The husband and I were sitting in Bussorah Street devouring a delicious lamb pide and observing the passing crowd. Ladies wandered pass in headscarves, brushing shoulders with backpackers wearing not much at all, who were walking alongside men on their way to the mosque for evening prayers. As the crowd moved along we spotted a couple, and the husband and I looked at each other and simultaneously mouthed ‘Australians’ to each other.
I’m in the process of writing a university assignment centred around national identity and I’ve been struggling to define what Australian national identity is but, somehow, I can usually spot my own countrymen in a crowd with above average accuracy. The only sure-fire identifiers are Southern Cross tattoos or a football jersey (from any code!), and maybe the wearing of rash shirts when swimming but the other clues are less objective. More ‘the vibe’ of the people. Perhaps the way they’re dressed? Or the tan? There’s just something about the way your own people look that makes them stand out amongst a crowd.
I have less success pinning down the nationalities of other people, but I still like to play “Expat Guess Who?” every time a moving van pulls up and starts unloading out the front of our condo.
Shipping container? New arrival to Singapore.
Local movers? Been here a while.
The next step is to try and read the surname scrawled in black marker along the side of each and every box. At the very least this will indicate if they are from Asia (written in characters) or a Western country.
Bicycle with wooden child carrier on the front? Dutch (outside chance of German).
Sleek, pine furniture? Somewhere in Scandanavia.
Tiny bikini bottoms worn at the pool? Brazillian.
Electric voltage transformer boxes? American.
The woman screeching at her children, overwhelmed by the stress of the whole moving everything and everyone to a new country? Australian. Me.
Can you pick your own nationality out in a crowd? What about other nationalities?