Keeping Up with the Americans
One of the special challenges of being newly transplanted from the U.S. to Australia is keeping up with what’s happening in both countries.
As an immigrant and a naturalized American citizen living in Miami, I’ve always felt like I’ve lived in between two cultures. To older generations of Cubans and to Cubans on the island, I’m a white woman who is probably as American(ized) as they come. To Americans, I’ll always be an immigrant, a brown woman from some Hispanic country that might as well be Mexico. Although I’d love to see a free and democratic Cuba, I’ve taken only a broad and passing interest in Cuban politics. In contrast, I became interested in the American socio-political landscape in my teens and have remained passionate about issues such as reproductive rights and marriage equality.
I don’t yet know how my identity will be defined here in Australia. In the U.S., people ask where you’re from and it’s not sufficient to say I’m American because that’s not what they mean. So I’ve always identified as Cuban, the country in which I was born though have almost no ties to it and little interest in it. I speak Spanish and eat Cuban food; that’s pretty much the extent of it. In Australia, I guess I’m just American.
Yesterday was Labor Day in the U.S., which I almost entirely forgot as it was just another Tuesday here in Australia. Yeah, Tuesday, not Monday. Forgetting Labor Day isn’t exactly a crisis, but it’s one of those little things that adds up to the overall weirdness of one aspect of expat life. Here are some of those other little things.
I’m a day early in wishing my Facebook friends a happy birthday.
I just left summer in South Florida. Australia just marked the first day of spring on September 1. I won’t experience a winter this year.
Calling family and friends requires some planning because daytime for me is nighttime for them.
Should I keep up with the local conversation and watch the X-Factor Australia or watch the American version so I can continue to engage with my friends? My solution to this one is pretty simple though: avoid both shows altogether. The same goes with Dancing with the Stars and American/Australian Idol.
Australians write dates in a different order than Americans. Aussies put the the day first, then the month, and then the year. So Halloween, for example, is written 31/10/12 rather than 10/31/12. This requires some serious concentration on my part as I have to work with both styles depending on who I’m dealing with.
Don’t get me started on the metric system and Celsius versus Fahrenheit.
Every few months, I’ll go through my social networks and eliminate some clutter. I’ll un-follow some folks on Twitter, unsubscribe from some feeds, and really consider whether a service is adding value or is just a distraction and negatively affecting my productivity. Living in Australia has meant doubling up on my information. Not only am I following U.S. current events and news, I’m following Australian news, blogs, and institutions as well. It can becoming time-consuming and overwhelming.
Recently I read a comment from an expat where she said she only keeps up with the Aussie calendar and Australian news and current events because this is where she lives. It seems severe to me; I don’t feel quite ready to cut the cord with America. Besides, for the time being, I’m technically still a visitor, living between cultures.
About the featured image: This is one of those images that’s all over the web and generally uncredited. I think it’s a promotional image for the documentary series Two Million Minutes.