It's Australia Day today, much like any other, you really wouldn't know it. I suppose I identify with being an Aussie, not out of any rabid nationalism but out of not really knowing anything else. I've spent two months in Europe as an adult but all my life of growing up on this island isolated from the rest of the world with a heavy cultural input from the USA and the UK.
I suppose this has formed in a way who I am.
Five things that are cool about Australia.
1. Meat pies, I still indulge in these awful things described as "a bit of minced meat in gravy wrapped up in pastry of an unknown origin."..... which are absolutely delicious! The trick is to find a pie shop has pies with flaky pastry and a tasty filling. There happens to be one down the street.
2. The Health system. Last year a growth formed under my nose after a particularly stupid accident with a razor shaving before a wedding. The scar would not heal and formed a growth. I saw the GP who referred me to a plastic surgeon and I had plastic surgery within a couple of weeks. All free (sort of.... I pay 2.5% of my tax towards medical) and I now have the kudos of having a card of "my plastic surgeon" and the dubious honour of having a nose job.
3. Wine. Cheap and plentiful. My current Fave is Jacob's Creek Reserve Label which I picked up for something like $120 a case. My laundry is stacked with some Aussie "big reds" which occasionally see the light of day.
4. A reasonably equitable wage system. Americans spin out when they hear that waiters here make a minimum of around $18 an hour sometimes more. I'm on a disproportianate amount for what I do compared to other countries except probably Germany and France. The current Howard conservative Govt is attempting to dismatle this to send the moeny the shareholders way.
5. The impact of the post WWII immigration boom. Before this, Australia was a meat and three veg kinda place. A rather strange British outpost with the entrenched class system and a beige sort of existence. The Europeans and more recently Asians and Middle Easterners have injected some colour into the landscape. They usually start with the food and take it from there.
Five things that are not so cool about Australia.
1. Like it or not there is still an underlying conservatism verging on the xenophobic in parts. Case point, a pick up truck with Australian flags on the rear window as well as "Australia, Love it or leave it" in cut out vinyl lettering. Evangelical churches are popping up like mushrooms on the landscape offering instant salvation for the unworthy.
2. Real estate prices. Average price for a house in Sydney is around $450,000, this has something to do with the equitable wage system as well as the low estate agents fees IMHO. Agents here make 3% or less on a sale which may force up the price long term. I'm not sure how young people with a minimum wage can afford it.
3. Oligopolies. Media, supermarkets, oil, politics, airlines. There aren't enough players and those willing to take the risk and start up a new venture in Australian the oligopoly industry are shut out with some fierce competition until they are broke. Politics is under a mainly two party system which have gradually drifted into the "right" and "centre right" over time.
4. Ridiculous speed limits, traffic fines and penalties. A three lane motorway here has a speed limit of 110kmh( 65mph) in France it's 130kph(around 80mph). The speed limits haven't kept up with road and automotive technology. If I was to be caught at 30kph over the speed limit on a motorway, I'd have to hand over my license to the polite copper and somehow get a lift home.... and face a fine of up to $1000.
5. Going for a swim or walk and not coming back. Sharks, crocodiles (in the north), bloody poisonous spiders, snakes, jellyfish, octopii (or is that octopuses?), stingrays, stonefish. One becomes aware that nature isn't the fuzzy warm image that Greenpeace throws up when being swallowed by a noah whilst going about your job.