We’ve been in Sydney 9 months now. Nine.Whole.Months. Holy smokes, where did the time go?
As we approach our 1 year anniversary in this wonderful, crazy town, I thought it appropriate to reflect on some of the Australian things I’d now be hard pressed to live without. Stay tuned for a series of blog posts with my top 5. Here’s the first.
Australians have a remarkable tendency to downplay everything. When they say they’re a bit sniffly, they have the flu; when they’re peckish, chances are they havent eaten in 24 hours and if you hear an Aussie say they’re in need of a lie down, it’s probably because they’ve pulled an all nighter at work, gotten caught in a rip while ocean swimming, torn their ACL, narrowly escaped the jaws of a shark or all of the above.
I think this is partly an Australian aversion to complaining (and attention-seeking) and partly that Australians are just plain tougher than most people. Sydneysiders will traipse through their winters in shorts and a T shirt. Now, granted it’s doesn’t get as cold as Boston down here, but with these poorly insulated houses it can get pretty darn brisk in that 5-15C band. They’ll also jump off cliffs, brush off stings from blueys (as long as it’s not a box jellyfish), start running ultra marathons when they’re 45 and wake up at 6am on a Saturday so that they can get in a soft sand run or a bike ride before an 830 brekky.
While it’s fairly standard in New York to answer the “how’s work?” question with an honest assessment (aka whine) about your hours and stress levels, you’ll be hard pressed in Australia to hear anyone say they worked on the weekend (even if they did). Working on the weekend is an admission of failure in Australia. It means you failed to finish your work during the week and you suck at time management or simply that you’re so dull that you couldn’t come up with anything else to occupy yourself (or to talk about) on what should have been a two day holiday.
Let’s translate these real quotes:
1. When asked what he thought of the movie:
Aussie: “Yeah, I didn’t mind it”
Translation: “I thought it was pretty good”
2. When asked if there are crocodiles in the water:
Aussie: “Nah, might see a few freshies though“
Translation: “You won’t see a saltwater croc but there are heaps of freshwater crocs. They’ll only attack if you swim directly over one or disturb it. The chances of that happening are medium to high, but I’m going to go in anyway. “
3. When asked how the morning was:
Aussie: “Yeah good. Am wide awake after bootcamp.“
Translation: “I woke up at 530am and drove to the beach to spend an hour throwing sandbags, squatting with impossible weights and soft sand running with 25 other people before heading home in time to make breakfast for my partner and three children and getting ready for a 45min commute to work.”
The “no dramas” attitude is one of my favourite things about Aussie culture because it’s a constant reminder that a) life in a developed country really isn’t that hard, and b) the world does not, in fact, revolve around you. Your woes are but a tiny drop in the vast ocean of humanity and conversations shouldn’t be about getting attention anyway: so brush it off, suck it up and move on to the next adventure.
Unfortunately, this aspect of Australianism rarely makes it across the Pacific intact. Like a game of telephone, by the time the message reaches the States, the understatedness has usually been reframed as “Australians are laid back”, “they go to work in flip flops” or the all-time favourite “they’re just plain lazy”.
I’ll admit, we’d heard our fair share of Aussie stereotypes when we left New York but it took less than a week in Sydney to have them blown away. Truth be told, Sydneysiders are hardcore. They’re hard core about getting things done, about dressing up, about drinking, about getting up early and staying out late and, above all, they’re hardcore about the outdoors.
Because there isn’t much of a face time culture in Sydney offices and because there’s so little talking about work outside of work, it isn’t much of a leap for an American to conclude that his Australian cousin is a lazy nine-to-fiver just waiting to pull his next sickie and skive off at the beach.
One of my favourite quotes from a colleague in New York: “Well at least you’ll get to kick back. An Aussie girl’s idea of dressing up is throwing on a pair of Uggs”.
She couldn’t have been more wrong. Sydney is one of THE most dressed up cities I’ve been in and it’s probably the only city whose women can look classy wearing sky high heels and body con dresses to brunch. Any and every excuse to dress up is seized by the horns, whether work, travel or the Australian favourite: a day at the races.
While America packs on the pounds and takes comfort from fake articles about photoshopped models and airbrushed actresses, Sydneysiders are working harder than ever (and relying on some lucky genes) to stay fit, healthy and beautiful. A short stroll through the CBD, Bondi, Surry Hills or really any central Sydney neighbourhood is all the motivation you’ll need to get back on that treadmill (or soft sand). Need some inspiration from afar? Check out Uge’s gallery at www.aquabumps.com. Either way, no dramas bro.