Spotting the Stranger

By Lynn Westenberger

Have you ever been somewhere where people do not speak your native language? And even if you do speak their language, something will always tip them off and they make you as a foreigner straight away. Let me tell you a little trick on how to blend in:

In the last year of my degree, I suddenly noticed that I loved studying too much to let it end this easily. The best way to lengthen that wonderful time was to go study abroad – and that is what I chose. Preferably as far away as possible, and in a country where I spoke the language well enough to follow the classes. That left Australia, or New Zealand. Naturally I chose the sun over the rain, kangaroos over sheep.

Now I find myself in this laid-back, welcoming place to enjoy studying and meeting new people. My units are swell, and I have no problems following the lecturers and tutors. Readings and assignments are just as annoying as back home, but the language is not a problem here either. The only thing that bugs me is that whenever I speak to someone, they ask me where I am from. Honestly! They make me as soon as I open my mouth. Starting to feel like I missed the “secret handshake lesson” in O-Week, I mustered up all my courage and halt the next person crossing my path.

Asking where I am from is his first reaction to my greeting. A resigned sigh escapes me. ‘Germany,’ I state, and ask him how he made me as a foreigner so quickly, ‘Was it my accent, my look or a secret Murdoch ritual?’
‘Nah that’s bulls***, you’d have learned the ritual by now! It’s way more obvious. We simply say Hi or G’day. If you wanna be Aussie, lose the “MOIN”.’