Picture: Maki at Hyde Park, WA
Below is a sharing I prepared for an Australian Alumini get together. If you’re thinking of moving to Australia, this may benefit you:
I have spent half my life living in Australia. I first went to Perth at the age of 14 to pursue my further education. I was there for 5 years. After returning to Brunei for my professional career for a few years, I migrated back to Australia for 7 years, before moving back to Brunei again.
Naturally, having spent such a long time living in Australia, the country has influenced and shaped my much of my character, perspective about life and my value systems.
There are many things I love about ‘Down Under’, and like most Aussies, there are equally as much I resisted about it too; the absurd speed limits and the insane number speed traps on the road, the ridiculous property prices, gas prices, parking prices, and a dozen other items plus the painful isolation from the rest of the world, to name a few.
But I digress.
Here are 5 of the surprising life lessons I picked up along the way, while living there.
One of my very early memories of Australia was from being told off by a service attendant behind the tourist information desk. For those of you who have been to Australia, you can testify that the customer service is not quite like Asia, where you are being treated like a king.
Looking back, the reason I was being “unkindly treated” was to a certain extent, my fault. The attendant greeted me ‘good morning’ and I failed to respond. Instead I proceeded straight with my inquiry.
Where I came from, it was the service attendant’s job to greet; and my job to ignore. Without much hesitation that morning, the attendant put me in my place by insisting that I returned her greeting before answering my questions.
Since then, I began to notice the amount of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’s’ that were being exchanged when people request help from the waiter and waitresses for even just a glass of water.
I realized that the amount of customer service you get is a direct reflection of the attitude you exude. In retrospect, perhaps there was nothing wrong with the customer service culture in Australia; we just need to treat everyone with equal respect!
I was often intimidated by the bus drivers in Australia to the extent that I would be mindful to bring enough change, to avoid being frowned upon.
In Australia, a bus driver is not a just a bus driver. He is a professional who reaches your stop on time, and ensure the safety and comfort of all the passengers. He is the guy or gal who is knowledgeable about his route, his operation and I wouldn’t be surprised if he knows about the mechanics of the bus too.
He would have no problem in chasing you out of the bus with full authority, if he catches you eating your burger on board. During summer, he would pull his socks all the way up his ankle, in his seriously short khakis and while looking extremely proud in the funny uniform.
Unsurprisingly, he probably makes as much money as you do; while sending you to work in your suit and tie.
Being professional doesn’t stop at just the bus drivers. You would find that most workers in Australia are very knowledgable and take great pride at their work.
What I learned from the Australians are that, when you take pride in your work, and conduct your work professionally, no one can look down at you, even if you wear your pair of socks knee high.
I spend 3 years selling shoes in Australia. After a while, I was able to predict the kind of shoes that a typical Australian would pick, versus the tourists from Asia.
The pair of shoes that a typical Australian woman buys would often be the boring, dark colored ugly pair of leather shoes that often come with wider toe space for extra comfort. The Australian want a pair of shoes that they could essentially ”live in”.
The Asian women on the other hand would go to the sale section, racking up the prettiest and the most uncomfortable pair of heels, which they would probably wear once in a blue moon. They would typically purchase 3 pairs of them for the price of what an Aussie woman would pay for one.
If you understand the history, culture and the proximity of the Australian people, you would be able to rationalize such behavior to their isolation from the rest of the world. Australians are raised to be very self reliant and independent. As such, they are very pragmatic people who choose practicality and quality above anything else.
Looking through my boring selections on my shoe rack today with many of my rugged leather shoes from more than 3 years ago; you could understand where the influence has come from.
I have unconsciously applied much of this attitude to my work and my life today.
During my early career in Asia, I used to take great pride in telling people that I worked during weekend. This changed when I started my career in Australia.
The Aussies take their weekend almost as seriously as their national religion: AFL. Their weekend seems to start at 3pm on Friday over pints of beers at the pub. They are the masters of enjoyment when it comes to weekend, often spending the time in the park, the beach or the sports arena with their family and their dogs doing absolutely nothing at all.
The Australians seem to live out to the full notion of the adage that “there is more to life than work” than any other culture I know. I suspect this is the reason why they attract so many migrant there to experience the good life. And I wouldn’t be surprised if this is also the reason why they produce such a vibrant economy that is highly productive, creative and sustainable.
- The World
Lastly, you would have missed the bigger opportunity if your sole intention to go to Australia was to learn a bit of English and to be exposed to the Western culture.
Australia is like a big melting pot of different races. Walking down the street, you would bump into people from all over the world. If you were a food lover, Australia would be a gastronomical paradise.
There is a saying that best Hong Kong dim sum in the world can be found in the China Town of Melbourne, arguably the best Italian pasta – in Ciao Italia, South Perth (according to my humble judgement) and the freshest piece of Sushi is fished out directly from the Sydney fish market.
One of the most rewarding experiences for me in Australia was definitely the diverse group of people that I met and kept in touch with, until today.
I learned about the value of hard work and resiliency from my friends in Hong Kong; politeness and attention to detail from my Japanese friends; style and how to be forthright from my French associates, and how to be street smart from South African colleagues. All of these would not have been possible, had it not been my stay in Australia.
Surely, you would not be immune to a certain amount of anti-foreigners sentiment when you live in Australia. It is natural that some of the more conservative and less exposed Aussies may view you as a threat to their job and livelihood. I have personally received my share of racial slurs during my stay there. However, I have also been the recipient of great love, grace and kindness from total strangers who are Australian too.
At the end of the day, I am a better person because of my experience in Australia, and I wish all of you could be richer because of your endeavor down under.