Monday, 25 June 2012

Careful Construction

By: Arina 

My baby daughter is British. I am not. 

I was born nearly a third of a century ago in a country that has ceased to exist since then. I acquired my fatherland in 1991, when in the aftermath of a failed Soviet coup, Latvia regained independence. Ten years of carefully constructing my Latvian identity have followed. 

The grass is greener. 
So when I left Latvia for the greener meadows of England, I hoped to come back one day in order to singlehandedly pull the Latvian economy out of the post-Soviet mess. Ten more years have passed, and in contact with reality the dreams of a romantic teenager have withered somewhat. 

During my years spent in the UK, I have learned to hold the swinging doors for strangers, instead of inadvertently slamming them in the face of unsuspecting victims who are used to and thus take the courtesy of fellow human beings for granted. I have also learned to give change directly to shop assistants instead of seeking for a little plate to use as a neutral space in the exchange of coins. 

I got used to the idea that if ever I were to afford a house, it would be a hobbit house with tiny doors and tiny windows and I would always have an uncontrollable urge to stoop before entering it. I no longer fear that the local food will unrelentingly make me go up in dress sizes. And on cold winter days I no longer look with horror at cyclists wearing shorts or mothers taking their babies for a walk without a blanket and with bare feet under never-ending drizzle.

By now I cannot imagine going back to Latvia, where border police never smile, and women in the broad daylight wear skirts so skimpy that Westerners frequently mistake them for sex workers. After the
birth of my daughter I started to feel that London is my home. Yet it still feels so strange to watch Postman Pat with my daughter. It is so quintessentially British. 

~ Written as part of the Strangers in Strange Lands series. Arina describes herself as a mother (translation: waitress, cleaner, transportation device), lecturer (subverter of young minds), theoretical economist (creator of toy worlds), modern art junkie and a traveler.


  1. Bavarian Sojourn25 June 2012 at 11:41

    Interesting stuff! I wonder if every person in a "strange land" feels like this? As more time passes, I also wonder whether I will ever go back to my homeland...

  2. Thanks Emma! 'Homeland' becomes such a complicated word over the years, doesn't it??

  3. I have been in Spain for only three years and England is still 'home' for me... but every time I go back I find it a little changed. A little more not how I left it. I feel a little more foreign.

  4. Once you are foreign for long enough, there's no cure - even return won't fix you.