As someone who was born in Australia and has lived here for most of my life, some stereotypes, myths and perceptions about Australians ring true. And some don’t.
Australia is a diverse country, with the outback and city side by side as I wrote in this blog post about the geographic land of Oz itself. Naturally, Australians are a pretty diverse bunch in general, diverse in terms of what they like, the way they choose to live their lives and who they chose to be.
Come December, many of us around the world celebrate Christmas, or at the very least acknowledge this festive occasion one way or another. This includes my Chinese-Malaysian family for as long as I can remember.
No one in my immediate Asian family goes to church or follows the faith Christianity. We’ve never put up a Christmas tree at home. Never went caroling. But when I was a kid growing up in Australia, my parents wrapped presents for me and my brother in the lead up to Christmas day. They did pretty much the same when we later lived in Malaysia and Singapore – among other things too around this time of the year.
Not all of us commemorate the history behind Christmas or the birth of Jesus Christ but still get into the spirit of this season. Different cultures around the world have different ways of celebrating or spending it, or even similar ways of celebrating.
There are many stereotypes about the land of Australia. Whether you have lived in, visited or heard of Australia, chances are you’ve come across typical perceptions of Australia in the geographic sense – and come across Australians agreeing with them. And disagreeing with them as well.
Having lived in Australia for a while now, I’ve noticed some things are always predictable about this 7.692 million km2 patch of land called Down Under. At times its surrounds surprise me when I least expect it, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Melbourne. It boasts a grid-shaped city with skyscrapers alongside narrow laneways lined with cafes. A city where I’ve lived for more than half my life, went to university and now work. A city that speaks to me the perks that come with being a part of the rat race in a first world country, and whispers to me the finer things in life.
The other day it was 4pm on a cloudy Sunday afternoon in June. The chilly winter wind whipped my face. I had two hours to kill in the city before catching up with someone. Standing at the Flinders Street Station intersection, cars whizzed by. As two trams rumbled past, the asphalt shook slightly beneath my feet.
When we were young, maybe we were forced to travel, travel for a better life and a better education. Growing up, I moved quite a bit: Melbourne to Malaysia to Singapore and back to Melbourne. My parents wanted to work in Asia, and so little me was dragged along with them.
When I was six, I sobbed at the airport in Malaysia after getting off the plane from Melbourne for the last time in a while, bewildered by strange faces and the sticky air. Touching down at Melbourne Airport almost a decade later, jet-lagged me jumped when a Caucasian security officer gruffly demanded I step into the immigration queue. Are white Australians this scary?, I thought, anxious about living here again.
Moving is challenging. It’s never easy leaving behind the ones you love and friends who have your back. Never easy seeing teary faces bidding you goodbye at home or at the airport. If you’re moving alone, all of a sudden you don’t have someone right beside you to share happy or sad moments with.