Australia: First impressions of an understated country

As we all know snap decisions and first impressions are something we are taught to avoid and treat with caution. I believe these are felt to be high risk strategies likely to play into prejudice and preconception.

Stereotypes are dangerous

Stereotypes are dangerous

I must also admit that particular piece of advice is one I have always been very keen to ignore.

I hope I am bright and balanced enough not to believe any stereotypical view on a nation, its peoples or indeed much else. However, they can and have provided a useful shorthand on occasions.

I have certainly learned to trust my first impressions. Although they can and have been wrong, as I have grown older the instances in which this has been the case has continued to reduce.

So, it is with some trepidation and self-censorship that I make some very quick judgements about Australia based on little more than 24 hours. Indeed, as I say that, it’s obvious that any belief these would be insightful or accurate are specious. However, they were so counter intuitive and strong that they were worth recording.

As someone who has both Earls Court Bartenderlived and worked in London I am familiar with the frequent comments and stereotypes.

It appeared (at least in the early 1990’s) that if it were not for Australian students it would have been impossible to get a drink in any bar in Earls Court or the West End of London. However, I’m ashamed to say these superficial views are so far from the experience I have had in recent months. My first 48 hours in Australia have been refreshing, charming and deeply reassuring about the human condition.

So often, the Australian persona we have in mind can be brash, outspoken and rather unworldly-wise. Nothing could be further from the truth and I find myself in a country where I feel very much at home.

So far, the limited number of people I have met have been honest, direct, friendly and with a real interest to engage in conversation. Parents appear to have an unusually refreshing belief that they have at least some passing responsibility for their children.

Who knows what the next few days have in store, but I think the UK could certainly learn (or perhaps re-familiarise themselves) some basic manners, class and charm from their Australian cousins.


Pride and Self-Confidence?

An option to attend a Pride event today – I won’t mention it by name as these comments only reflect my reaction to the event and other people may have had an entirely different reaction. However, once we arrived at the main entrance to the park it was significantly underwhelming.

What looked like a below par 1970’s funfair dominated the field but certainly didn’t float my boat or that of the other half – certainly not at £20 a pop to get entry. Whilst I recognise this is what you might spend on a round of drinks in the pub, it seemed overly expensive for what was on offer and given that, I’d rather spend it for the round in the pub.

It seems that anything with Pride or Gay in the title can add 50% to the going rate. Had this simply been entry to a funfair (which is in effect what it was) the entry fee – if there had been one – would have been around £5 tops. So despite acknowledging the overheads involved in running these events the spend was very well hidden … a real disappointment. However, we did manage to get a great meal for two locally and then caught up with friends from the day in the local bars that evening. So a thoroughly enjoyable day but a slap on the back of the legs for unnecessarily over-pricing entry fees.

The unplanned absence from the pride park did allow me to have a good chat with the Boss. A recent frustration with being apparently transparent and invisible (a la Mr Cellophane above) came to a head and ‘he who must be obeyed’ was able to point out a few very helpful points.

Whilst I won’t go into the ‘solution’ for my tendency to disappear into the background and blend into the wallpaper (a skill that is sometimes very helpful in other settings) I will say I did my best to learn from the master’s advice and took a markedly different approach. Interestingly (and very annoyingly) I have to say he was correct. A change in approach made some very immediate differences – something to consider and work on from this point on.. Thanks Boss !  – Strangely I could have easily given appropriate advice to others with a similar concern but just couldn’t give myself the required options/approach to change my demeanour.

We’ll see if I can maintain it and work to be less …. invisible !