competition for a creative piece on 'What cultural diversity means to me'. I won and received a $150 gift voucher. Thanks work!
As a blonde haired, blue eyed ‘white’ Australian with parents, grandparents and all-but-one great grandparent born in Australia, sometimes I feel culturally neutral. Culturally invisible.
As a product of the short history of colonised Australia, I have no Australian national dress to wear on Harmony Day. My eleven sixteenths English, quarter Irish and one sixteenth Scottish heritage is too far back for me to feel much connection to the motherland.
Our vaguely British family traditions sit uncomfortably here in the antipodes. The hot roast lunch on Christmas day no matter how sweltering it is outside; singing Christmas Carols about White Christmas when the closest we’ve come to that is the time it hailed on Christmas Day.
Being an Australian with Anglo-Celtic heritage feels a bit, well, boring.
But my culture is not neutral, nor is it invisible.
All it took was a few stints living overseas for my culture to reveal itself to me. Not the forced jingoistic masculine Australian identity some of our leaders want Australian culture to be. It's more subtle than that.
Living in London at 21, I saw distinct class differences around me in the way people spoke, the way they dressed, the lives they led. I realised while my culture is not classless, we are not as limited by class distinctions as the British.
In the United Kingdom I learnt about the land my ancestors migrated from - the green rolling hills, the pubs as second homes, the dark wit of the British, and took that home with me.
Living in Samoa at 27, I saw how a communal-based culture lives, with its hierarchies and strong family and community networks. I realised that my culture is an assertive and individual one, which values privacy and, in cities, anonymity.
In Samoa I learnt to love my lack of anonymity, where everyone would say hello on the street and knew the intricacies of each other's lives. I took home with me a great respect for the Samoan culture, a more patient attitude, and the memories of fresh fish and coconuts, the bluest beaches I've ever seen, and a pang of homesickness for Samoa whenever I hear the distinct Samoan laughter.
Living in Japan at 29, I saw what it's like to live as an outsider within a monoculture, with room for other cultures in only tokenistic ways. I felt the horror of being suddenly illiterate, lacking a good understanding of the local language and culture. A giant blonde haired, blue eyed Godzilla, with no hope of fitting in to Japanese clothes or Japanese culture. I realised that my culture allows for a multiplicity of cultures and cultural influences, and I am grateful for it.
In Japan I learnt about the social harmony that comes from a society that works together seamlessly for the trains to run on time, for everyone to be polite and to think of others first. I took home with me a more polite attitude and an understanding of the barriers faced by those new to our culture.
The cultures I have lived within and learnt from have shaped me as a person.
Back home in Melbourne, I am influenced by our multicultural society every day. The food I eat, the friends I interact with, the hobbies and interests I undertake.
My culture is not boring. My culture is not neutral. My culture is a proud amalgamation of all the cultures that have influenced me.
It is visible within me.