I no longer feel like an expat.
I'm not sure when I started to feel less like an expat and more like a local. It may have happened gradually, sneaking up on me over time. Or several triggers combining to create a sense of home and belonging. Maybe I never was an outsider, the result of marriage and family here in Sydney.
The usual expat issues including the culture, food, politics and the weather never felt all that alien to me. The links to Britain and my long-term relationship with an Australian woman made it so. But a foreign country is still foreign until something changes along the way.
Whatever the tipping point, I no longer feel the same.
When I walk my dog, Milo, along the shore of Curl Curl lagoon and we both stretch out on the sand, me on my stomach, him rolling around on his back, I feel contented. At peace. This isn't the home I envisaged or dreamed of but, over time, it's become just that. A home.
|Home. Photo credit: russellvjward|
The time I walked into my local coffee shop and the staff stopped what they were doing to ask about my wife and newborn boy.
"When is Sarah coming in to show us Elliot? How is she feeling? We feel like we haven't seen you all in ages". Asking about my life and my family made me feel included. One of the regulars. A valued friend.
The time after training with the Warrior and the team at his Newport home when it dawned on me that over the years I've become one of the original crew.
After having given blood, sweat and tears to the four tonnes of sand on Muscle Beach, I've formed friendships that will surely endure. Mark, Nige, Tiges, Piggy, Joey, Eighth Wonder, the King, Bucky, Benny and more. All good friends and committed training buddies. We've come far as a team and we've gone through much physical and mental pain together. It's a weekly routine and habit I'd struggle to give up.
Or the time when I took citizenship in Australia.
It not only strengthened my connection to this place but the country took me in its firm grasp. From the right to vote to providing future security to my family, it gave me a permanency if I so desired it. It gave me options and a place to grow. It gave me somewhere different that I could call home.
The time four weeks ago when we had our first child.
From friends descending on the baby shower to the many calls of congratulation, the flowers, the cards, the visits, the messages, the baked goods, neighbours stopping to greet us in the street, invites to people's houses. All of this has reinforced our place in the grand scheme of things.
We can confidently call ourselves part of this Northern Beaches community and we have people who care and who value us being here. We're no longer seen as transient or passers-by, but as locals and neighbours, confidants and loyal friends.
Friends and friendship.
Of all the things in this life lived abroad, friends and friendship are at the centre of what makes me feel less like an expat. Not the environment, not the way of life, not the opportunities that have presented themselves.
Of all the things on this overseas adventure, friends and friendship are the essence of what makes me feel more like a local. Friends and friendship are what make me feel like I'm home.
When did you stop feeling like an expat and more like a local? What were the things that made you realise your new environment now felt like home?
This expat post was sponsored by Western Union, who is running a promotion that allows you to send money to the UK with no transfer fee. With expensive Christmas just around the corner, here’s a sure fire way to save some money this year. If you’re sending money to the UK, why pay $22 to your bank when you can pay $0 with Western Union. And, just in case you think the rate may be worse than one of the big 4 banks, it isn’t. In fact, it’s the best of the lot. To try out the service, go to the website here and happy sending!
As part of this sponsored post, Western Union would like to give away a hamper of classic English sweets to one reader of ISOALLO. To win, leave a comment below and I'll put all the names of commenters in a hat and pick out a winner on New Year's Day. I'll announce the winner on the Facebook page and will also update this post with the winning name. Australian residents only. Giveaway closes on 31 December 2012.
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