I am American. That much is clear. But despite what my accent suggests, I am not only American. I was born in Australia and while I only lived there for two years, it’s an important piece of who I am. My dad has an accent, the entire paternal side of my family—and now my brother—lives there, and a large majority of my vacations as a child included a fourteen-hour plane ride across the Pacific Ocean.
When I was a child, I found joy in telling everyone this “fun-fact” about myself. I thought I was smart with my riddle question “how can you be born in the summer but have your birthday in the winter?” (I promise that this was a stumper in the second grade). I got to show off my dad’s accent to all of my friends. Once I got a little older I stopped sharing this fact with people. It started to feel like I was bragging about my dual-citizenship, about how much I travel, or about my uniqueness. It felt like an unnecessary and extraneous detail. What did it matter where I was born or that my family lived on the other side of the world? It didn’t make me special. I looked, sounded, and acted like any other American. I didn’t have any real claim on being Australian because I never really lived there and I didn’t even have an accent. Besides, Australia felt so similar to the United States that I often felt that even if I did have a claim it still wasn’t important—it didn’t make me special or unique. It didn’t give me culture.
Since moving away from my hometown, the frequency with which I reveal that I am half Australian has increased. It isn’t because I’m trying to brag or trying to one up others in individuality. It’s because I can’t avoid it. It’s because it’s who I am. My pre-teen/teenage self was incorrect about a lot of things and these misconceptions about not having a claim on being Australian or not having any culture are one of them. Everyone has culture, and everyone has a claim on being from somewhere.
I am Australian, and that’s an important key to explaining why I am who I am. I love to travel and love airplanes, most likely because I did it so much as a child. My pronunciation of ‘pasta’ is a little strange and occasionally I let a ‘serviette’, ‘cutlery’ or ‘heaps’ slip. I listened to The Wiggles when they only had cassette tapes and as a life long owner of Ugg boots, I know that they were never really supposed to be worn outside. I know that ‘tire’ can be spelt ‘tyre’, have two passports, and frequently shorten people’s names to a single syllable. My dry and ironic sense of humor is one hundred percent Australian and I know what an akubra is and have tried to steal my dad’s multiple times. Vegemite and Milo have always been staples of my diet and Tim Tams and Barbecue Shapes are my favorite indulgences. These small facts about me make up my culture. They mean I have a culture and they make up me. Despite the fact that I say “tomato” and they say “tom-ah-to”, I am Australian. And that matters.