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.