Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Interview with an Australian

This is the fourth installment of World Week on the blog, where I interview James, who lived in Australia for the first seven years of his life and now lives one hour away from me, in Dublin. Previously, I've talked about stupid misconceptions people have about Ireland and interviewed people from Canada and Zimbabwe.

Hey, James!

First off, hello to you and your regular readers. Special hello to Dylan Murray who reads this everyday on the bus home.

What countries have you lived in?

In the loosest sense of the word, I have lived in many countries. But to have taken up residency, just Australia and Ireland.

When and why did you move?

We left our home in Sydney on the 24th of November 2004. I remember this as it was the day my primary school's newsletter came out and it mentioned our departure. The day before, we had pizza in class for everyone. The same day my youngest brother decided to cut my leg open with a pair of scissors, a wound which had left a smile shaped scar on my calf to this day. Even before the devastating move there was plenty to make this a memorable time in my life.

But I digress. 

We moved because my Mum was offered a job through a friend in Dublin. A decision that still puzzles me today.

What do you like about Australia? 

You'd need almost another blog post for this so I'll cut it down to size and skip weather and beaches.

1. Fresh fruit. Everywhere. You couldn't go anywhere without there being a place to buy fresh fruit. And we're not talking apples and strawberries grown here and everything else from the Meditteranean. There were mangoes, plums, peaches, melons, bananas, pineapples, guavas, passionfruit, papayas, you name it! Pretty much all grown in Australia.

2. Sports. You could do anything you wanted. Swimming, running, tennis, rugby (both kinds!), soccer, Aussie rules, hockey, basketball, water polo, cricket. Anything. And you could watch or attend anything too. It was a huge change coming here and finding out there were only the 4 big spectator sports. But hurling is pretty cool.

3. The junk food. Of course as a child one of the big losses from the move was a host of my favourite sweets. "Why don't they sell Cherry Ripes, Twisties or Minties here?" To this day I can't find anything remotely similar to them. And the quality of the burgers took a dive too.

What do you dislike about Australia?

1. Spiders. Despite knowingly sharing a room with a huntsman spider from the age of five, I am afraid of spiders as big as a €1 coin over here. You can imaging what the thought of venomous spiders the size of your fully stretched hand is like for me.

2. Stingrays and bluebottles. You thought you were safe in the water? Think again. For one half of the year, a lot of beaches warn you to shuffle your feet through the sand to scare off hidden stingrays. Not too bad, usually they're clear off and look terrifying. Bluebottles on the other hand are a nasty type of jellyfish. First off, it's blue so you won't see it. Secondly, it has long thin winding tentacles so it's even harder to avoid. Getting stung by one of these hurts a hell of a lot. Swimmers have to be rescued at times because the pain is that debilitating.

3. The way Aborigines are treated. There is a lot wrong with this. Only decades ago were penal laws lifted on them, and even now in many cases they are treated and viewed by the public negatively. There's no big problems with Muslims, Asians or any other kind of migrant population. So why is it that the very first people to inhabit the country get so badly treated? This is one thing that I strongly dislike about Australia.

How often do you visit?

The trend seems to be about every 5 years. Departed in 2004, returned in 2009 and 2014/15 for holidays since then. As much as I'd like to visit more, it would be financially crippling. I am however considering university options around Brisbane, Sydney or Canberra.

What would you change about Australia?

Kind of covered it all up in the dislike section. If the spiders could be smaller and less venomous, the stingrays contended with living out at non-standing depths and the Aboriginal people being treated and seen as fully equal then it's all good. 

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Not the town I currently live in. But Ireland has its nice spots to live. I could end up anywhere, really. Australia would be nice to return to. I often consider life in Canada, perhaps Toronto or Vancouver. Although the cold would be an issue. Even despite the language barrier, Norway seems like an attractive option. They're all just such amazing countries with so many things to love. Canada has a handful of murders a year (I think less in total than Ireland, yet with a population multiples bigger). Norway's energy production from waste is so efficient they have to import rubbish! There's even more to them to love but this isn't the time or place. 

What are the similarities and differences between Australia and Ireland?

Similarities ... Similarities...English is the most widely spoken language. Bondi Rescue is on TV in both countries, there are farms full of sheep, both are islands. I suppose there are a range of trivial day to day similarities that the majority of "Western" countries share. Difference wise, weather, wildlife, agriculture produce, more resource mines in Australia, more cities and high rises. Ireland has better dairy because of the rain and grass and so on. Also Irish sausages are made of pork and Australian sausages are made of beef. Pork sausages are superior in every way to beef ones.

What's it like having Christmas in summer?

So hot. It's the height of summer by then. Many people spend Christmas at the beach. Also, Christmas dinners are way different. You wouldn't be having a turkey. Maybe a very nice barbecue and other nice dishes and salads but not a roast. 

And finally, do Australians actually say "G'day mate?"

Yeah, they do. Usually followed by a "howaya doin'?"

Wonderful, James. Adios.

Feel free to tell me if you learned something new in the comments below. Would you like to travel to Australia? Why or why not? 

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