Before coming to Sydney I was told that I HAD to get into a college “cos they were soooo much fun.” I did not get into a college. I was too lazy to apply for any of the colleges in time, and so I forlornly accepted the guaranteed student accommodation called Urbanest. Researching Urbanest before I arrived I came across cringey welcoming videos and awkward brochures. I did not have a good feeling about it…how wrong this premonition has proved to be. The Nest (as those more intimate with the place refer to it), is formed by the most incredible eclectic mix of nationalities and cultures. As opposed to being completely submerged and absorbed by an exotic foreign country, at the Nest we get an experience of a hundred different countries. What’s more, there is a collective sense of adventure. People are here for such a short time that we all desperately go out to seize every moment we possibly can. You can’t waste a day in your room watching youtube cat videos, which we can all be guilty of on occasion back in Edinburgh (or was that just me).
Going out and getting drunk is just a big part of Australian life. Austalians love to “get facked”. No occasion is complete until “we’re facked”. We go to the prestigious Melbourne Cup where there is a strict smart dress code … “and then get facked”. We attend a formal dinner with a highly respected speaker… “and he gets facked”. We celebrate ANZAC day, and reflect on the sobering reality of the horrors of the First World War, and the sacrifices those young Australian men made… “and then we all get really facked”.
On a road trip up the coast I found what I believe to be the perfect encapsulation of Australian culture. Three mates and I rented a vehicle from a company called ‘Wiked Campers’. This Australian company has exported their vans across the globe, so some of you may have seen them already. However, for those of you who haven’t, I’ll paint you a little picture of what they’re like. They market themselves towards a younger travelling demographic. Their vans are distinguished by artistic designs which have helpful little typically ‘non-PC’ Aussie aphorisms printed on the sides and back. The company was also condemned in an investigation finding 90% of the vehicles were not road worthy! 90% is just such a ridiculously huge percentage. Finally, they offer a free day to all campers who pose for a nude picture with the vehicle (which I duly did). This company could not exist in any other part of the developed world. The idea I’m trying to get across is that Australian culture is not exactly a sophisticated one, but it is fun!
Then there are the beautiful people. Prior to the Second World War, Australia implemented a very racist selection process for immigrant applications. In essence they wanted tall, blonde, blue eyed super humans. The post war demand for labour thankfully forced the Australian government to widen their scope to allow southern darker-skinned Europeans to enter, intermixing races, and slowly developing from there, into the stereotypical Australian beauties who converge on beautiful beaches of endless sand, sun and surf.
Your usual British tourist on the other hand has not achieved these attributes. Instead you’ll see us prodding a concerned finger into our squidgy midriffs thinking that perhaps we’ll cut the hashbrowns out of tomorrow morning’s fry up. We stand there, hands on hips, the sun gleaning off our pasty, sweaty skin and watch the Aussies glide gracefully across the waves. They make surfing look as easy as walking on a treadmill. A Brit surfing on the other hand, is like a child cranking the speed dial on said treadmill up to its maximum and just jumping straight on, with no thought of the consequences. For me, surfing means ten minutes of being hurled about the sea and gulping gallons of salt water while your board tries desperately to escape you like an erratic dog on a leash. However, once you have gone through this torture you can sit back and enjoy the beautiful sunsets with a nice cold beer in hand. Now that’s a past time that we excel in.
The weather makes the difference. I still haven’t managed to shake off the ingrained anxiety from 300 days of rain and cold a year. I wake up every morning and bolt to the window to look outside to check the sky, and get a little buzz each time I see that lovely clear blue. It makes you want to go out and be active. Australians do sports right. Almost every afternoon there will be people around the university playing this or that sport. The sun is out, everyone is laughing and chatting. It is quite a contrast to the muddy cold Wednesday afternoon intermural sports in Edinburgh, where most of the team are having a fag at half time whilst worryingly pinching frozen limbs.
University work however is a struggle. The weather and the carefree/chilled out attitude is not exactly conducive to a driven study ethos. Fortunately though this attitude does not stop with the students. Deadlines are really there for the formality. Tutors say from the beginning of most classes that they will grant extensions if you could just please fill out the paper work and go to a doctor, muster up a few sniffles, and get a note.
While I sit out in the sun half studying, half dozing (totally burning), I think with dread of the cold floorboards of the unheated flat in Edinburgh that awaits me in but a few months time.