I have had the most wonderful time in Australia following the Ashes tour around and across the continent. I’ve met so many kind and hospitable people (Aussie and English) that it refreshes your faith in human kindness – I’ve met a very small number of less than pleasant people (Aussie and English) that reaffirms the fact that we’re the same the world over.
It’s been my first visit Down Under and I can assure my Aussie readers that this has just been an exploratory expedition- so I’ll be back!
Each city has its own characteristics and charm (yes even parts of Perth!) so it would be unfair to pick a favourite which people I talk to are asking me but what has struck me the most across the whole country is the carefree but not careless approach to life in general and the ‘can do’ attitude; after all as one Aussie told me ‘we’re such a b****y long way from anywhere that we needed and need to stand on our own two feet and if you need something, you make it yourself’
Away from the cricket I’ve been able to spend time with rellies and their friends. I know it’s a cliche but there’s a true local community feel in their neighbourhood and the things they do for each other are truly in the style of Neighbours (which no self respecting Aussie watches or admits to watching) and beyond most (not all) of the neighbourhoods elsewhere. With a little love and understanding neighbours become true friends (I hope so as I’m hoping one of them can get me a decent ticket for an Adelaide test sometime!). It’s lovely!
Another thing which has impressed me is the embedded approach to hard work and getting things done – I suppose you have to as the place is so huge but what astounded me was walking round a downtown supermarket at 7pm on a Sunday evening (I know I need to get out more) to find it awash with people and fully staffed; as busy as my local Sainsbury’s in the run up to Christmas! Ok it’s a large supermarket in a large city but would London have the same? Do the British have the same work ethic? I suspect we do but the Daily Mail would have us believe otherwise (I’m told) but then they need to sell newspapers!
Now, whether the community feel and late night/hard work ethic extends to the country and outback – well, perhaps that’s for next time.
Incidentally there are three types of people in Australia – urbanites, those who live in the country (as opposed to anywhere which is not in a town/city) and those in the outback – that’s where it’s least a 90 minute drive each way to the local supermarket!
The Beer – as I’ve blogged before, all the beer in all the states tasted the same whereas in the UK we do have a range of flavours. Perhaps I’ve been trying the wrong stuff? As for the wine – excellent! Reds v good, bubbles nice, whites I need to practice!
What has struck me about the cities I’ve visited is how clean they all are. Litter does not seem to be a problem or issue; bins at regular intervals but also state/city employees keeping the place clean – the same extends to public transport. This is not necessarily the same in the UK?
One aspect which is the same is the level of poverty and homelessness I’ve come across. There doesn’t seem to be the same level of social security support or I may have missed it. Essentially in Australia it’s your responsibility to look after yourself, take responsibility for your own safety and if you’re silly enough to do something stupid then you sort yourself out and don’t expect the state or anyone else to get you out of trouble…or is that being harsh on the UK?
Everywhere I went the locals were extremely polite and respectful, addressing me as ‘sir’ when asking a question etc. Makes a great change from ‘Oi you!’ but everyone is so patient spending what seems like hours at traffic light pedestrian crossings waiting for the lights to change even if there is no vehicle in sight to the horizon and no one jay walks (or not if the police are about). Everything seems to be nicely ordered and organised. But the man hours wasted waiting to cross the road is criminal and would do my head in on a permanent basis!
Everyone is so glad to see/meet you – after all you’ve gone a b****y long way to get there – and the numbers who have either been to England (and it seems like the whole population) or plan to come over for an Ashes tour and go to every test just like I’ve been lucky enough to do, means I need to get my application for tests in England in as soon as they are available!
And despite what I thought was a national disgrace in only putting one piece of fruit in a muffin (seemed to be the same everywhere) I did find a restaurant serving properly filled muffins but you have to search!
So overall it’s a great place to visit, work on the basis that the locals are barking mad but kind and gen up on some local phrases to help you get by – for example
*It’s surprising what you see when you don’t have a shotgun
*He/She’s so thick he/she wouldn’t know her a**e was on fire until the fire truck turned up
*May your chickens turn into ostriches and peck your s***house down
I’ll leave you to work out what they mean or when to use them!