Having lived in a country other than the one of my birth for the last eleven years has been more than interesting. I can think of several adjectives that apply. There’s exhilarating, enlightening, empowering, exciting, and those are just the ones starting with the letter E, though I have no idea why I started with that letter.
Being an expatriot is to be between two worlds, whether that was one’s intention or not. I suppose I had imagined that once I had been here a few years I would simply be one “them” and that would be that. That’s not how it works.
The reason for that is a simple one. It’s your accent. If you move to another country as an adult, you never learn to speak as the natives do where you’ve chosen to live. The minute you open your mouth you are identified in the minds of the locals as, in my case, an American.
In New Zealand, the place I now call home, they are aware that there are different American accents, but they’re familar with all of them, this being a prime tourist destination, and it matters not whether you sound like a New Yawker or a Southerner or a Heartlander or a West Coaster, you are an American. They will almost always enquire as to how long you’ve been a Kiwi, but you are, and will always be (insert country of birth) first and foremost.
The reasons for this are, at this point, a mystery to me. I’ve enquired tactfully a few times, but i’ve never gotten anthing even remotely like an answer. It’s just the way it is. Not that it’s a problem, it’s a good conversation starter, and it’s always interesting to try to gauge their feelings about the place you’re from and what they think of you being in their midst.
Generally speaking, i’ve found that Kiwis like Americans, though i’ve been told by other Americans that they’ve encountered hostility directed at them based on their accents, but i’ve yet to have that happen to me.
The process of settling in to a new country is an ongoing one, i’ve found. There is a constant adaptation that I suppose I thought would have been over by now, but no. One thing i’ve noticed in myself is a tendency to compare life here unfavorably with my former life when i’m stressed about something peculiar to here. That’s not a good thing, and i’m constantly working to rid myself of that.
It’s all a bit like the picture above, one can feel as though one is on an escalator that goes nowhere, but the antidote to that, i’ve found, is to continually bear in mind that it’s the journey, not the destination that matters. Amen.