Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dude, you're being very Un-Australian

Australians have a reputation for being really nice and laid-back -- this is a country where people with money walk around barefoot, including in restaurants and shopping malls. 

Of course, most Americans are quite nice. As are most Canadians, Britons, Italians, and the rest of the world's population. In my 30+ years I've found that people are generally not assholes. I know this. Aussies are just your average mostly-nice-but-sometimes-not people. But I still stereotype them as a super-friendly subset of the human race.

A while back I was waiting to board a Virgin Australia flight to Sydney from Melbourne. This flight has never gone well for me: delays and cancellations are the norm. On this particular occasion, they had started the boarding and were literally bumping people from the flight as their boarding passes were scanned. I was one of the unlucky ones and was asked to queue up at the counter to await my fate.

A particularly agitated gentlemen was a few spots in front of me and didn't like what the Virgin rep was telling him. He started getting angry and then went into a full-blown tirade. As the guy dropped f-bombs left, right, and center on the hapless rep, I thought "Dude, you're being very un-Australian."

This perspective has only sharpened now that Sharon and I own a car and drive around on a regular basis. The drivers in Sydney are, simply put, aggressive. Slow down for a second to get your bearings? You'll get a horn blast from the car behind you. Don't jump at the green light quickly enough? Horn.

I expect this behavior in New York, where drivers think the horn is the most amazing invention ever, but I thought things would be mellower here. I want to put an LED sign on the back of the car that we can switch on when this happens saying "You're being un-Australian." Might as well fight to get people to uphold their country's reputation.

On the whole, however, we've met so many wonderfully kind people here. In particular I remember one waitress at a restaurant who, whenever we said thanks for something, such as refilling our water or delivering our food, responded with a heartfelt "You're most welcome" in her lovely Aussie accent. I'll remember that long after the blaring of the horns fades from memory.


  1. Adam,

    Ticos, as the Costa Ricans call themselves, outside the Central Valley, really are some of the most polite people on the planet. Almost to a fault. If you are a smart expat here you sometimes have to really restrain yourself not to fall into the norm of the U.S., which is to get worked up and use a loud voice to express your displeasure. If you do, you will scare them off, no kidding. More than one gringo has lost hired help that way. I can't ever recall an outburst like that from a gringo.

  2. In my recent trip to Australia ,the Aussies lived up to their reputation.