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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Twenty-four hours to home time [20110510|20:25]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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[coordinates |La Jolla, CA]

Shipping container, with bear


I have accomplished the primary objective of this trip to the States. All the stuff that was in storage in the US is now in this shipping container and on its way to the UK.

This is it. This feels final. None of my belongings will reside in this country once that ship has gotten underway to Southampton, where it will arrive in 12 weeks, creating a whole new logistical headache for me to enjoy. I’m committing to being an expat for the long term.

Being here makes me feel adrift. When I’m in Britain, I know I’m an expat. I have a solid understanding of what that means, the perpetual uncertainty of my welcome and heightened cultural awareness that it involves. When I’m in the US, I no longer feel like I’m home. I don’t fit in completely here any more than I do in Britain. The Americans I meet assume I’m British. When I checked in at the storage space for the last time, the girl at the desk confided to me, “I love your accent.”

Committing to becoming a dual national doesn’t make me feel accepted in both cultures. It makes me feel like I’m barred from ever being fully comfortable again in either. That sounds negative, but I don’t mean it entirely in that way. I think the increased consciousness and observation of propriety that being an expat have given me are positive qualities. I just don’t know how to belong any more - if, indeed, I ever did. I could be romanticizing and missing something I never had in the first place (see: my complex racial/ethnic identity issues).
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: cosmiccircus
2011-05-10 19:59 (UTC)
Still, it would be nice to have dual passports...
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-05-19 19:07 (UTC)
Yes. Assuming I stay here, I will eventually apply for one. And again, assuming I stay here, I will make sure my (hypothetical) children have dual citizenship.
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[User Picture]From: melissa_maples
2011-05-10 20:47 (UTC)
Committing to becoming a dual national doesn’t make me feel accepted in both cultures. It makes me feel like I’m barred from ever being fully comfortable again in either.

Yep, this. I've noticed over the past couple of years that I've started referring to Americans in the third person, even though I hold a US passport. I had a European upbringing and I haven't even set foot on American soil in nearly a decade. I have no idea about American pop culture, or politics, or anything else that goes on there. Everything I hear from the US, it's like they're talking about some country I've never been to. I certainly don't feel I'm one of them, and they definitely don't feel I'm one of them.

I do identify more with being English simply because I can keep one foot in England from here and it's "where I came from." We have UK television channels here, and almost all of the English-speaking community here is from the UK. It's easy to keep up with the latest news, gossip, who's shagging whom, and all that. People in Antalya are constantly going back and forth to the UK and bringing things - I have a steady incoming supply of HP, Heat magazine, even Pot Noodle. There's not the same kind of thriving American community here, and the few Americans I have met talk about things in the US, and I have no idea what they're on about because I haven't been there in so long. They definitely think of me as not being one of them... but so do most of the English (aside from Jools, who says I'm English as far as she's concerned, and she doesn't care what my passport says).

And of course now that I've got my Turkish residency and I've been here seven years, you'd think I'd start blending in a little bit, but no, not even close. Turkey's one of those cultures where you can never be one of them unless you were born here, end of story. Oddly enough, the people in my neighbourhood tend to call me "the German," because Turks are very, very, very skilled at Name That Ethnicity, and from the moment they first saw me on the street they knew I was German (which is true - both my parents are from Germany). I'm just rambling now. It's a long-winded way of saying I get your ethnic/cultural identity issues.
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[User Picture]From: girl_onthego
2011-05-18 04:53 (UTC)

re the 1st part...

Me too, and I've been back for 3+ years.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-05-19 19:12 (UTC)
I also know very little about popular American culture, except what I manage to glean from my social network. Although most of my friends are pretty cosmopolitan in outlook and make a point of avoiding a good deal of mainstream culture and are thus not a representative sample.

Turkey's one of those cultures where you can never be one of them unless you were born here, end of story.

Do you find that comforting, in a way? Knowing it's completely impossible to be One of Them seems like it should be rather freeing in a way - there's no point in trying to blend.
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[User Picture]From: melissa_maples
2011-05-19 20:05 (UTC)
It works both ways. On one hand, I can do just about anything in public and no one thinks anything about it, because everyone knows that one can never guess what crazy things foreigners might do at any given moment. Also, with this being such a big tourist city, I can walk around pointing my camera at everyone and everything and I don't get too many stares. Everyone just assumes I'm a tourist.

