Photograph, John Owens.
I came to Australia for love. I was living in Canada and Mark was living in Australia and we met on the Internet. We wanted to have coffee together, so he came to Canada. It was a long way to come and it was very brave of him. I had seen photographs of Mark but when I met him at the airport in Montreal I recognised him from behind, as if I’d known him for a very long time. It was strange.
Initially I came to Melbourne to live with Mark for a few months and then returned to Canada. When I got back I was pleased to see my family and friends but Canada just wasn’t my place any more. I wanted to be in Australia with Mark. Also, soon after I returned to Canada I discovered I was pregnant and it wasn’t easy to be pregnant alone.
It was a big moment when I received my immigration visa. Every day I looked in the mailbox and every day there was nothing. One day, I was drinking coffee with my mum and I received a letter from the Australian Embassy. I was so scared. I opened the letter and started to cry. Mum didn’t know if it was good or bad news because she doesn’t read English. My visa had been granted and all the pressure of the last few months fell away.
I was happy to leave Canada. I waved goodbye to mum. I knew I would see her again one day but I wanted to go to my new life.
I arrived here in August 1999. I am lucky because my husband has a very big family and my welcome was easy and warm. If I need help I know the family are here. Mark has 11 brothers and sisters who are all are married with children. There were 70 people at our wedding and that was just the immediate family.
French is a big part of my culture even though my husband and I speak English together. Mark understands French but he is shy to speak it. Learning French is important for him because it is my first language and it is the language I use to talk to our baby, Dakota Fleur. English is not an emotional language for me. I can’t cry in English. I can say ‘I’m sad’; I can say, ‘I will cry soon’; but I need to say a few words in French before I can cry.
To give birth in English was a big experience. The midwife didn’t speak French and I felt a bit isolated. After the birth I just couldn’t think in English. I was tired and I felt alien. I now have a few French friends and it is a holiday for my brain. I didn’t know I would miss speaking French so much.
Sometimes I have problems understanding the Australian accent but I can’t tell people they have a strong accent because they would say, ‘what about yours?’ Sometimes I have no idea what people are talking about. However, I have been given many things for free because people say I have such a sexy French accent. I recently got a baby seat for the car because the sales person liked my accent. It works with men but not with women.
The Australian culture of “she’ll be right, mate” is different from Canada. I like it but sometimes I think, “Can’t we do something now?”
I can recognise an Australian by the way they dress. They are just more casual. Clothes here are clean and comfortable. Most of the time Australians wear track pants and boots. It has to be comfy. If it’s old, it doesn’t matter. If the colours don’t match, it doesn’t matter. The first time I saw slippers on the street I couldn’t believe it. You’re wearing a dress with slippers!
My husband, my daughter and I live in Clayton South with my parents-in-law. We are not far from the sea and not far from the mountains. There are many different cultures and I enjoy that. My dream is to live in a place next to the water but when I discovered the prices of these houses I decided to wait. We live 15 minutes from the sea so I’m happy. But do I really need to like Vegemite to be an Australian?
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