a new mother tongue, other days it is one long uphill journey of translate-translate-translate. Some days are like today. This morning, the translator was broken. It has taken many hours to find the fault and get it working again.

I am pretty sure that I share this experience with other foreigners – the exhaustion. The days where you try to read something and have to look up half the words in the dictionary, where you just cannot stand another ad on TV for companies you have never heard of, where values you were not raised with and do not share are acclaimed as the universal truth, where all the groceries you want are not supplied in the supermarket (why does it have to be so hard to get salty licorice I ask, why don’t you get it?), where Australia seems everything but multi-cultural, but instead extremely mono-cultural and very hard to read.

I’ve learned one thing over the years: these are the days where you peel another layer of the onion. It may cost a tear, it may not. But in the long run it is absolutely worth it. This is a life where not many days were wasted and not many dreams left behind. There is a higher cost to travelling this road than most people acknowledge, but at the end of the day, I think it is still worth it.

Thank God there is chocolate in the fridge!


10 thoughts on “Life abroad on a heavier note…

  1. Pingback: Flowers from home | Creative Signe

  2. You description of being in a non-native culture is spot on!
    Of cause it constantly gets a bit easier, I no longer desperately need a power nap after an hour in Melbourne traffic.

    But this feeling of lack of assimilation is not restricted to people living outside of their birth country. There’s a continuous spectrum from finding a perfect match between the feeling of HOME and the place you are living and living in a perfect alien setting.
    I have a constant longing for my HOME (the salty bit of sand between the North sea and Ringkøbing fjord), nagging in the back of my brain, also when I’m living in Langå a mere 2 ½ hours drive away. Fully knowing that as it is 23 years since I lived there, the place I long for is no longer existing, and even if it was I wouldn’t fit in, assimilate, cause I’ve changed too. Maybe it’s the postmodern cross we all have to carry. We won the world but lost our home.
    Or our HOME has been exchanged for a series of places that almost but not quite completely feels like home.
    I wouldn’t have it any other way either. There is no doubt that it’s good that I’ve moved on.
    By the way is anybody assimilated in AUS?
    A very high proportion of the population must have at least one immigrant in the family not many generations ago, and the few that haven’t seem to be the least assimilated of them all.

    • I does get easier, you are rigtht. I think the feeling this time was connected to this; that even though it does get easier, it doesn’t go away. I think it turned into pure frustration this time… I was missing the exact thing you describe in your post today: long talks while drinking tea about life in general and something severely down to earth as well. That is not a part of North Queensland culture – not in the same way that we do it.
      I also know what you mean about defining home. I left my birthhome 22 years ago, lived many years in Copenhagen, and have the exact same reflection on that. But as much as one is a stranger in the city, reconnecting to ‘home’ was easier and most people understood what I said, without making an effort – and most times I could read what was going on.
      I think you are right though – we have exchagned home for a series of places that almost but not quite completely feels like home – which is OK. It is nice to see it recognised by someone else.
      In regards to Australia, I think I need to write a post about this at some point. I have too many reflections to put them here. In short, I have been surprised that despite the things you mention, Australian culture is quite mono-cultural and set in its ways. They allow the integration of the food of other nations, but that is it. Maybe it is also has to do with where I live; up here, the white Australia policy is still quite strong…

  3. I think I know the liquorice you are talking about, and if I’m right, then I have purchased it before in Australia – by accident. I was looking for candy to use as wedding favours and our colours were black and white. Found some gorgeous black and white candies that looked perfect. But they tasted like the dead sea.
    I imagine its an acquired taste, like vegemite. However, if you are unable to find it in Cairns, I will gladly try and source it again for you when I get back to Australia and send as much as the post will carry.

    • That is so sweet of you! They is so hard to get, especially here in Cairns. There is one shop in the city which sell ONE type of salty liquorice. We have at least 100 different, but one is better than nothing. Mr Husband always laughs when I say “I think we should go to Cairns Central” – he knows what is on my mind.
      I think I know the ones you are talking about, white with black stripes. They are so strong that if you eat more than three it starts to take away the skin inside your mouth. YUUMMM!
      In the mean time, is there anything I can send you from here? The parcel to my friend at the Times of India took just under two weeks to arrive, so I don’t know if pies are a good idea, but I would be happy to send vegemite or tim tams or arnott cookies of some kind 🙂

      • you are a sweetheart. But I am ok. My dad visited and brought me hair dye, red wine and peanut slabs. and I only have 7 weeks left!!! hurrah!!

        I’m totally sending you some of that horrid stuff you like as soon as I get back home. Mainly because you are one of my best commenters and comments rock my world.

      • OMG Redwine. I can imagine that decent redwine is hard to find in India.
        Comments are awesome! I jumped around in joy this morning when I saw yours! Woo hoo!
        I will be in Denmark in less than two weeks now. Salty poison heaven! I will be there for three months, so I am planning on getting my saltlevels up. And stocking up. BUT one year from now Toushka, I will have run out of everything and be in severe withdrawal. THEN I will call on you! Don’t you worry!

  4. Pingback: My arms are too short | Creative Signe

  5. I loved this metaphor: “…these are the days where you peel another layer of the onion. It may cost a tear, it may not. But in the long run it is absolutely worth it.” Yes. It may cost a tear, but you are getting closer to the heart! For every difficult day that you make it through, there will be one less difficult day in the future, because you are getting stronger. I think the key is not losing sight of yourself – stay calm and focused and have faith in your own strength. Thanks so much for this post.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I’m so pleased to know that it resonates with others.
      I completely agree with what you say; the key is not losing sight of yourself. I feel that either I grab hold of the heavier days, analyze them and learn from them or they draw me down. For me they generate empathy for the foreigners I meet who have isolated themselves and given up. It is not easy. Travelling and living in another country is the most brutal look in the mirror. You HAVE to reflect on who you are, the choices you make and why. Hence the onion 😉

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