On the other hand, it gets frustrating when I ask for things like basic courtesy and am laughed at and told that I need to get over my cultural hangups. For example, one time E begged me to lend his best friend some money for some emergency. It wasn't a lot, I think it was $100, but at the time that was kind of a big deal for me. E assured me that the guy would get paid on the 6th and would pay me back on the 7th, and he seemed sincere, so I agreed to help him out.

7th came and went... no sign of the guy. On the 9th or 10th E said he was going to the friend's house for dinner, and I asked if he could enquire about the money. E rolled his eyes and said, "god, you people and your money! Money money money, that's all foreigners ever care about. In Turkey we're more concerned about caring for each other's feelings, and I would never embarrass my friend by asking him such a crass question. He will pay you when he can."

I asked E if, in his deep concern for the feelings of others, he ever thought about how I would feel knowing I'd let myself be fucked by someone who borrowed money with no intention of paying it back.

It took me like, eight months to get that money back, and then every time I saw E's friend I'd try to be polite and ask how his family was or whatever, and he'd counter by asking me how my bank account was, "because I know your money is like family to you."

E told me that his friend actually had the money to pay me back long before he actually paid - he held back paying me because it irked him that I was being "such a bitch" about it. About my own money. That he owed me. After I helped him out in his time of need. He later said that he thought the only reason I loaned him the money was so I could enjoy holding the debt over his head later. Never mind the fact that I wouldn't have had anything to hold over his head if he had just paid me back when he said he would.

It's not just E and his friends, either. There's a widespread belief in this country that (A) foreigners are rich, and (B) the way they got that way is by being heartless and ruthless and putting money above all else. So that aspect of it is not so nice, being told that standing up for my basic rights is distasteful and marks me as a heartless outsider.
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[User Picture]From: leidan
2011-05-10 21:22 (UTC)
I feel like the more places I live the more places I miss like "home" and yet at the same time aren't really home. Of course having the place that is my home be partially destroyed has walking away from it with my last memories being of leveled buildings and ruptured streets doesn't really help this.

Luckily (at least for me) being a NZer is something that seems to stay with people. I don't think that will mean NZ is always home, but that my identity will always be there. I think this is because we are a culture where, at some time or another, everyone leaves.

Finally the US also takes great pains to point out to me at every turn that I am indeed an alien.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-05-19 19:13 (UTC)
Finally the US also takes great pains to point out to me at every turn that I am indeed an alien.

Oh yes. Every time I get frustrated with the UKBA's policies, I remember how much more difficult it would be for the bloke & I were we trying to settle down in the US.
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[User Picture]From: sekl
2011-05-10 22:32 (UTC)
There's nothing wrong with exchanging a flat, annoying accent for a more silvery one. When I came home from England, I had to fight the urge to cover my ears whenever someone spoke. ;)

As for the larger issues of identity, haven't you always enjoyed being somewhat separate? A citizen of the world? Belonging to a country is all well and good, but you seem to take great pride in being an outsider because it allows you to assess your surroundings more fully. Not everyone makes a success of being an expat because they are uncomfortable without a national identity.

Then again, we are pack animals. Everyone likes to belong somewhere. Maybe your clan isn't a nation so much as a professional community?
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-05-19 19:14 (UTC)
I think you're right. I do like being different, and I've invest quite a lot of energy in being educated in an unusual way and visiting lots of strange places where I don't feel comfortable.

Maybe your clan isn't a nation so much as a professional community?

True. Most of my close friends are scientists or other highly specialized professionals. Or are articulate on the internet. :)
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[User Picture]From: sanat
2011-05-11 03:57 (UTC)
I hear you. Our overseas freight has just arrived up in Auckland and we're doing the customs/MAF tango of what-potentially-dangerous-invasive-naughty-things-are-you-trying-to-bring-into-NZ(-and-how-much-can-we-charge-you-for-it) before it arrives at the nearest port. Of everything I was exhorted to declare on the personal effects form, my money's on only our coffee table and Roomba getting through (not sure about Grandma's mink stole).

I recall crying in a somewhat homesick fashion last time we went back to the US, and only feeling flutters of heart recognition in specific places like San Francisco and downtown Reno. Once back I went back to that sort of bemused vagueness I spend most of my days here in. I don't know exactly what the future holds, but I definitely wouldn't mind mapping it here. The US overall has not gotten any more or less comforting or suited to me since I left.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-05-19 19:20 (UTC)
I was weirded out by some of the stuff on the customs forms. Who tries to ship assault rifles into the UK? You'd have to be really oblivious not to realize that the general populace is not armed even with handguns here.

