I’ve said it before on Facebook and I’ve spoken about it with my friends: I never felt like I belonged in Australia.
Before I go any further, let me just stress something very important. There is a major difference between, ‘belonging’ and ‘fitting in.’
‘Fitting in’ is when a person examines a situation and decides to change who they are in order to be accepted by the group. ‘Belonging,’ on the other hand, doesn’t require a person to change who they are; they are able to be themselves, 100%.
In other words, what I’m saying here is that I never felt as though I could be myself in Australia. I am yet to figure out exactly why (mainly because I haven’t thought about it in depth), but I’m sure I’ll write a follow-up post to this one when I have.
Many people say that it doesn’t matter how long you have lived in Japan, you will always be an outsider, even if you speak the language. I read one argument that despite living in Japan for most of his life, one foreigner was told, “You will never fully understand Japanese culture.” As a result, he was highly offended.
My response to this: well of course not! You’re not Japanese! You always have a deeper understanding of a culture if you were born and raised in it. But the same could be said for any country where you’re a foreigner. Japan is not the exception.
Funnily enough, in Hiroshima I feel as though I belong completely. I have never once felt isolated, discriminated against or not accepted because I wasn’t Japanese. That doesn’t mean that I understand Japanese culture though, but I am trying my best.
Here in Japan, I am completely myself, which shows that living in a country where I was born and am considered to be a citizen of, does not necessarily equate to a feeling of belonging. In fact, for me, Australia leaves a lot to be desired.
I also now consider Hiroshima to be my home, rather than my ‘home.’ When did this change? When I realized that my answer to the question, “When are you coming home?” was, “Hiroshima IS my home.” I knew my restless spirit had finally been calmed when I hadn’t once had the urge to travel or move somewhere new in over a year. In essence, my soul had found peace. Ironically, in the “City of Peace.”
Maybe it’s nothing to do with a place, but the people you make connections with, the people who you feel most comfortable around and the people who accept you for who you really are, not who you’ve been pretending to be.
Now I belong.