The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

THE DISPLACED Q: Does living abroad make you more or less patriotic?

Now then, this IS an interesting question. Very topical, especially for me, as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is still being televised ad infinitum here in Australia. It’s almost like the networks can’t get enough of it. At one point this week it was on three channels simultaneously!

I’m not normally very patriotic — my opinions on the state of England and the UK are…well, let’s just say, that’s why I moved to Australia!

And yet — as I watch the parades, listen to the crowds shrieking, and imagine the atmosphere outside Buckingham Palace, part of me thinks: maybe I should be there? It is my home after all…and whatever else I end up being, I will always be British as well. I can’t imagine giving it up completely — it’s my history, man! And there are still things I do love about the old country. It’s an awfully pretty place, for one thing! It’s not England’s fault it’s being run into the ground by a bunch of idiots.

Mark Twain said:

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

Transferred loyalties

Oddly enough, I sometimes transfer my loyalties to wherever I call home, at least temporarily. It helps me to feel more involved with the local culture when I’m in a place, and I’m the kind of guy who’s more than happy celebrate whatever makes their country great as well.

In Thailand, for the King’s birthday, I kidnapped a gigantic yellow flag and fastened it to the back of my scooter. I saw nothing wrong with committing a minor offense to display my support for their monarch. And neither did the local police — they stopped me to applaud my efforts!

In Australia it goes without saying that I celebrate their national holiday, Australia Day. I do it for two reasons: first, I genuinely love Australia and all it stands for — it’s why I moved here as soon as I could! I really believe in their attitude to government, their national traits and their value system. Australia IS great, and it works. I think that’s quite rare in the world, and deserves recognition.

Oh and the second reason? Well, you celebrate Australia Day by going out in the sunshine, down to the river, and getting drunk. It’s not like it’s much of a hardship to get involved. 😉

But Britain is “great” — isn’t it?

Back to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I hear stirring speeches from celebrities and Royal Family members, and feel…I dunno. Uplifted? Triumphant? It’s hard not to feel a tickle of pride when the eyes of the whole world are on the monarch of my tiny island.

But is it rose-tinted glasses that make me tear just a little, as the cameras zoom in on the Queen smiling at a joke from the commentator? Am I just caught up in the fever of the moment? The rest of England is going crazy for this. It’s hard not to feel just a little infected by it. But what exactly is it that I’m feeling? Mere nostalgia? Fond memories and a touch of homesickness?

As already mentioned, there’s plenty of reason not to feel pride in the country of my birth. There’s also plenty going wrong in England at the moment. The wages are terrible, unemployment is rampant, the economy is in the dumps. In my humble opinion, the UK is falling apart.

But the Jubilee itself was quite stirring, inspiring even, a reminder of all that was Great about Britain, and perhaps could be again.

Then again, I can’t help but remember that the Ancient Romans had the same idea: when the masses are starving in the streets, give them GAMES! A spectacle to take their mind off the hunger, to remind them of what a glorious empire they belong to — give them a taste of grandeur whilst they’re dying in the gutters.

Okay, so that’s a pretty cynical view to take. Hey, I’m here to play the Devil’s Advocate too, right?

So here’s my question to you kind folks: does being displaced — or out of your “home” country for any reason — make you feel MORE or LESS patriotic? And why is that?

Tell me what you think in the comments, or feel free to hit me up on Twitter at @TonyJamesSlater.

STAY TUNED for our next post, which will be on Monday.

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Image: MorgueFile


13 responses to “THE DISPLACED Q: Does living abroad make you more or less patriotic?

  1. Deri June 7, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    I spent my time in Canada from age 4 to 23, then to the UK until age 60, now in Turkey. So 19 years in Canada, 44 years out. And I wasn’t even born there. But, I am a Canadian! Fiercely proud of a country that has changed beyond my knowing. It’s the place I get homesick twinges for, nowhere else. It’s the country whose flag pin adorns my coat, and whose flag badge is prominent on my now seldom-used backpack. I fly that flag on 1st July for a country that I left when it was 106 years old and is now 145. It’s where my family is. And it’s where I want to spend more time before my days end. I get vicarious thrills when Canadian teams win, when Canada shows off Olympic hospitality and prowess, when Canada’s countryside is documented on TV or magazines, when Canada’s soldiers win international respect. It is the country whose accents and languages feature in my dreams (and in my curses!). Canada’s cultural mosaic shaped me and prepared me for life in the world, it gave me an identity. I’m a canuck, eh.

    • Tony James Slater June 7, 2012 at 11:17 pm

      I think Canadians all over the world feel the same! I’ve never been there, but I’ve never met a Canadian who wasn’t fiercely patriotic! I guess there are some countries which inspire it more than others, perhaps those where the government seems more in touch with the wishes of the people? I used to have a trick for distinguishing your fellow citizens (when not carrying their backpacks of course – every last one of them has the flag on there!). If ever in doubt, and faced with an accent from that side of the world, I’d always ask them if they were Canadian. If they were American, they’d just shrug and correct me. If they were Canadian, recognising that fact without being told it usually turned them into life-long friends on the spot! Whereas asking them if they were American first was a good way to get told to f**k off!!
      I have to go there one day. It’s on my list :0)

      • ML Awanohara June 8, 2012 at 10:51 pm

        @Tony @Deri
        It seems to me that Canadians have had to develop a strong national identity — otherwise, they would risk being swallowed up by their big imperial neighbor to the south! Nevertheless, I find Deri’s testimony rather moving as it speaks to the situation many of us long-term travelers find ourselves in. All of us, no matter how displaced, carry some modicum of nationalism in our souls…and a desire to see our homelands again…

  2. Gigi Griffis June 7, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    I can see why Jubilee is making you feel a bit patriotic. I am in Scotland at the moment and the fervor was contagious. I’m feeling very proud to even be in Britain. And like I should go buy clothes with British flags on them…

    As for your question: I was feeling very dissatisfied with America when I left, and I’ve only been gone (to be fair) for a bit over a week so far. But, my feeling before I left was overwhelming negative toward my homeland. I was tired of the politics and the smear campaigns and the inequality. It made me sick that states were passing laws that limited people’s personal freedoms. And I felt overwhelmingly unpatriotic and, quite frankly, depressed about it.

