As I write this I’m watching the final of the Rugby League Four Nations. For those unfamiliar with Rugby League this is a biennial tournament between Australia, England, New Zealand, and one other (un)lucky country.
This year the final is between Australia and New Zealand. Prior to last year, anytime Australia or New Zealand play, I have always stayed politely neutral, as I’m an Australian permanent resident and also a Kiwiphile.
After living in New Zealand for a year, however, I’ve changed.
I’m a Kiwi.
Well, I’m an American-New Zealander who lives in Australia.
Having lived outside of the U.S. for almost 6 years, I’ve seen my sense of what nationality I am become a lot more complicated that I ever thought it could be.
The best way I could describe it is with something I call the “warm, fuzzy feeling factor.” When you think of a place that gives you that feeling where is it? (Note, for Dutch speakers think “gezellig” or for Welsh speakers “hiraeth.”)
For me, I think of several places instantly :
A snowy morning in Wisconsin, an autumn afternoon in New York, an evening in Wellington or Rotorua, and a foggy morning in Auckland.
These places and the time I spent in them remind me of times I’ve felt grounded and certain.
That’s home in my book, and yes, it’s odd that with as many years as I’ve lived here in Australia, it hasn’t yet felt like home.
It’s a bit hard to feel grounded when to this day whenever I meet someone and they know that I’ve lived here for a long time I still get asked what I think of Australia. Maybe it’s me, but I think 5 years is a sign that I think it’s pretty nice place.
The next question tends to be do I think I might go back to the U.S. Which is a rather odd question for me personally, since though I’m from the U.S. (and as I’ve also pointed out here before, the U.S. is itself more like 50 separate countries), the country has moved on since I left and so have I. So who’s to say that we’ll be able to get in sync again like we were when I was younger?
Home is where the heart is, as the old saying goes. In my opinion, the heart thrives where it feels supported and part of a greater “family.” (Probably I should say “whanau.”)
This isn’t to say that Australia won’t ever invoke those feelings, it’s just that Australia is not going to make it easy.
And the strange thing, the fact that it won’t, probably makes me love it more.
By the way, as I type this New Zealand is beating Australia 14 to 12.