Where’s home for you?
Welcome to Britalian, a podcast where I try and decide what home is. Home. This is one of the most frequent questions I am asked when I meet people for the first time.
The answer is not easy. Are you asking me where I am from? Or rather where I live? For a couple of years I was living in Glasgow and dating my boyfriend in Manchester, and I realised I had three homes: my wee flat in Scotland, my weekend flat in the North West of England, and my family home in Italy. It just came natural to consider all of these home, a place where I feel comfortable, where I feel I belong. Home is where I feel looked after and cared for. Where I feel I have a reason to stay.
Last time I was asked: “where’s home for you?”, I replied “Manchester”, the answer was: “no, your actual home”. What does “actual” mean? I am going nowhere from here.
A question that often follows is “how did you end up in Britain”, and not say, in a country less obsessed with its once-glorious past? The short answer would explain the reasons why I moved. The long answer would explain the reasons why I stayed.
I have moved around so many times in the past few years, it wouldn’t take long for me to pack and start all over again. I used to think you needed a reason to stay in a place. Now I realise you can stay with no reason at all, just because you have no better reasons to move away.
So the question is not about whether I want to stay or not, but how I want to stay, how much of the Britishness to embrace, to make mine, how much I should change to become Britalian. And how much I contribute to Britain-especially now that I have finally been granted Settled Status, and, Home Office willing, I am allowed to carry on with my life as before, and I will be able to apply for citizenship in one year time.
What is citizenship then? Do you earn it? If you earn it, do you deserve it? And if you deserve it, is it conditional and can it be taken away from you any time, as soon as you don’t deserve it anymore?
If you want to belong to a place, do you need to blend into the local culture, or can you just learn the language and few manners? Do you need to know all the history, or can you just support your local football team? Do you need to desert your own country, or can you split your affection like in a ill-managed love affair?
What about national identity? What makes an identity, first of all? Can I feel (or be) British if I wish, or is British something you are born or educated into? is it language, food, shared stories and beliefs? Is it something that takes longer than a cycle of study to soak up? Can I just watch Corrie and feel British? And can I host multiple identities, layered up like a trifle? How many national identities will I be able to accomodate within me?
In the answers to these questions lies integration, and I guess a whole life time won’t be enough to answer, let alone a podcast, or a citizenship test, for that matters. Anyway, what will follow in the next few weeks is my personal search for a new identity, a special personal blend, a Britalian.
Next time: accent.