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Saturday, 30 June 2007

Living and working in Oz - Page 5

Written by Megan Manni
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By most people’s standards, I had made it. I had a good job - glamorous even to some - great benefits and off-the-chart raises every year. By no means was I rich, but I paid all my bills and made it work. I had my own apartment in New York City, my life all planned out according to subway line, volunteer work, and a vibrant social life. I was living in the largest and arguably the most exciting city in the world, but something was still missing.

australiaMost of the country in fact is arid desert, and Australia is considered the driest continent on earth. Eighty-five percent of its residents live along the coasts, and I was warned never to go into the outback alone or try to drive cross-country, as it would be a deadly endeavor. One could travel hundreds of miles without seeing a single soul, and indeed some of the roads are so straight and flat that drivers are in danger of spacing out. The country also has dozens of the most lethal species on earth. Perhaps Australians have such reverence for nature because it can be so dangerous.australia

As much as they worship the outdoors and beaches, Aussies are also conscious about the sun and how dangerous it is. The sun is much stronger in Australia due to the hovering ozone hole, and the skin cancer rate is an alarming 1 in 4. For the last twenty years Australians have been vigilant about their skin protection, because they’ve routinely topped the list of the highest risk in the world. I noticed canopies and overhangs over all shops and outdoor areas, sometimes all along the length of major streets downtown. I also was burned very early on, even after what I thought was a thorough swathing of myself in SPF 30. The one small part I missed was purple and painful at the end of the afternoon, and when the peeling ended the skin stayed darker than the rest of me for the next several months.

In my opinion Australian culture is a perfect cross between American and British. Australia is a constitutional monarchy, albeit an independent one from its parent monarchy, but they also have a similar history to Americans of rebellion due to how the original settlers had been treated by the British government. The government in Australia is also a blend of British, Canadian, and American structure, whereby a Parliament exists but within it so does a Senate and a House of Representatives. Aussie culture incorporates much of British slang and vocabulary, but like America is a relatively new country having been made official in 1901. It feels much bigger than Britain where cars and streets seem like miniature models; Australia’s streets and layout feel much more open, airy and spread out. In fact, Australia itself is three quarters the size of America in land mass.

australiaThe best thing about Australia was that everyone is chilled out, everything is cool with them, and “no worries” is not just a catch phrase, it might as well be the national anthem. All societies have their problems, but I never saw anyone fussing or cross with someone else; people were friendly and gracious. Aussies are so friendly that you can chat with a waiter, a store clerk, a bus driver or fellow passenger for ten minutes, and then say goodbye and be on your way. To me it was encouraging that such a life exists, because this is what life should be; about being fulfilled and happy and experiencing the world, and not about getting ahead and worrying about nitpicky things.

Australians are extremely used to "backpackers" like myself, and everyone was very understanding, accommodating, and interested in my travels and how I was enjoying their great country that they refreshingly took so much pride in. The pride boomed through bars when Men at Work’s “Land Down Under” began playing, and every native patron sang the words loud and proud to each traveler’s amusement. Another of their favorites is Gangajang’s Sounds of Then (This is Australia), which describes things like the magnificent lightning storms and the nighttime heat.

australiaI felt like I was living a million miles from the U.S. The wilderness, Australians’ respect for nature and the environment, their relaxed and fun-loving personality, and the stunning scenery make Australia an amazing and fascinating place to call home. It may sound like utopia, but it is truly no exaggeration. It’s not nicknamed “Oz” for nothing.

©Megan Manni

 

Check out the aussie dictionary on the next page!

 

(Page 5 of 6)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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