Adopting local customs

26 04 2014

To me, the purpose of emigrating means adopting, and accepting, the customs local to your new home country. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, there’s not point moving half way around the world to do, or expect, the same old things.

On ANZAC Day this year, I really wanted to go to the Dawn Service. On my own. I had no ex-military husband setting an alarm at the crack of sparrow’s fart. But I felt a strong desire all the same.

Back in the UK, I never really observed Rememberance Day, other than buying a poppy. In the last 12 years, it has been more readily known (to me at least) as the day I started seeing my husband.

You’d think with the military connections in my family, I’d have been first through the church doors on 11 November (or the closest Sunday). My father and uncle were both officers in the Royal Navy, although neither saw active combat.

My grandfather, on the other hand, served in the Merchant Navy during World War II. At his funeral I found out his ship had been torpedoed off the coast of Africa and my grandma didn’t know if he’d survived for several weeks or months (although a psychic told her he was safe – but that’s a whole other story). I’m sure my great grandparents were probably involved in World War I as well.

Then there’s my husband and his father. Both Royal Air Force veterans. Both served in conflict zones.

But I couldn’t tell you why I didn’t really commemorate 11.11.11.

So why did I feel the need to pay my respects on ANZAC Day? I think there are several reasons.

Kiwis (and presumably Aussies too) are fiercely proud of he contribution of their troops during the war. From a country of such a small population, the proportion of men that didn’t return meant the loss felt greater. So there’s a much greater feeling of a need to pay your respects.

It’s a public holiday, which makes the commemoration seem all the more important. The whole country stops to reflect on what members of the armed forces have sacrificed, or put on the line, for the rest of us.

I think this dedication of New Zealanders to pay their respects has made me slightly ashamed of my lack of respect of Rememberance Day in the past. If it weren’t for those men (and women) then who knows how the world would be different.

But I think the biggest factor is that my husband is now serving again as a member of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. On days like ANZAC Day, we’re reminded that people who choose to serve the country could be called away at any time into the jaws of a conflict far from home. That doesn’t threaten our own frontiers, but which impacts those countries we’re allied with.

It’s something I hope never happens to my household. But I guess by paying my respects on ANZAC Day, I’m hoping to get some credits in the bank that might keep that particular wolf from my door.

Lest we forget.