It's funny how context changes things. I met a woman, an old posh woman, who lives in the Norfolk countryside. She talked about how 'foreign' London seemed to her. We were in the Hackney area - Clapton really.

When I said, "well you know being Australian..." She asked, "Are you Australian? [I speak with an obvious Australian accent] I thought you were Greek or Turkish." I answered, "That must be my cockney accent.".

In Australia, in Melbourne, I would have registered the comment as an insult. In Australia that would have been an 'us and them' comment. You are not us - anglo-celtic - but them - 'dagos'. It is usually also synonymous with - you are ugly, hairy, dark...

But it didn't feel like that. I didn't feel like she was trying to insult me. We were in an area with a strong Turkish community. I assumed she had simply taken in the context and understood me through it.

Later, though, she was describing someone as 'Australian as you like'. I nodded pretending I understood. But maybe I didn't. What did she mean by that? What stereotype of Australian-ness did this other person have which I failed to have? In retrospect I feel angry - pigeon-holed, tagged and typed. But at the time she seemed nice, well-mannered if naive.

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