The Fine Print in Your Passport

If you look closely in your passport, you’ll discover the fine print. The tiny declaration that somehow lifts from the page and lands firmly in the centre of your brain as you step foot on foreign soil. The fine print that declares that you have just become a self appointed ambassador for your country.

It will begin slowly. You’ll realize in your travels that with every new meeting and discovery, the question will be asked “so where are you from?” Or maybe it will come in the form of “what’s that accent you’ve got there?” It’s the beginning of a conversation.

If you’re Australian the conversation will soon turn to kangaroos and koalas, sharks and snakes. You’ll be defending our waters and reassuring potential visitors that they will not be killed by a deadly snake or a killer spider within moments of landing in our wide brown land. You’ll notice that even though you haven’t watched a one day game for years, you’ll make small talk about the cricket with the taxi driver on your way home. At a party you’ll apologize for Pauline Hanson, talk about the introduction of the GST, and defend the merits of vegemite on toast for breakfast.

And then, there’s the events.

The Australia Day Barbecue, The ANZAC day ball, the visit from the government dignitary that was passing through town and offered a chance for free lamingtons. You’ll sing the anthem to your children to make sure they know each word, and shed a tear in the kitchen when you hear them teaching their Canadian friends how to sing Waltzing Matilda. You’ll set the alarm for 1am and put on your guernseys to watch the AFL Grandfinal. You’ll perfect the art of pavlova making through sheer necessity and host Australian themed parties to raise money for bushfire victims. For your house has become a mini embassy. There’s a sign at the front door that reads “Australia 16,776kms – it’s a bloody long way”. You will take it down and re-hang it with each move.

You’ve learnt to stock up. You have a special cupboard full of Australian stick on tattoos, caps, t-shirts, flags and tea towels. Your children will wear them when the socceroos come to Doha, they will wave them at the wiggles concert in North America, and drape themselves in flags for the parade on International Day at school.

“Where are you from?”

I get asked at least once a week. I think about where I’m from all the time. Do you?

When you think of us, when we’re far away. When you think of us in our foreign lands, doing our foreign things, so far away, almost impossible to see. I understand that you could be mistaken for thinking that we’d packed up and moved on. Only residents need apply.

“But she/he doesn’t even live in Australia?!”

I’ve heard it.

All over the world, expats are tuning in to foreign television stations desperately seeking a flag or a familiar band of colours. Frustrated Scots in China, Kiwis in America, and Australians in Japan. “All I’m getting is badminton and archery” said a frustrated Aussie in Thailand. “All we have is swimming, gymnastics and volleyball” said a Scottish girlfriend based in China. A Kiwi girlfriend in the States is pretty sure that America is the only country competing at the 2012 Olympic Games because no-one else is getting a mention. Dare I say it, we’re no different in Australia – and I’m LOVING it. The indulgence of knowing exactly which lane the Aussie is in, the interviews, the stories – in english!

And then there’s the ad. The one that screams out to every Australian expat who has stood in a room and declared “I come from a land down under”. The Wandsworth Demons and the London Swans kicking the footy, the collection of Aussies in a London pub, and then on the boat along the Thames.

I know, fancy using them? They don’t even live in Australia!




  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10437498511254202582 Sarah-Jane

    Great blog, can so relate. I’m off now to make a sign for our front door with the kids…..I know its a 17 hr flight but I have no idea how bloody far that is in km’s 😉

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08499944412217904302 vegemitevix

    I relate too. Oh how I relate. We had the only Kiwi flag in the whole town when the Football World Cup was on. I bet most people in our town have never seen a NZ flag and thought it was an Australian flag. But I think the one thing that makes me smile most of all is this: Someone saying to me, ‘until I met you I thought all Kiwis were loud and obnoxious.’ Oh the weight of expectation upon me to disprove an entire country’s reputation! Yup we’re the embassy for NZ ..most go and figure out that sign. ‘NZ 19,0000km that way, NZ embassy 2m down the path’.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12734450335251336493 Linda Sand

    I’m not an ex-pat but I can relate about halfway. As full-time travelers living in a motorhome traveling around the US we too get asked, “Where is home?” Sometimes we say, “Parked right over there.” But sometimes we say, “Minnesota.” If the latter we get a lot of, “You betcha,” or “Uffda” or “How many blizzards did you have last winter?” in response. Stereotypes are everywhere.

  • http://nikkimoffitt.wordpress.com/ nikkimoffitt

    Love, love, love as I’ve said already. So with your mate on the US coverage – driving me insane and that’s not even mentioning that they are pretending that its all played out in prime time US tv time, there are NO LIVE EVENTS on the tele here. You have to wait all day to see a race that was hours ago and you already know the outcome of.

    Was so looking forward to my move to a ‘first world country’ and first this dodgy Olympic coverage and then everyone I meet asking me if I’m South African, its beyond confusing to explain to them that I’m an Aussie (and proud of it) but just moved from South Africa. You know – that and all the boxes left to unpack – doing. my. head. in.

  • http://www.ourbigexpatadventure.wordpress.com/ KJ

    Argh…I hadn’t seen this ad (cos I don’t even live in Australia) and now I have tears. Tears for Australia and tears for the absence of Greg Ham in the ad. 🙁
    And, man, am I sick of table tennis and badminton!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15026987107815016616 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for your bracket (cos I don’t even live in Australia) it made me snort coffee out of my nose 🙂

    • KJ

      Happy to make you snort coffee out of your nose!

      Now, excuse me while I return to watching the ping pong. table tennis! I meant table tennis!

  • Melissah

    Many years of International Days !in international schools, with my kids parading in thongs and boardies to this song. Tears every time.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09646026064261601469 Happy Homemaker UK

    Love this post! I recently stocked up on American flags, hats, and T-Shirts for the Olympics when we were in the States.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08499944412217904302 vegemitevix

    Hi hun, I’ve tagged you in my post today about the NZ rowers winning gold. http://www.vegemitevix.com/2012/08/the-little-reminders/ You’re so lucky to be at home at the moment. ;-p

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16603955636771429512 gladley

    Very yes.

    I’m a new expat (from UK, now in USA) and I’ve just started reading your blog, and loving it, and love your writing style. I’m going to have to block out some time, go back and read your archives now.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16849324750529475501 Jules @ Two Punks, a Princess and Me

    I am so happy I found your blog!

    That is all 🙂