It seems to me like you're becoming more relaxed and comfortable in NZ. You have the freedom to develop as an artist and your output has gotten more abundant and varied. I've enjoyed watching the process. From my perspective, it would be a shame to see it stifled by a return to the US.
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[User Picture]From: sanat
2011-05-19 23:09 (UTC)
Thank you. It's possible that the time was just right in my maturation process, that we could presumably have just carried on the in US, and if I'd chosen to quit my job and pursue being an artist full-time there I could have gotten somewhere too. I was at least vending my wares at that one place, could have looked into others. But maybe the change of scenery and culture mattered as well. I think it is a valuable experience to live in a place different than your home country, and really want to remind myself of that.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-05-19 19:27 (UTC)
My home keeps changing! I haven't been in the same community for more than a couple of years since my early twenties.
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[User Picture]From: pax_athena
2011-05-11 11:15 (UTC)
That resonates a lot. Even though I was much younger when I changed countries, I'm forever the one between the chairs, never truly belonging to any of the two parts. Sometimes I can convince myself to enjoy the advantages (the different point of view on a lot of things, the higher awareness of many cultural issues ...), but sometimes I just feel truly lost *sighs*
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-05-19 19:28 (UTC)
Yes. Sympathy. And tea. And shoulder-bumps.
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From: anokapolis
2011-05-11 22:35 (UTC)
Wow, your well organized,

Dual citizenship is great, my parent's were born outside the US and even here in Poland, I have the chance to get permit to live here and can apply for citizenships after 3 yrs even though I don't intend to say here any more than my clinical require. I think the idea of dual citizen is great, even with it's harsh realities these days. After moving to another country, you never really belong anywhere, which is cool, as I believe we all should be citizens of the world rather than of nations.

I really hate moving, I'm most unorganized person when it comes to moving any of my belongings, in fact I will probably leave my dorm room the way it's when I head back home:(

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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-05-19 19:34 (UTC)
If I'd been a little better organised, I'd have shipped this stuff a couple of years ago when I knew I was staying! Of course, I was in the middle of buying the house at that point and was extremely broke.

Thinking of yourself as global citizen is the way forward, I hope. I don't think it means you need to stop having other racial/ethnic identities, but it would help us perhaps to be a bit more concerned with the way we're treating the Earth.

Moving is dreadful. I sincerely hope I don't have to do it again for at least a few years.
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[User Picture]From: dizzykj
2011-05-12 17:07 (UTC)
I think that the reason that I love London so much is that I've never felt like I've been accepted in the UK, even having being born here and lived here all my life. I came to London and chose to belong and, for me, that's what counts.


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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-05-19 19:34 (UTC)
Interesting! So would you say you rank being a Londoner over being English or British?
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[User Picture]From: dizzykj
2011-05-19 21:13 (UTC)
Completely. Although that may be the Jewish thing at play as well - I've never felt English or British. In general, I don't say I'm British - if asked, I tend to say I'm a british passport holder. I feel Jewish and a Londoner.

It was interesting that on the 2001 census I was a bit put out as it didn't ask about ethnicity, so I had to say that I was a British Atheist which I felt really uncomfortable with. This year, I was able to say my ethnicity was Jewish and it sat much better with me.

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[User Picture]From: flexagain
2011-05-19 20:19 (UTC)
That's an interesting perspective, because whilst I was born in the UK, and live in London, I don't particularly feel like a Londoner (or more strictly speaking a Croydoner... Croydonite?)

I can't say I've ever felt particularly associated with any of the places (in the UK) that I've lived.

It's more a case of my home is wherever I lay my hat (to paraphrase Marvin Gaye).
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[User Picture]From: painted_dreams
2011-05-15 18:25 (UTC)
I don't think anyone can honestly say 100% they belong anywhere. There is always something we carry about ourselves that is at odds with our surroundings and people.

Even though I'm an American, have never lived outside of this country, I feel like I don't fit. I've always felt more at home when I'm traveling. Maybe it's because I'm mixed ethnically and moved around so much as a child. I've never lived anywhere long enough to identify with my surroundings and the culture (well except Hawaii).

Anyway, people like you are much more interesting anyway. Picking up and leaving one's home country for another is brave. That too me is more romantic and adventurous. Some people were just born to stand out ;-)
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[User Picture]From: hafnir
2011-05-17 01:30 (UTC)
I was curious if you might mention how expensive shipping a crate from California to Europe is, as it was a consideration once for whether I might take a job in Europe, although it didn't get that far.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-05-19 19:21 (UTC)
Not publicly. I'll send you a message.
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