So, where are you from?

I am a proud Australian.

Well, I am most of the time, just not that one time in Bali when I was surrounded by drunken Aussies with braided hair and the really loud obnoxious guy called Chook threw up inside the temple. It’s possible I may have murmured something that day about being from New Zealand.

National pride is a interesting emotion. Each of us has our own buttons waiting to be pushed. When we’re at home it comes out at sporting events, memorials or perhaps from hearing of a courageous act overseas.

For some reason though, when we travel, national pride multiplies in its intensity, suddenly we see  ourselves as mini Ambassadors for our country. From the first “so, where are you from?” we find ourselves explaining our culture, defending its quirks. It’s hard not to oversell when you’re talking about your home, your childhood memories, the patriotism that was unknowingly planted each time you sang the anthem or watched a leader speak with pride. You’re part of a team.

My friend Mike is from a little place in Saskatchewan, Canada. A little town called Swift Current. If you want to be cute, you can call it Speedy Creek. Mike loves Swift Current, he doesn’t live there anymore but he grew up there and that’s where his Mum lives, it’s his home, it’s where his heart is. Out of all the provinces in Canada, Saskatchewan doesn’t always get top billing, perhaps because it’s very flat, the kind of place where they say if your dog runs away, you can watch it for days.

When Mike was younger he met some Europeans on his travels and after a few nights of drinking and fun he spoke fondly of Swift Current, fondly enough that his European friends felt that this was a place they definitely had to see. Mike had told them it was “God’s Country”. When they arrived in Swift Current they promptly rang Mike and asked him one question “Who is your God?”

I’ve done the same thing. After insisting that English friends were about to have the “holiday of a lifetime” in a houseboat on my beloved River Murray, I was shattered when they talked of their boredom, sitting out in the middle of nowhere staring at the same Gum tree. I’d somehow missed the bit about no shops, no restaurants, no entertainment. With hindsight, they were far more suited to a week of Queensland beaches or Sydney Harbour cruising. When it comes to our homeland, it’s hard to be objective.

As Australians abroad, when we get together,  a quick chat and a scan of the room will serve as a reminder of how different we are. It’s possible that the plant operator from Karatha will have nothing in common with the Banker from Sydney’s North Shore. Their landscape, politics, lifestyle and concerns are more than just kilometres apart.

It happens everywhere, a New Yorker versus someone from West Texas, Montreal versus Edmonton, Liverpool versus Oxford. Even if you’re from the same Country it doesn’t mean you’re going to agree, unless of course, you hang a flag, sing an anthem and take a moment to reflect on every national sporting and academic win you’ve achieved over the past fifty years. It is then, that you may very well find yourself on a dance floor linking arms and agreeing that you’re from the best country on the planet.

At the Australian and New Zealand ball in Qatar this past weekend, I watched alcohol and patriotism find their natural bond. The usual jokes were made between the Aussies and the Kiwi’s. The Kiwi’s were happy to give up Russel Crowe but made it clear that Crowded House belonged to them. The Australians, took the cheap and usual route, taking the mickey out of the Kiwi’s accent, when the New Zealand woman got up to speak on behalf of her Country she talked of the beautiful New Zealand beaches. An Aussie at our table questioned “did she just call us all bitches?” A group of very naughty Australians giggled.

Shortly after, the jokes began to subside and the room went quiet.

Somewhere in between remembering those affected by flood and earthquakes and the fast acting response by both countries to help each other out, the woman’s voice began to crack, there was a quiver, the hint of a tear and the need to take a moment before she could go on. In a moment, we became one.

We all understood, we were a long way from home and for many of us, with the end of the school year approaching we are merely weeks away from heading home to family and friends. As we sang our anthems, waved our flags and marveled at how passionately the high school PE teacher could put on a *Haka, it was time to play homage to ‘Men at Work’ and sing a song I would never get caught singing in Australia. National Pride and a bottle of champagne can do that to a girl.

In a week where the Brits have reveled in their very impressive pageantry and the Americans hope to have closed an ugly chapter of a book that we all fear is still being written, I think we’d all have to agree that national pride has its place. Whether you’re from Swift Current, Doha, Taranaki or Islamabad, you have every right to think you’re from the best place on Earth. Most of us do.

Just incase you haven’t seen the *Haka lately, here it is…

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