I was in Australia last weekend for my big brother’s wedding – first time marrying at 47 – hoorah! Congrats Paul and Jennifer. You’re perfect for each other and I wish you years of peace and bliss together. You both deserve it.
Anyhoo, as I was meandering around Geelong and the surrounding towns, I was really struck by something I didn’t realize I missed, until I saw it again. And that is strangers being really courteous, thoughtful and kind to each other. Not big things, tiny things, but it was really nice to be around it again.
|Fish & Chips on the beach in Queenscliff|
I know it won’t sound like much but a very small example. Paul, Jax and I were having fish and chips on the beach in Queenscliff. As Paul was tidying up and getting ready to put all of our rubbish in the bin, he took a moment to stop and ask the table next to us if they wanted the ketchup (aka tomato sauce) we didn’t use. It was such a tiny thing and it really struck me – because I wouldn’t do that in Asia. Community is much closer to home in this region and that is something that takes a lot of getting used to when you move here.
Later that day, when I was helping set up the wedding at the golf course, I met a couple of golfing dames and we were having a nice chat. This guy came up, asking for directions to the loo, and one of the ladies stopped everything she was doing and walked him far enough in the direction of the toilet so he knew where he was going. When he came out, he walked up and said a hearty thank you. She could’ve just pointed, but she didn’t, she went that little bit further. He could’ve gone back to the golf course. He didn’t. He wanted to express his gratitude.
For the five days we were in Australia I noticed these small interactions between people everywhere we went. Small acknowledgements that another human being was in the mix, as people did something to cater for another person in their physical periphery. I couldn’t help but wonder how amazing that must feel to people who might be living alone? This openness to strangers is a strong part of the Australian culture, and I wonder how many Australians even know it’s special? I didn’t realize it was until this trip when I really noticed it – like it was the first time. It reminded me that I miss that wonderful, open culture of my home country. It’s a great thing.
|Jax loved the sea weed!|
I love living in Asia and I love living in Singapore. It’s been 12 years now and it’s been very good to us. But it is a nation of strangers in many ways too. Another small example. When I first arrived in Singapore, there was a footpath I used to get to lunch. On rainy days, you had to stay on the path, because it was muddy everywhere else. In the early days, I remember being very shocked as I walked this path, when the three people walking towards me side-by-side wouldn’t move to accommodate me. What, you want me to walk in the mud? Why can’t one of you just move? It was perplexing.
I soon learnt to walk and read, or walk straight and firm, with no eye contact. That was the only way people would get out of my way, and if they didn’t, my shoulders came in handy.
It still happens, and I’m definitely used to it, but I have days when it absolutely shits me to tears – because my humanness is not being acknowledged. It’s like I’m not even there. However, I love being here, and I know it is the great privilege I’ve had to live in so many parts of the world that has given me the ability to appreciate the wonderful bits of culture each country has to offer. We’re all just very different.
So my Aussie friends, I know life can be hard yakka, and I know the world looks pretty sucky right now, but you have something wonderful there, treasure it and keep up that kindness to those around you – no matter who they are. It’s certainly a quality that will bring me back home one day.
For those who’ve lived in other countries, what have you appreciated about your homeland you’ve only been able to notice because you left?
Yours, without the bollocks