We boarded the plane from KL with a real sense of anticipation – not only were we going to see our beloved daughters, but for the first time we were headed for a country that I have longed to visit for many years – Australia. Having reflected on Malaysia I thought I would offer some observations on the Land of Oz. And, as with the Malaysian ones, I offer the caveat that these are just the observations of a foreigner and are not meant to be a detailed extensive analysis. Its just what I see – and I’m more than happy to accept corrections….also for all those Australians who have started reading this blog, please accept my apologies for any inadvertent offence caused!
Light Turbulence and Aussie Rudeness
Our trip to Oz did not begin well. I did not enjoy the flight because most of it was spent with what is euphemistically called ‘light turbulence’. I was intrigued by the various people sitting around us. The Dutch couple behind us were typically Dutch – forthright, direct and polite. The Indian family on our left were gracious and kind to the airhostesses. But the Australian couple in front were not a shining light for their nation. The somewhat obese woman was rude and aggressive. She had been informed that she would have to have fish as the chicken had run out. “You have got to be joking…I haven’t eaten for three days…don’t you know I am diabetic and I can’t eat fish?”. The poor hostess explained that unless the woman had filled out a diet card, she could not have possibly known, all to no avail.
I Don’t Have Ebola, I’m German
Australian customs were no problem – although I did feel sorry for the customs officer who had to deal with the irate German lady who refused to fill out the health/Ebola card we were given. Sorry to deal in national stereotypes but she really did not do the German reputation any good. “I am from Germany…of course I do not have Ebola…how dare you suggest that? I am not African.” At one point it was almost pythonesque – I expected John Cleese to come goose-stepping through the doors!
Anyway we had the joy of meeting our family (and what a joy it is to see your daughter in her new environment at the other side of the world!) and then straight to McDonalds for a McAussie (we just felt like some meat!) followed by a night in the IBIS hotel. It was not the best intro to the Land of Oz.
But the following day was so different. Pete and Becky took us into central Sydney. Sometimes you hear of a places reputation and when you get there, it’s a big disappointment (think of Venice for example). Not with Sydney. It is an incredible place and one that should be on everyone’s bucket list. What totally makes it is the harbour. We took the ferry from Circular Quay to Watson’s Bay, which gave great views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. At Watson’s Bay we went through ‘Robertson Park’ to the Gap. Surveying the ocean on one side, and the city on the other, it became clear what a wonderful discovery the first explorers from Europe had made. I have been reading some Australian history and it really is fascinating.
On return we went to the Opera House, walked through the Botanic Garden and then into the Central Business District. Sydney is a clean and beautiful city. It was not overcrowded (at least when we were there) and it is not overtly tacky or expensive. We had breakfast at “Pancakes on the Rocks” – which is a Sydney institution and one that was great value. One of the things we have experienced in Australia so far is the generosity of the meal sizes – so much so that Annabel and I have got into the habit of sharing a meal.
Sydney also comes across as a very wealthy city. Of course there are poorer areas but the sense of wealth is pervasive. And it is a very ‘non-black’ city. Of all the major cities I have been in, this one seemed to be more homogenous than any other. The vast majority of people were white, with the Chinese seeming to be the second largest, Indians third and Africans a very small minority – and I think I only saw a handful of women dressed in Islamic dress. I realise that in a city of four million I only saw a tiny percentage, but usually the centre of a city is a good indication. I offer this observation not as a criticism, just an observation.
Warm and Generous Australians
Being in Sydney was a great experience, and one I hope I will get to repeat. The myth of the ‘rude Aussie’ was well and truly busted. People were warm, friendly (one lady for example just handed us a ticket for the ferry because she had bought the wrong one and did not need it) and cheerful. I think the national motto for Australia should be my favourite Aussie phrase so far ‘No Worries’…..!
At the end of the day we headed West to the Blue Mountains….of which more later….