English, I mean Pommie…

Whereas I rarely ponder my ‘Britishness’ at ‘home’, my recent seven week stint in New Zealand made me more aware of the fluidity of my own national identity. From leaving Newcastle on my UK passport to entering NZ on my Kiwi one, I essentially switched ‘nationality’ en route. Yet when completing immigration forms along the way, I classed myself as British and residing in the United Kingdom. Conversely once in NZ, and in more informal settings, I always referred to myself as English and living in Newcastle (although stressing that I was not  ‘from’ Newcastle, which is a whole separate debate…) Whereas when I actually lived in New Zealand, I was more likely to label myself a ‘Pom’  in an effort to be an ‘in-betweener’.

So why did I feel so ‘English’ on this trip?  Perhaps because it was exactly that – a trip, and not a ‘migration’ – or was it that I was so aware of the events at ‘home’? Maybe it was the hype of the Olympics stories emanating from the ‘old country’, or my self-consciousness at being in New Zealand to research their history. Perhaps I felt like an interloper entering with a New Zealand passport, despite being away for nearly five years? Either way, a New Zealander felt able to bemoan the so-called lack of an ‘Anglo-Saxon Protestant work ethic’ in his industry to me, as if I would understand.

On a less philosophical level, whereas my Kiwi friends and I have always gently ribbed each other about our accents, this time my mannerisms were compared to that of Miranda’s (shown on prime time TV on Friday night, straight after Australia’s Kath and Kim…) Indeed maybe as I have got older I have become more English, as evident from this visit when I did something I have not done before. Not only did I specifically buy ‘British’ baked beans, but, gulp, I also ashamedly bought an international version of a British paper.  Yet, despite such relapses, I refused to start watching Corro again, the scheduling of which was, as usual, causing great consternation. (The Saturday double bill was being replaced with Come Dine With Me, so actually I can see their point..)

Despite such ‘Anglo-centricities’ I renewed by NZ passport and, despite spending my last morning in Auckland reminiscing with my north-eastern English friends about the opening of the Metro Centre in the 1980s (?), I then felt bereft at having to leave my other ‘home’. So, am I prone to mis-representing Britishness due to my dual-nationality, or more aware of the ambiguity of national identity due to the path my own research has taken?  Or perhaps more simply, spending time in the ‘Anglo-world’ enabled me to contemplate my own personal version of Britishness.

JK

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