It was always going to happen, but it was much quicker than I expected; after only a few short months in Melbourne, I started to notice that my eldest son (then aged 3) was starting to sound different. His cute little cockney accent (he was born in London) was starting to sound distinctly Aussie. It was a sure sign that he was adapting to his new home. Which is great! But I wasn’t ready for it just yet. We were still new here, we might not even stay!
It’s one of the questions family and friends often ask on the phone; “have the kids got an Aussie accent yet?” And me, in denial, I would say no; but I knew I was lying. Then a few weeks ago, I couldn’t lie anymore. I was on the phone to one of my oldest friends. She has known my son since he was born, so when he asked to say hello I thought nothing of handing him the phone for a quick chat. But when he returned the phone to me she came right out with it: “Oh my God, he’s Australian” she said. “He sounds so different”. And just like that, the game was up.
I was struck by the surprise, almost sadness, in her voice. She didn’t recognize him. And right there and then it dawned on me that my kids are Australian now. Of course, it’s not just the sound of their voices that will make them Australian, but it will be one of the first things that identifies them as such. If any proof were needed that kids are adaptable, moving to another country shows just how quickly they learn and adjust to their surroundings.
Coming to Australia it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it will be just like home, with better weather. But, of course, it’s not; it’s a foreign country with its own culture, customs, and language. And if any proof of that were needed, pay attention to your kids. Within a few weeks of getting off the plane, they’ll most likely be walking the walk and talking the talk Australian style.
I’m not complaining. It’s great. It tells me that they’re settling in, and they’re happy. But I would be kidding myself if I didn’t admit to feeling slightly sad that they won’t grow up with my Scottish culture (a tiny wee bit of tartan!) in their veins. Classic “grass is greener” syndrome! Really, I think what I miss for them is the connection to my roots. When my dad was alive we all rolled our eyes when he started reminiscing (most memorably over Christmas dinner), recounting the old times, and my mum would groan at the prospect of yet another “history lesson”. Ironically, I would give anything to hear those stories again. And for my sons to experience them, but more importantly to understand them. I’m determined that they will know Scotland, but in reality they will see its customs and culture through visitors’ eyes.
But for any sadness I feel, I’m excited for the life they will live here. Yes, they’ll barrack for a footy team, the Glasgow Patter will be like a foreign language to them, they’ll eat lollies not sweets, Christmas will be in summer, and I will forever nag them to wear their shoes despite their preference for going barefoot with their peers. They will probably even cheer for Australia in the Olympics – not sure if I’m ready for that just yet! The truth is Australia is a great place for kids to grow up. Every time I see them running around on the beach without a care in the world I know that we are lucky to be here. They will grow up with experiences that I would have dreamed of as a child. It’ll be up to me to keep a wee Scottish flame alive within them, but ultimately I know that they’re in the right place – accent or no accent.
Thank you so much to this weeks X-Pat Files guest blogger Samantha Norman.
Samantha Norman is a mum of 2 boys (ages 2 & 4), originally from Glasgow. Her boys were born in London and last year Samantha’s family packed up their London life and moved to Melbourne where her husband originates from. They are making the most of life Down Under.