Go Home to Your Own Country… which one is my “own” country?

Nearly 7 years ago, my family moved to New Zealand from Canada.

About 3 years ago, I became a naturalised citizen of NZ. Makes me a dual citizen of both NZ and Canada.

Yesterday was Canada Day. We celebrated by putting on our Team Canada Hockey jerseys, pasting on some Canadian flag temporary tattoos, and I sang a few songs to the kids (O Canada, Land of the Silver Birch, This is my home (O Canada), you know the stuff).

It got me thinking. Even though I love my adopted country, and have embraced its culture (I can sing the Te Reo Maori AND the English version of the New Zealand anthem, speak some conversational Te Reo Maori, and even make myself understood despite my Canadian accent and Canadian jargon and slang… and I can bake a good pavlova, even if I do say so myself. I’ve even adjusted to the whole opposite season stuff!) I still think of myself as a Canadian first.

That might partly be because even though I’ve adjusted my vocabulary to use kiwi slang and jargon, and even managed to change some of my vowels to more closely match the kiwi accent, I just don’t sound like a kiwi. I just can’t hold my tongue that way. Believe me, I’ve tried!!

Everywhere I go, people ask me where I’m from, and how long I’ve been in NZ. I just can’t fit in. My accent betrays me the moment I speak.

Sometimes I get a bit sulky, and when the inevitable question is voiced, “Where you from?” or even worse “Where in the States are you from?” I glare and say “I stay around the corner.”

(That’s cuz in NZ, you don’t live somewhere, you stay.)

Or when they ask “American or Canadian?” sometimes I glare and say “I’m a kiwi.”

Never works for long though. They always persist.

And that got me thinking… you know, no one ever questions my *right* to be in New Zealand. I’m white, and I’m Canadian, so clearly (??) it’s okay for me to be here. But they do persist in keeping me apart from everybody by insisting I’m different.

However, immigrants from other countries, especially Chinese and Indian immigrants, aren’t just kept apart, they’re looked at with suspicion and anger. They aren’t given that same “right to be here” assumption that I am.  Especially if they continue to dress and speak as if they were in their own country. This doesn’t just happen in NZ – I know it happens in Canada too.

And you know, I understand why they keep their own language and dress more now.  If people will insist you are different and don’t fit in, you might as well not.

One day, shortly after we moved here, I went to a local dairy (corner store). The proprietor was a Fijian Indian, who has lived in NZ his whole life. He has a kiwi accent, not an Indian one. Someone else came in after me and there was an argument. That’s not the important bit. But at the end of the argument, the other person told the proprietor to “go home to his own country” and looked at me for support.  “These bloody people,” he said. “They don’t belong here.”

And I looked at him, and I looked at the proprietor, and then I said “He’s got the kiwi accent, not me. I can’t help you there.”

The other man startled.  And the proprietor (good on him) just said in his lovely kiwi accent “Have a nice day.” And disgruntled, the man left.

One day I’d really love to meet a new person and not have them ask where I’m from, and just assume that I’m from here and I belong here. Perhaps that day I shall feel like a true Kiwi, and not just a transplanted Canadian.

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About Broot

Thoughts about learning and life that are lost in a sea of blogs.

17 responses to “Go Home to Your Own Country… which one is my “own” country?”

  1. Robin G says :

    Thanks for stopping by my blog.

    I love the simplicity of your blog design, and the somewhat fantastic design on the header.

    I haven’t had many people ask me where I’m from. I live in the same town I grew up in and when I travel it’s mostly close by. I love accents. I love trying to figure out where someone is from. Not because I don’t think they belong here but because I’m curious about people. I love to learn about things, people, and places that are different from what I know.

    I’m sorry you live in an area where you don’t feel welcomed. That would stink. I’ve lived in a house where I didn’t feel welcomed and that was bad enough.

    • Broot says :

      Thanks for visiting!! I do actually feel welcomed by most… it’s just a few people, as it is in all places! (The few ruining it for the majority, you know how it is. 🙂 )

  2. JDaniel4's Mom says :

    This post is so important. I don’t think that we should have a sense of entitlement to our countries. Only the Native Americans are really native Americans here in the states.

    JDaniel’s truck would be all scribbles. Straight lines with a few arcs would be the complete truck.

  3. Sorta Southern Single Mom says :

    Interesting and thought provoking perspective. Being American, I’ve left the country only once…to drive into Canada at Niagra Falls :), so it’s hard for me to imagine being in your shoes, but this is important for someone like me to read. I’ll try to be more respectful when inquiring about people’s accents!

    Stopping by from SITs! Happy Saturday Sharefest!

    • Broot says :

      🙂 I like the question “where’s your accent from?” because then you aren’t assuming someone is *from* there, you’re acknowledging that they might not associate with the way they speak, and it doesn’t assume what kind of accent it is. 🙂 I always respond favourably to that question. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. small burst says :

    it’s tough to be signaled out. I know all about this and knew what the word Prejudice meant at the ripe ol’ age of 6. However, this didn’t stop me or my family from living content and happy lives. Things are alot better now for my kids. They don’t know what it feels like to be discriminated against. I feel like theres more acceptance now so I’m hoping for a more tolerant society. But I’m no fool, there’s always gonna be somebody who can’t see past differences. On a lighter note, Happy belated Canada Day!

  5. Grace says :

    Good for you, sticking up for the shop owner! You know you have a friend for life in that guy now.

  6. Jenn@ You know... that Blog? says :

    Good post, and good observations. I find Canadians are generally well received anywhere we go, but I’ve been in a few situations where that wasn’t the case, in different parts of the world. Strangely enough, it has happened in the States more than once over the years. I don’t hold it against Americans of course – some of my best friends and tons of my bloggy friends are ‘Merkin. I’ve witnessed a New England stadium full of people “boo-ing” the Canadian national anthem at a major league baseball game, and I’ve even been refused service in a border-town clothing store once they found out I was Canadian. Mind-boggling. There are ignorant, uneducated, and prejudiced people everywhere though. Have to take it in stride, because the vast majority are pretty decent.

    By the by… you are my favourite Kiwi 🙂

    • Broot says :

      Wow. That is mind-boggling. Yes, most people are decent. The few wreck it for the majority. And aww! I feel so loved. 🙂 Thanks! (I’m not the only kiwi you know, I hope… 😉 )

  7. Leslie Limon says :

    I was just stopping by to thank you for commenting on my blog, but you really won me over with this post! 🙂 I’ve lived in Mexico for almost 10 years. i speak Spanish perfectly, with no hint of an American accent. But people look at me and automatically know (or assume) I’m from the States. Just once I’d like to confused with a local! 🙂

  8. Darren Poke says :

    Once again a really cool post.

    My wife is Scottish and has lived here in Australia for almost 30 years but still gets asked about her accent. People will often incorrectly guess that she’s Irish or English, but it doesn’t bother her too much.

    You raise some great points in your post. I long for the day when people don’t worry about the birthplace, accent or colour of another person.

    Keep up the great writing.

    Cheers,

    Darren

  9. embejo says :

    I really liked this post! As you know I’m also in NZ and I also know of a dairy owner and his wife. Youngish couple who are obviously of Indian descent, but when they speak have a classic Kiwi accent. I LOVE IT! haha. They are more Kiwi than me 🙂 I may be a whitey, but was born in Australia.

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