Saturday, September 25, 2010

Five things I love about Australians

When people ask me why I moved to Buenos Aires, I always tell them, "Not because of the people." I adore my Argentine friends, but I have a classic love/hate relationship with most of Argentina's native population. For the most part (get ready for a swooping generalization!), I find them beautiful, fascinating and endlessly frustrating. No, I didn't move to BA because of them. I moved there in spite of them.

In contrast, my love of Melbourne has everything to do with the people. I love the city's quirky architecture, the way the street lamps hit the buildings at night, creating city-wide masterworks of shadows and light. I love all of the wonderful Asian food, riding the tram, watching the possums come out of their hiding places when night falls in Flagstaff Garden. But most of all, I love the people.

Let me count the ways.

1. They're friendly. In my three weeks in Australia, I have yet to meet a single asshole. Yes, some Aussies are nicer than others, but for the most part, they've made me feel quite welcome in their country. In Melbourne, in particular, I love that when you wander out alone, you're never alone for long. Going to a bar is like going to a house party. When you walk in, you might not know a single person there. By the end of the night, everyone knows your name, and if you've had one too many Pure Blondes, you've forgotten all of theirs.

2. I don't have to kiss them on the cheek. Most of my fellow expatriates love the Argentine custom of kissing everyone on the cheek when meeting or greeting them. Personally, I'd rather not. I've never been much of a kiss-kiss kind of guy. Why get up in someone's personal space when I can keep a respectable distance? At least in Australia, I don't have to worry about offending anyone when I greet them my old-fashioned way: with a firm handshake. And when I'm ready to take my leave, I can do so with "bye" and a wave and not have to kiss everyone in sight (unless I want to).

3. They've got interesting, unpredictable taste in music. The other night, I spent one hour in a club before the 18 year old hitting on me made me too uncomfortable to stay a moment longer. The DJ played three Katy Perry songs, one Kylie Minogue oldie, and Enrique Iglesias's latest hit. So far so predictable. Then he followed Justin Bieber's "Baby" with something by M.I.A. I nearly fell out of my seat. The crowd kept dancing as if the song hadn't even changed.

4. They're sexy -- and they think I am, too. Okay, I'll admit that I'm not 100 per cent sure what exactly makes a person sexy. It's not a word I'd ever use to describe myself, but it keeps getting tossed in my direction. And the guys who've been tagging me as sexy all get bonus points for being over 30. It's a long long way from the early twentysomethings who normally flock to me in BA, offering me nothing but a good time but rarely delivering on the promise. Aussie boys, in contrast, may not be as overwhelmingly pretty, but they've got skillz with a Z.

5. They speak English After four years of living in a Spanish-speaking country, this has taken a little getting used to. One night in Sydney, after having dinner with my friend Andy and his friend Sophie, she and I shared a cab home. As we got in, I was just about to comment on the foul odor, when the conversation unexpectedly turned to politics. Eventually, the cab driver chimed in. That's when it dawned on me: Of course, he speaks English. This is Australia. Thank God, I'd kept my complaint about his smelly taxi to myself!
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