Monday, March 12, 2007
Is Australia a Good Place to Live In?
[This is my last word on Australia, I promise] I'm asking the same question of Australia as I asked of Singapore some weeks ago. Once again I'll look at the pros and cons and then try to sum up my conclusions. Inevitably, my experience of the country is limited to a month in Sydney so I'm not claiming to offer anything other than a partial and superficial analysis.
i)The climate: this is a very considerable incentive to live down there. Coping with our grey and miserable skies means our leaden hearts tend to leap at all that sunshine. Contrary to popular myth though, it's not sunny every day in Oz and they do have rain, thunder storms and cloud. But I noted that even days for which 'showers and cloud' were forecast, usually contained a few hours glorious sun; yes, we'd even lap up their weather categorized as 'poor'.
ii)The natural surroundings: As my picture of the Blue Mts shows Australia has magnificent scenery on a par with anything offered by, for example, the USA. The flora and fauna also offer huge and exotic variety. Exploring such a continent of delights could occupy pleasurably any number of years.
iii)The Economy: The Australian economy has proved dynamic ever since wool provided its motor in the 19th century and since then it has provided its citizens with plentiful work and prosperity. Currently unemployment is only a few percentage points and the economy has enjoyed a period of stable expansion which has helped sustain John Howard's eleven years in power.
iv)Social Attitudes: Generally I found Aussies very friendly, positive and lacking in the negativity which is par for the course in the UK. This applies to:
a) young people do not seem so disaffected from society- I saw nothing like the groups of menacing, often feral youngsters with which we are so familiar in the UK. Sydney seemed safe and free to walk around at any time of the day or week, compared with, say Manchester, which is virtually off limits at weekends thanks to yobbish behaviour. Indeed, the dominant impression is of a very law-abiding people, although vulnerable as any modern society is, to crime and deviant behaviour.
b) Australia is famous for alleged heavy drinking but I saw no examples of people being drunk in public; having said that, there were a few winos and beggars but very few of them.
c) The country was originally intended to be a southern hemisphere British home from home with no mixing of the races. Inevitably racism lurks beneath the surface of national life- and from time to time breaks out into the open- but all I could see were groups of Australians from Thailand, China, Korea, India as well as Europe, all living and working together in commendable harmony.
d) There seems to be a different dynamic in Australia, more like that encountered in USA, of an energetic optimism, a belief that things can be achieved. Immersed as I am in the culture of dear old cynical, pessimistic Blighty, this seemed a very attractive difference.
i) Probably life in Australia favours the young and energetic, rather than the older person- so that would be a disincentive to people of middle age and above. I found the health service pretty good but there are critics who reckon it inferior to the NHS.
ii) The 12000 miles one has to travel makes regular return to homes in Europe something of a deterrent.
iii) The climate, while wonderful in the more temperate areas, can be uncomfortably hot and sweaty, especially within the interior.
iv) Property prices have sky rocketed in recent years and this together with high tax and interest rates currently makes life problematic for young families.
v) Australian culture has been much pilloried by superior European critics and, whilst there are superb writers, musicians and artists of all kinds down under, anyone seeking a popular culture superior to that of the UK, is destined to be disappointed.
As must be obvious from my lists of points, my feeling is that Australia is a wonderful place not just to visit but to make one's life in. Had I been thirty years younger during my visit I would have seriously considered settling in this beautiful and exhilarating country.
I also play bridge even online so that might help me to fit in with the senior duplicate bridge players. But frankly what frightens me in the good ol' USA is the way politicians running the country into the ground.
So, how do I fit in with a Ukrainian wife?
I noticed that the Gold Coast is taken over by rich Russians.
I think I need some fresh air to come out from under the water. Any comments on how to proceed? (I know: Cautiously) Thank you for your valued response.
Any other valuable suggestions?
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