It’s been exactly a month since I arrived in Australia and ditched the script of my everyday life. I’ve adjusted quite well and feel like I’ve always been here (much to my surprise). I didn’t experience any culture shock or feel unwelcome either. Suffice it to say that I feel right at home and don’t want to leave anytime soon.
During the past month, I have written quite a bit about the natural beauty of Australia and tried to capture it for you. However, what makes a place worth living is not just its location but its people as well. So I thought I should write one about the people who make Australia beautiful. Here are almost a dozen fun things I learnt about them up till now.
Disclaimer: These are in no way generalizations. Just some things and behaviours that I noticed. You can not put a continent worth of people into one box. Take it easy and enjoy!
1. Aussies really have the manners thing down
That is the first thing I noticed within the first week of arriving in Australia. There is an overall friendly and happy go lucky vibe going around. You get asked “Hey, hows it going mate” by random people walking on the streets. On my first day trip to Austinmer, Wollongong, I took a lot of photos and if there were people passing by they wouldn’t try to rush ahead quickly or take a detour and walk behind you. They would stop, ask you how the photo came along and then move on. It’s a small thing but it shows courtesy and consideration.
In another instance, we were hiking in the Burleigh National Park in Gold Coast and there was a school trip of around 40-50 kids. Each and every one of them said Hello, Good Morning to us like it was mandatory. One kid even came back to correct himself and said sorry it’s past noon now so Good Afternoon. If they’re teaching their kids to be nice in the schools I’d say they’re doing this world a great service.
Also, it translates into great customer service everywhere you go!
2. Early to bed, early to rise
Coming from a country where life starts after 7 pm, this was peculiar for me. Even in Sydney which is a big happening city, most of the businesses close by 6 pm. The roads go quiet and you can hardly see any people on the streets. It is one of the reasons why I have adjusted well here because my battery goes out by 8 pm max. In the morning, the roads become alive before the crack of dawn. Living on the 7th floor by a highway, the fast moving swoosh of the cars has become my alarm clock. It helps me wake up, start the day early, and keep my morning person badge.
3. Who needs shoes?
Ah, Aussies. Simply plain folks. They have really embraced the close-to-nature borderline hippie lifestyle in some parts of Australia. I witnessed this phenomenon in Gold Coast. They don’t care much for wearing shoes there be it malls, grocery stores or cafes (mostly in the areas closer to the beach). Everywhere you can see people walking barefoot. I don’t know if it’s because of the going casual/minimal thing or the connecting to the Earth thing but it certainly, adds to their persona. The best part? No one cares, no one gawks. Plus, you save a fortune usually spent on buying shoes all your life.
4. Aussies love the word “Warehouse”
Want to open a business in Australia? Insert the word warehouse with whatever you’re selling and you’re good to go. Bunnings Warehouse, Chemist Warehouse, Nutrition Warehouse, Book Warehouse are only some of the examples I can remember. Who needs frivolous business names anyway? The simpler the better.
5. Kangaroos vs Wallabies
No discussion about Australia is complete without a mention of Kangaroos. But do we know them when we see them? I have been an ignorant fool all my life. Not every upright hopping creature you see is a kangaroo. I learnt that after I visited the Toranga Zoo and confused them quite a few times on face to face encounters. One of the more obvious identifiers is the height. Kangaroos are taller with longer legs designed to give them speed. Wallabies are shorter and in my short experience furrier, usually found in forests. You can read the detailed identifiers here. Try guessing if it’s a kangaroo or wallaby.
6. Love Thy Environment
This is what I looove about Aussies. They care deeply about their environment and do not take it for granted. They have a whole continent full of nature but they work to preserve each and every bit of the ecosystem. There are rules, laws and road signs reminding you, again and again, to be vigilant in this regard. Not to mention the boat loads of research they’ve done to actually make the environment work in their favour. You turn on the radio and there is at least one channel that is discussing some sort of environmental issue. And it all pays them back beautifully; clean, fresh air to breathe and heavenly scenes to behold. Nature is kind that way.
7. If it’s Aussie made, flaunt it
Businesses take pride in being Australian. Pick up any local product and it says something like Australian made with Australian grown ingredients in bold lettering. This goes to show that the average consumer prefers and supports the locally made products instead of imported ones. Must do wonders for the economy. Something we can learn and implement back home in Pakistan.
8. The next Melting Pot
From what I’ve experienced or the places I’ve visited, Australia is turning out to be an epitome of multiculturism. Sydney, especially, is loaded with cultural diversity. You can spot more Asians, Indians and Arabs in the city than Australians themselves (not to say that the immigrants are not Australians). Apart from business and trade, one of the major reasons for this diversity is the fact that Sydney has some of the world’s most prestigious top ranked universities. Students from all around the globe have found their academic homes here. For me, it adds so much more beauty and flavour to the city and leaves so much more to be experienced.
9. Fast and Furious
Quite a bunch of Aussies like their cars and bikes loud. You know the turbo charger thing that feels like the Divine Trumpet has been sounded? More often than not you’d spot a biker boy dressed in full gear and helmet flying on the road. Gives me major Pindi Boy flashbacks. It feels like I never left home. Of course, back home we just like to remove the silencers of CD 70s and fancy ourselves riding Harley Davidsons.
10. Country Music
Country music seems like the go-to feel good genre for Aussies. If you’re visiting a cafe, mall, grocery store or just tuning into the radio in your car, you’re sure to catch some country music playing. I have to say it certainly adds to the mellow, happy go lucky vibe that goes all around.
11. Let’s talk Dogs
This isn’t something new that I learnt but the experience was definitely new and slightly unnerving. People walk their dogs around in public places like we walk our kids around back home. While I love dogs and think that they are adorable little things, I am yet to learn how to get close to them without experiencing half death.
Thank God for me most of the people (at least in the cities) I’ve seen walking their dogs around own smaller, fluffier breeds. I’ve heard that it has something to do with the slant towards minimal lifestyle (the smaller the dog the less space it occupies) but I’m not sure. I’m proud to say that I’ve progressed from freaking out to just flinching a little when that happens.
That’s where my knowledge of dogs ends along with this list. I’ll make sure that I observe more and share more with you guys soon. Until then I’ll try to get more used to people walking their dogs past me and not having a mini heart attack every time.
Poodles. (See what I did there?)