11. To Trip without Falling

To Trip Without Falling - What I learnt while living abroad...

As an expatriate....
You are both newly born, strong, invisible, and vulnerable, in an unfamiliar culture. Mercifully, by not knowing the rules, one can almost disappear, in both public and interpersonal space.

You have the necessary solitude, and the outside stimulus and variety, to change, grow and develop, to broaden your entire range as an artist, and to achieve marvellous new bodies of work. But you are in what Cixous refers to a state of being 'entredeux';

"at times we are thrown into strangeness…Wars cause entredeux in the histories of countries. But the worst war is the war where the enemy is on the inside; where the enemy is the person I love the most in the world, myself."
Helene Cixous, Rootprints pp 10

Cixous goes on to explain that where the strangeness and sense of being 'at war' comes from is not from the violent disruption, not from the displacement, but from the passage between the one and the other, -de l'une à l'autre. The state of expatriotism is one of continual 'passage' between be-longing and not be-longing; between being Away and being Home, between foreignness, and familiarity.

You are "Less Than..." What is taboo, what is not explored often, or honestly, is the unfairness and injustice of the treatment of emigrés in the host country. At almost every level you are assigned a strange, differential citizenship - Your 'immersion' is never total. No matter that you vote, pay tax, give birth, die, marry, or lose your accent.

In my case numerous permanent full time job opportunities were withheld because of assumptions about me as an Australian woman: It is thought we're too restless, too casual, too 'questing' (the more destination stickers on our backpacks the better)...We work too hard and too well, which is not fair on the local competition; and, most perniciously, we always return eventually to Australia!

On the other hand, amongst my beloved friends in London there was a positive enthusiasm for difference - and an immense tolerance of and openess to the foreign. I won't extrapolate from this; the social culture of this central, (and centralizing) mega-Polis, differs from the rest of England - so I don't assume my experiences are representative.


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