Before you leap down my throat and accuse me of being un-Australian (the worst of all insults that can be hurled at an Aussie native), I want to preface this by saying one thing:
I could think of 10,000 reasons why I love living in Australia.
I could wax lyrical about the many beautiful cities I’ve visited (or have yet to visit), the natural beauty that exists in abundance, the fantastic foods, the wonderful people, the epic sporting confrontations, the quirks, the traditions, the holidays, the weather, and the thousand little things that slip my mind most of the time and then leap back into my mind on some random autumn morning in Nanjing.
For those curious, this morning it’s remembering what it felt like to sprawl out on my bed in Glen Innes after a shower on a warm spring day. The curtains stir with a breeze carrying the sweet smell of pollen whipped up from the gardens lower on the hill and in the distance the incongruous sounds of cars and cattle reach my ear. I love my sleepy mountain hometown in that conflicted way that most travelers do.
So Why Do You Hate Living in Australia?
I don’t travel because I hate Australia or Australian life. Get that idea out of your head right now.
But I’d be lying if I said a big part of the reason I travel isn’t my reluctance to live full time in Australia. It’s a question I get asked a lot too.
“Why do you travel so much? You’re from Australia! I’d kill to live there!”
So, here we go…
10. No street food
Let’s start small with something relatively innocuous.
I love street food. To me, there is no better window into the culinary culture of a country than the cheap eats that locals cook and eat on crowded side streets. From the foul bondeggi(boiled silkworm larvae) in South Korea to the orgasmic lamb skewers in China’s Xinjiang province; sampling street food is a favorite way for me to embrace local culture and one of the first opportunities I afford myself to step away from tacky Western franchises and into the world I’ve placed myself in.
There’s no doubting that Australia has some fantastic traditional foods that are further complimented by the countless multicultural influences that have emerged over the past 40-50 years, but sit down restaurants and expensive eateries abound. Visitors wanting to sample Aussie food will almost always have to wade through the innumerable classy European, Asian, fusion, or fast food restaurants that abound.
Australian food handling laws are designed to protect, of course, but they do a great disservice to visitors and locals alike. I’d love for there to be a day where kangaroo skewers, late night kebabs, cheap and nasty noodle bowls, and sausage sandwiches could be picked up night and day across the country.
9. Distant culture
The stereotype of the rugged, bronzed Aussie man without a brash exterior who hasn’t shed a tear in his life might not be accurate, but it does have some basis in truth. Australian culture is, to my mind, one of the more emotionally distant I’ve encountered.
While I’ve been blessed with a number of close friends I feel comfortable telling most anything, ours is not a culture of physical affection or emotional openness.
This has lead to the same issues with mental illness that abound all over the world, and especially so for men. We’re not encouraged to ask for help or talk about our feelings, and this has lead to a number of tragedies in which people who could have been helped take the drastic step of suicide when they could have been saved.
This ‘closed off’ attitude extends to socialising, in my experience, and I’ve had infinitely more luck forging friendships and romantic relationships abroad than I ever did in Oz.
You can read more about my own struggle with depression in Travel with the Black Dog.
#8 – It’s getting worse…
This one is a rather recent and nasty development. I’m not a hugely political person, but when I’m forced to shake my head at the state of affairs in my home country on a nearly daily basis, it’s cause for concern.
Between the complete and wanton disregard for our natural wonders, the recent decision to censor public servants, our continued and dogged resistance to gay marriage, the argument that ‘people have the right to be bigots’, the cutting of funding to the not for profit ABC, calls to do away with concepts that separate us from the rest of the world like Medicare and free university, and our laughable return to using meaningless titles like Sir and Dame – it’s like my country is determined to make a return to the glory days of the 50s.
Where once I could proudly say I come from Australia, I find myself increasingly having to defend the country from those who rightfully point out our human rights abuses, homophobic political stance, and seeming desire to move backwards rather than forwards.
#7 – Our History
With all due respect to both the pioneers who forged Australia as we know it and the Aboriginal people who called Australia home for countless millenia before the European invasion, ours is not a particularly colourful and exciting history.
As a history student in both school and university, I lived for tales of ancient conflicts and political intrigue. The world today has a fascination with the political mechanations and betrayals in Game of Thrones, perhaps unaware that these have a basis in genuine human history.
One reader has already asked why this bothers me since it doesn’t effect me on a day to day basis. A country’s culture is very much defined by its history, and Australia’s short and relatively uneventful history has meant that our culture feels like an awkward middle ground between American and British culture, with very few unique facets of its own.
Whether it’s the dynasties of China, the Mongol Hordes, the rise and fall of Rome, the settling of the New World, or the countless other conflicts, discoveries, and atrocities that shaped human history – Australia’s own history tends to pale in comparison.
That said, if you want some good reading, the exploration of Australia makes for some grim history. The Eureka Stockade is pretty intriguing as well, and you can’t overlook the heroism shown by Australian soldiers abroad; especially in World War I and II. The Anzac Legend is something truly inspiring.
