There are so many things to fall in love with when it comes to Australia. The landscape is stunning, the weather is beautiful, the people are heaps of fun, ocean is everywhere, food is diverse and delicious and there are always things to do. I love Australia for all of these reasons but I’ve fallen in love with Australia because Australians truly mean it when they say “no worries” in a way that any American, bustling New Yorker or easygoing Coloradan or fun loving Floridian, can ever mean it. Being laid back is an integral component of the culture here and they do it effortlessly, naturally. You see it in their city policy, in the lack of restrictions, in the work culture and the play culture, in language and dress. It’s everywhere and it’s humbling. As chill and I’d like to be, I will never reach the level of ultimate chill-ness of the Aussies.
They curse a lot in Australia. C*nt is a term of endearment here and don’t be surprised if every other sentence is sprinkled with one or two F bombs. No worries mate. They also live to ‘take a piss’ out of each other. People here know a joke when they see one, and will take a piss out of you right back. It takes a lot to truly offend an Aussie simply because they don’t take things personally the way most people do back home. With my sarcasm and banter I’ve fit right in.
Australians work but they don’t work from home and they don’t work late unless they’re like investment bankers. If they can, they work during their work hours and actually go home, mentally and physically at 5 pm. They don’t have internships here either. Students are expected to go to school and maybe have a part time job, but they aren’t expected to viciously compete with one another for an unpaid internship to squeeze into their resume. Australians don’t even like interns because they’re doing the jobs that someone could get paid for doing. With that being said, all of our internships are pretty laid back. I walked into the UNHCR-Australia in slacks, ballet flats and a button down shirt only to find that everyone was wearing jeans and blouses. What a lovely surprise! And it turns out that most of our internships are that way. While there of course are occupations where you have to dress up for work, it’s my understanding that that is more common for big businesses rather than the all around norm. They don’t get background checks and they don’t get fingerprinted for work. Maybe they get drug tested, but probably not. I found out because I have to get fingerprinted for a POTENTIAL INTERNSHIP back at home. I don’t even have the internship for sure and it’s only an internship and I’m abroad but they want me to get fingerprinted. So i called up and here’s how it works: I have to go to a local police station…the closest one is a 40 minute walk away…and hope they don’t have anyone in custody. I can’t get fingerprinted if they have anyone in custody because the fingerprinting machine is by the jail cells (I called four different police stations and it’s the same everywhere). No one except foreigners gets fingerprinted so it just isn’t a priority. I asked a friend who works in the police force about it and he shrugged it off, joking that they all have convict ancestry anyway so why bother. Pretty refreshing, isn’t it?
Australians get a multitude of personal health days, taking a ‘sickie’ isn’t uncommon and they get vacation days. When I was in Europe, a few of the people I met were traveling for three or four months, getting paid for it, and had a job to come home to. They just saved up the month vacation time they had for the last couple of years and used it all in one shot. Commercials advocate taking vacations…my supervisor at the UNHCR didn’t get back to me for a week because she had taken an “extra long weekend” for Australia Day and the head boss lady at Backpackers World Travel keeps making sure that all the floor managers and salespeople get enough vacation time. There’s also that whole “all mondays after national holidays are also considered holidays” thing so that there’s always a built in national hangover day. Fantastic.
The other day we learned about this beautiful and impressive Martin Luther King Jr. graffiti mural painted on the side of a private building in Newtown. The police came to investigate the “disturbance” the girl and her boyfriend who were painting it were causing. In America, you get arrested for graffiti. No if’s, and’s or but’s. In this instance, the artist turned around and she said, “Do I look like a trouble maker to you? I’m a mother and I go to university.” (or something like that..don’t quote me.) And they laughed and let them finish. It’s been there for some 20 or 30 years since. At one point, the company who owned the building wanted to do construction that would destroy the mural. The townspeople protested and signed petitions and so the local government told the company that they couldn’t build. I keep hearing instances where that’s the case – where the government is responsive to the people’s wishes and demands in a way that you would never even expect in the US, or at least not without a real fight. There’s graffiti everywhere, all over Sydney and all over Melbourne if you look in the right places. And the cities let the graffiti culture thrive. It’s still illegal but it’s art. Also tons of people are tatted, have gauges, have dreds, etc., and it’s all cool.
Things here aren’t roped off. There might be danger signs on big rocks and cliffs right on the water but you can go if you want to, no one’s going to stop you. So many places are roped off for our own safety back home. Here, they kind of just trust you to take care of yourself and do the right thing. And you don’t exactly hear of people dying left and right. Also, they round prices. They don’t have pennies and don’t need to count every last one.
I would say the one exception are the newly imposed drinking laws and regulations. With that being said, these regulations come from a total lack of regulation that led to violence. I guess at the end of the day, alcohol combined with a bit of freedom will make a mess anywhere you go though.
I’m hoping that the cool, go with the flow vibes of the Aussie life truly rub off on me by the time I leave. Maybe I’ll come home with more tats, gauges and dreds? I already say no worries but maybe it’ll start coming as naturally as it does for the ultra chill Aussies here. A girl can hope!