Looking back into my childhood big
differences between life in
Australia and life in
Europe become evident…
Australia one has
more contact with nature. An Australian would take off his/her shoes and
take a shortcut, bare foot, through the park.
Whereas a European will stick
to the concrete path although it creates double the walking route! These
rules are set in place to keep order in an overpopulated society. People
seem to adhere to this structure.
They abide by the rules, for it keeps things orderly and accessible to
Australians are not so strict on themselves!
They are a fairly relaxed bunch. Perhaps too relaxed in some regard.
Like most Southern countries where the temperature is often hot,
the concept that ‘there is always tomorrow’ is often an attractive one!
Australians spend so much more
time outdoors. Of course the weather has a good deal to do with this also.
Words that often pop up to describe the average Australian way of life
include: sun, chilled wine, cold beer, beaches, surf, the barbeque, and,
of course, football!
Sport matters in
Australia. It seems
this is the one thing that bonds society together, giving it a unified
sense of belonging. In my memory even the Aboriginals play professional
football, in fact on many teams they are the star players. Sport brings
The average Australian is a strong
swimmer. We swim in rough waters.
The ocean’s power is tremendous, but as youngsters we learn to respect
ways and develop a knowledge of how to enjoy it. Survival skills are well
founded in our youth. Camping is a common thing. Everyone knows how to
light a fire. Where to find water. How to treat simple first aid in
From all the thousands of insects running and flying around, and all the
odd plant species, we know which ones can hurt us and should be avoided.
The ways of nature, in her varied processes are not an alien thing, even
to the newest generation. I’m talking about where milk comes from, what a
tree looks like that bears a particular nut or fruit, how the young of
different species are born into the world, the cycles of the moon and the
riches of the four seasons. For the Australians get out amongst nature.
They love to be a part of it. They have the skills of discerning nature.
These are hardy people with common sense as their natural law.
Exploration has been my
I grew up with doors not only
unlocked, but for the most part, wide open. Now, as I walk around the tiny
town I live in
Belgium, I see not
only doors and windows bolted tight but great big iron shutters barred up
against the windows. To keep the stranger out, these poor people live
their lives like prisoners, caged up in their own fear!
Although it can be bitterly cold
in the South (where I grew up) during the winter, central heating is an
almost unheard of luxury. Living in Australia,
I remember going to bed laden with heavy blankets in the winter and still
shivering, and in the summer taking a cold shower in my bed clothes and
then laying down all wet in an attempt to get to sleep before the heat
The elements formed a part of our lifestyle.
Spiders and insects ran rampant in the house. I suppose by leaving the
house open invited all these insects in, they would crawl in and out as if
there was no partition between home or garden. We just accepted it and
learnt how to live with this. We would carry the biggest spiders outside,
the ones the size of a hand, they were a bit scary, but the smaller ones
simply didn’t bother me, the spiders ate the mosquito’s! The cool breeze
was a god-send! (Besides, the deadly spiders are often the smallest and
least frightening looking!)
Perhaps the biggest difference to
Australia and living
Europe is the spatial difference. Those
wide open spaces really do wonders to ones sense of freedom and
open-mindedness. Australians are gregarious people, and in my opinion,
touchy, feely! By this I mean that they are warm people, happy to embrace
one another, even accepting and giving physical and emotional closeness to
strangers. Look at the difference between a normal greeting. Here, in
Europe, when you greet or farewell
someone you give an imaginary kiss, once, twice or thrice on the
or just a firm, yet rather impersonal handshake, as if finalizing a
business transaction. This is born from the fact that people are so
possessive of their own personal space, simply because they don’t have
Australia, even the
men will grab each other in a long and often rigorous hug that can even
lift the other off his feet! Kisses are placed warmly and genuinely on the
lips. If you are talking to someone it is not uncommon to touch them, this
often helps in imparting your message and forming a bond. We are so
trusting and confident with our own personal space that we have more of it
It is said children need affection from their parents to grow up healthy
and balanced, why ought this to stop once you reach adulthood!?
Another spatial influence in
comes strongly to mind has to
do with the stars. If you have ever seen the stars from the Southern
Hemisphere, preferably from standing in the middle of the Australian
outback on a moonless night, you will know what I am talking about!
stars are incredible, they go on and on forever, lending you to the
concept that there are no borders, no boundaries to discovery, no end to
the possibilities in your life. Life itself is HUGE, you are such a small
part to it, almost insignificant. You are standing there before this all
encompassing universe and you are nothing but a tiny speck of existence.
This is so humbling, so magical, so inspiring of thought, making one so
aware of the matrix of our life on earth.
Such a precious experience belongs to all those who have ever noticed
those twinkling stars above our heads, yet in
cannot help but notice them on a regular basis, and be reminded.