‘Tell me honestly, where is your ‘real’ home?’ I don’t really ask that question immediately whenever I meet someone who talks with a foreign accent. Generally, I wait for an opportune moment. It can’t come quick enough. My grandchildren squirm in embarrassments whenever I fire up engaging with foreigners about the original birthplace and talk about other countries. Fortunate for them both their parents are without any accents, both were born in Australia. Grandpa and grandma are a different country altogether, but I do remember when much younger, also being a bit apprehensive when my parents tried to speak English in my presence to a neighbour or an Australian.
The ultimate was for my mother calling the baker ‘bugger’. Dutch is a phonetic language and of course English is not. You could not blame my parents for calling him the ‘bugger’ even though he would just be called upon to leave 2 loaves of white bread. We kept trying to correct my mum’s pronunciation but never succeeded. The baker must have just put it all down, good naturedly, to those ‘continentals’ and their lascivious manners and ways.
Of course, the need to blend in and be invisible is often keenly sought when growing up. It is such an embarrassing business. When old, one wishes for more attention, but the young just race past the old.
One just never knows with old fogeys what kind of stupid remarks they might still make. Alzheimer can’t come quick enough, just give us our money and then piss off. Has anyone read recently about old folks getting ripped off by their own children. They end up fighting over the antique clock or box with jewellery and wedding rings that no longer fits those gnarled shrunken fingers? It happens in close knit communities. Can you believe?
Even though I was fifteen on arrival here, my foreign accent is still here and will never go. The odd thing is that my Dutch has an Australian accent. Years ago while in Amsterdam with Helvi, I asked direction to a cinema. To our surprise we were asked if I perhaps could be a Dutchman who was living or had lived for a long time in Australia. I was stunned. How could you tell, I asked the man? Oh, he said ‘I have met a few Dutchmen who came from Australia.’ They all speak Dutch with an Australian accent. Even more intriguing is that Helvi’s English has a mixture of both Finnish and Dutch with Dutch being more dominant.
In any case, my question about trying to suss out what people’s ‘real home’ is can be put down to many still having a foot still in both continents. I am always somewhat curious what it means to have soaked up enough of the real Australia way of life to have totally blended in with the locals. Most of the locals come from somewhere, unless rooted in the ‘real Australia’, the traditional owners of this land we call Australia. In any case, my question is often met with pleasure and surprise. It makes for interesting conversation and it passes the time!