Ever felt like you are on the outside of a bubble looking in? February 2007 will be my ten year anniversary of living in New Zealand. I still have a British accent (though family and friends in the UK will say I’ve developed a slight ‘Kiwi twang’) and still have the very British habit of over apologising for everything.
There are always newcomers to New Zealand. Wellington, in particular, seems to have an ever stream of folk from good ‘ole Blighty. Every other week I meet a fresh expat, making a new life in New Zealand, and each time I get a surprised look when I say how long I’ve been living here. In the summer months, when Wellington’s population booms with visitors, I sometimes feel more at home hanging out in the tourist spots, and conversing with folks from overseas, than with the locals. Why should I feel like this? Will I ever truly let go and immerse myself in the land of the long white cloud? Or are my British roots just too firmly ingrained?
It would be so nice to really feel ‘at home’ in New Zealand, but what is home? To me, if I am honest, home is where my family is. And though I now have my own family’s future to think of, the pull of family and friends left behind in Britain is forever strong. And what of my children’s future? Will they be happy growing up where their daily lifestyle is great, but contact with loved ones (other than their parents) is limited to periodic visits every few years. I suppose this depends on my attitude. I grew up knowing my Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Great Aunts, Cousins… extremely well. Every year was full with family visits and celebrations. I spent many a happy holiday with my extended family and grew up with a strong sense of the importance of family. I can’t simply shake of this inbuilt sense of the importance of family and I already feel my own children have missed out by not having regular contact with their extended family.
But, I must remember, that they are leading a different life and they have never known what it is like to have regular contact with their ‘bigger’ family. I know that Charlotte and Sophie will be just fine, as long as I don’t give the impression that I think they’re missing out. They will make friends at school with dozens of other children just like them, that communicate with their Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles through modern means of communication (which are forever astounding me with their progress). In time they’ll be keen to don a backpack and visit their relies on a big ‘OE’ (and I’ll probably want to follow!), or their own cousins will wish to journey to New Zealand.
So, though I might be an expat forever and will always hang on to my roots (and rightly so!), I must keep reminding myself that Charlotte and Sophie are Kiwi born and let them grow to love the country they have been born in. They will grow with a sense of belonging that I will silently envy, I will watch them playing within the bubble as I stand proudly looking in. I know they will reach out from time to time and take my hand as I teach them of the country I grew up in and they will always have a special love for their greater family that no distance can dampen. They will learn to love, and be loved by, their greater family in their own personal way, uniquely different to my own experiences, but equally as special.