Wednesday, 2 July 2008


People keep asking me: "Have you settled in yet?"

I'm getting it three or four times a day. By email, by phone, face-to-face - it has become a pre-requisite to any conversation. They mean well, I know. But it feels like nagging, the way all well-meaning questions do when you know that the answer you're going to give will slightly disappoint (you as well as them). It's a bit like "Is the baby sleeping through yet?" (And no, he's not.)

Sometimes I answer "No" straight away, and probably more aggressively than I intended, so then I try to make light of it and gesticulate wildly at the empty bookshelves - the big glaring sign that I cannot possibly feel settled in when my book collection is bobbing up and down on some ocean. Other times I pretend that I'm really thinking about the question: "Am I settled in? Hmm, am I? That's a new one. Let's think..." 

Maybe I'm in denial about feeling settled. Maybe I see it as some huge betrayal of my family and friends and all that is British. And how do you know anyway? Is it like how you know when you're in love? You just do? Is it like the way you have to guess if a shook-up can of fizzy drink is ready to be opened?

Let's look at the signs that this Pom has not quite acclimatised:

1. I still haven't cancelled my British mobile phone account. (Yes, that means I'm still paying the monthly amount.) The phone is somewhere in this cavernous house, dead. There is an Australian sim card in another part of the cavernous house but they are too shy to meet. They are not sure they'll get on.

2. I cannot buy anything without working out what it would be in pounds. As I'm not very bright, this mean that shopping takes an age. I handle Aussie money like a person with very poor eyesight and annoy everyone in the queue.

3. Speaking of shopping, I have not opened an Australian bank account either. But I am still carrying round my British Library card (now expired) and my Body Shop card (never used, and expired) and my Oyster card. 

4. For the first time in my life I am making loose leaf tea in a pot. How terribly English.

5. I keep the keys to my parents' communal gardens in my bag. The Australian keeps taking them out and jingling them at me: "What have you got these for?" 

There are a worrying amount of administrative clues that show I've not settled but thinking about them is giving me a headache. 

My feeling is that it will never happen. I know, I know - "Give it time." Even so, I think I have a strong internal resistance that no amount of lemon trees in the garden / beautiful "winter" weather / lorikeets instead of pigeons / consistently amazing coffee / good cheap eat-outs / stunning scenery / street-party-type address / muffin-bringing-neighbours  etc etc, is going to change. 

But just in case it happens to me and I don't realise, let me know.

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Sasch said...

First of all - please introduce the Aus sim to the UK phone because I for one miss texting you! This has been annoying me since the day you left. There are at least 5 things every week that I see and need to instantly communicate with you without having to call Australia from my mobile and wake you up in the middle of the night to tell you about some weirdo on the bus!

Also I suspect that since these 5 things are usually something bloody irritating about London/England or about me getting the hell out of here ... receiving constant reminders of the crap stuff in the UK might usher in the beginings of those elusive "settling in" feelings...

Tell you what - you put the sim in the phone and I promise not to ask you EVER if you are settled in yet.

As for the other stuff:

I also carry about 15 pointless store and reward cards - none of which I use and all of which have undoubtedly expired, but I daren't look. I also still have copies of keys to my two last flats despite the fact that this is probably illegal and also totally pointless. This is the curse of womanhood.

Australian money is too colourful and plastic coated to be real.

I think making loose leaf tea might be a sign of old age more than homesickness since I'm pretty sure I've even seen you scoop out tea bags from bins to reuse them during "the broke years".

The mere fact that you have not got on a plane back yet is admirable but also might have something to do with your better weather/garden/coffee/restaurants/scenary/house/neighbours.

Speak soon ... oh! I am back in UK by the way :-) sorry for my recent silence. xx

Sam said...

I think you know you're in love only when it's too late. Like when you know you're going to go through with spending the night with one of her friends, while all the time thinking, 'She really doesn't deserve this.'

So, I think you'll know you've settled in when you feel guilty for not coming to Australia's defence if non-Australian's are slagging her off in your presence. It'd be kinda like you'd cheated on her (but it'd be too late to go back and correct it).

(That was just me making the comparison with the way I behave in such circumstances. Slag off the French, the Finnish, the Peruvians all you want, but if non-Brits start taking the michael out of this place I begin to morph into a little Englander, and start coming out with stuff like, 'Yeah, well, at least our Empire was bigger than yours!' (Which has my parents putting their heads in their hands in a mixture of shame and dismay)).

Davy said...

Hey Em just wanted to say this is such a cool blog I spent hours catching up today and it's really cheered me up, not least knowin that ur okay and dealin with things in yer own inimatable way (if thats a word that means something appropriate lol)

Its so funny and I'm dead proud of you for bein Crazy Slipper Lady :D

Anyway hope things are good, and never forget what a tawdry, small minded Island you left...for a bigger, not quite as tawdry but probably more small minded Island. Continent. Big bit of burnt up rock :D

Soz hope I'm bein in some way helpful I'll shut up now then -

lotsa English luv n tea

Davy (as in u know, the one who rants alot n wears make up n likes boots n stuff)

duckling said...

I don't think I would ever really settle in either Em. I'm too Anglicised. I'd have to think of it as a fun experience as opposed to My Actual New Life.

I reckon I'd still be carrying around my parents' keys too!!

Anyway just so you know - I have tagged you on my blog - one of those meme things. Soz!!! xxx

Mum'sTheWord said...

Great comments, people.

Sasch, the Australian sim has been making eyes at the British mobile and I think love could soon be on the cards. I have also recently acquired the phone number of the woman next door, so i would at least have one Aussie number to plug in...and I could pad it out with the number for the gym, the dentist and the local garage...not that I have ever visited the gym or the dentist, and we don't have a car.

Sam, I know exactly what you mean about leaping to England's defence in the right circumstances, though sadly not about the shagging her best friend thing, but maybe if the opportunity had presented itself... You cad :)

Davy - the one who rants/wears make-up/likes boots n stuff? Were we separated at birth or what? :)

Char, as you know I appreciate any opportunity to talk about myself so thanks for the meme!