    Being gone, now, I feel…all the more certain that I don’t want to be in America at the moment. However, I don’t feel overwhelmed with it anymore. And so, while I wouldn’t call myself patriotic by any stretch, I will say that I dislike America less when I’m not in it.

    That said, I will be immensely relieved if I can make this working-from-the-road thing work long-term and stay out of my homeland for a long time to come.

    • Tony James Slater June 7, 2012 at 11:26 pm

      Yup – working from the road is the way to go! It’s more freedom than you can use, awesome fun and also lets you pick n’ mix your patriotism! I feel proud of every country I live in – well, most of them – but only occasionally for England. Oddly enough though, I still feel quite proud to be British – all that history behind us, how influential the UK is in spite of its size – but just not proud of where it’s going. Which is down :0)
      America is one place that seems to grow patriots – nothing we did in school ever seemed designed to give us much of a national identity, to make us feel proud of our country. I think that’s one thin they do right over there. Now it’s left to the Queen’s party to make us Brits feel patriotic – and part of me thinks, I’m just mad that I’m missing the party… :0)

      • ML Awanohara June 8, 2012 at 10:55 pm

        I think you make an interesting point about the effects of time (which you haven’t had too much of yet) and distance on one’s patriotic feelings. Absence can certainly make the heart grow fonder! Though I guess in Tony’s case, it’s closer to “out of sight, out of mind” — unless something like the Queen’s Jubilee happens, and Britain is back on the TV and Internet screens again…

  3. Jennifer Avventura June 7, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    For me it makes me feel more patriotic, as I appreciate more what Canada has given me. That being said, I was the first the fly the coop when I was 20 to live in Australia, then England, then Cayman Islands and now Italy. I proudly wear my Canadian colours with pride while living in other nations. Strange, I know! But hey, I’m a serial expat!

    • Tony James Slater June 7, 2012 at 11:30 pm

      I guess it helps to pick one and stick with it! At least that way you know you what to say when people ask you where you’re from – always a tricky one, I’ve found :0)
      And as places to choose as your ‘official’ nationality, you’re lucky to have been born in one of the best – I think Canadians top the all-time most patriotic people awards! At least amongst backpackers and expats, most of whom are where they are because they wanted to get the hell out of the country they were born in…

  4. Cathy Powell June 8, 2012 at 8:38 am

    I’m an Australian who has spent nearly 6 years in Italy. There have been moments when I have felt patriotic, and times when I have felt less, particularly when I decided it was too hard to follow the political situation from this far away, but I’m not that interested anyway. I think also that being more patriotic would probably make me feel more homesick, and unfortunately I won’t be going ‘home’ to live any time soon.

    • Tony James Slater June 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      Well true, but if you still consider Australia as ‘home’, doesn’t that mean you still have a love of the place in your heart? And that constitutes patriotism as much as anything – it’s the best part of it! While I was traveling I still considered England ‘home’, as my parents were there, and I did still keep a weather-eye on what was going on there. Now though, I feel much more at home in Australia, and even consider it to be going home whenever I leave the UK to come back here!

  5. Lisa Sadleir (@FamilyInSpain) June 9, 2012 at 5:18 am

    Great thought provoking article. I, too, am pretty cynical about my country of birth (the United Kingdom) yet I felt compelled to watch some of the Jubilee celebrations, We even adapted our planned charity day to the Jubilee theme and to be honest it did feel special. .. I think we can say that there is a British pride in us that, no matter what we think, will pop up every now and then throughout our lives, however your comment “But is it rose-tinted glasses that make me tear just a little…) is how I really see it.

    • Tony James Slater June 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      Maybe there is a kernel of patriotism buried deep in all of us? We Brits are fairly cynical, sarcastic people, so maybe it’s only on special occasions that we can let that slip and let a little of the national pride shine through?
      It really is hard to know though. Maybe it’s a variable thing – I feel more proud when there’s something particular to be proud of – like the Queen drawing the world’s attention – and less proud the rest of the time… or maybe I’m just fickle?

  6. Peter Korchnak June 11, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    In “Homesickness: An American History,” Susan Matt writes: “This sense of ethnicity and nationalism grew out of homesickness and, in many cases, was able to develop only after immigrants had left their homelands. Among immigrants, a sense of ethnicity and nationalism grew in the fertile soil of memory and longing.”

    My conversations with Central/Eastern European immigrants and my own experience here in Portland, Oregon, confirm this. It’s cultural memes that help foster patriotism, if not nationalism, among transplants:

    – Bulgarian folk dancers have told me that back in Bulgaria, they couldn’t care less about folk dancing and folk music. Here in the US they love it. It connect them to who they are.
    – A Russian-born musician told me the same thing about gypsy punk and klezmer music.
    – I felt miserable trying to blend in, and now that I’m reconnecting with my home country and its culture and meeting more Czech and Slovak expats and transplants (I’m from Slovakia), I’m a lot more positive about my new life stateside.

    Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

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