#6 – No career options
This one is obviously very specific to me. I’ve got lots of good friends at home who have found very successful and enjoyable careers for themselves.
But for a guy who hates the drudgery of 9-5, Monday to Friday existence; Australia isn’t exactly paradise for me. ESL teaching attracted me at first because it had different hours (my first job was 1.30pm until 9pm) that suited a night owl and habitual drunkard such as myself. While my current job does operate in the 8am – 5.30pm bubble, my hours are never more than four a day – so it’s not a big deal.
Much like other western countries, Australia embraces the idea of the regular work week, the mortgage, the 2.5 kids, and someday retiring to play golf and take vacations by caravan. That lifestyle certainly isn’t without appeal, but it’s not one I’m in any hurry to sink into.
#5 – Dating in Australia
This one drives my family crazy. My dating record reads like somebody trying to play some weird kind of continental bingo. Of all the people I’ve dated in any meaningful way, only two have come from Australia. I didn’t sleep with either of them, but did finally break my Aussie ‘duck’ back in 2012 right before I moved to China.
That’s right – I slept with a bunch of other nationalities before I even ‘sampled the local talent’. I hope you’ll excuse that rather crude euphemism.
Why? I’ve just never ‘clicked’ with Australian girls. I’m not going to open myself up for hate mail by explaining why, but suffice to say I’ve had precious little luck meeting Australian girls who I felt any real chemistry with. On the other hand, I’ve got a ridiculous streak of having romantic success with American girls, much to my family’s chagrin.
Of course, it could just be that my ‘success’ abroad has a lot to do with the fact the people I’m meeting here are of a similar mindset to me. They’re travelers and free spirits too, so it stands to reason we’d get along better than those at home who have chosen that life of working and saving and eventually settling down.
So, maybe I shouldn’t blame this one on Australia…
#4 – Lack of patriotism
Aussies are bloody proud people, especially when it comes to sport. When you compare that to the level of fanatacism you see from the British or Americans, though; it pales in comparison.
I’ve never seen an Australian moved to tears by Advance Australia Fair (not that I can blame them, it’s a fucking dreary anthem). You don’t see a great many Australian flags flying in front yards, and you won’t catch a great many of us caring enough about politics to love or hate our leader of state.
NB: Except recently. Tony Abbott hate seems to be a popular pastime.
It’s certainly not that Australians aren’t proud of being Australian, it’s just that we’re a little more low key in our pride. There’s nothing wrong with it, but you’ve got to admire the almost blind faith you see displayed by Americans in particular when it comes to being proud of their country.
The saddest part? Those who most display patriotism tend to be the racist and ignorant. They wave the flag around and wear it like a superman cape while becrying a need to kick out ‘immigrants’ without being aware of the irony that their ancestors immigrated here. They sport Southern Cross tattoos while shouting abuse at foreigners. It’s disgusting.
#3 – Hard (and expensive) to get around
Australia is a big country. Duh.
It’s also a sparsely populated one, with around 80% of the population (and hence, the cities) on the coast. This means that it’s not exactly easy to get around.
The US and China are similar in size (both slightly larger) but the more even scattering of sizable cities means that there are international airports, high speed rail stations, and bus depts at far more regular intervals than you’ll find in Australia. As a result, getting from A to B is usually fairly affordable.
Their large populations also facilitate a more competitive market for airlines and transport companies, which has a beneficial effect for consumers.
Australia, conversely, is a bloody steep ask to get around. To travel from my home town to Sydney – an eight hour train or bus ride – will run me between $60 and $80.
Don’t live in a place serviced by a rail or bus setup? You’d better drive, because there’s likely to be no other way to get from Point A to Point B.
Air travel is similarly overpriced, with regional airports typically only serviced by a single carrier who isn’t above gouging passengers upwards of $150 for an hour long flight between Sydney and a small town.
#2 – High Cost of Living
In a lot of ways, Australians are very lucky. We live in a safe country with excellent services and a high quality of living. The price we pay for this, obviously, is that Australia is also a damned expensive country.
The cost of living is somewhat more affordable the farther you get from the service and entertainment rich coast, but even out ‘in the sticks’ you’re paying $6-$8 for an import beer, $15-30 for a dinner, and $60-$100 a month for internet that doesn’t even approach US or mainland Asian speeds or download limits. Yes, we have download limits in Australia.
When I was living and working in Sydney, I worked a 40 hour week like most other Aussies do. The majority of my money went to transport costs (roughly $9 a day for the bus), food for the week, rent, bills, and other incidentals. By the time all of this had come out, I could usually afford a single night out per pay cycle – and that would be stretching my budget.
It got to be that I felt like I was paying for the privilege of being able to work 40 hours a week. That was a primary factor in me deciding to get the hell out.
#1 – Racism
It should be impossible for Australia as racially and culturally diverse as Australia to have a problem with racism, but it’s a sad fact of life in Australia that racism is a common occurrence regardless of where you are.
It’s not just the obvious and embarrassing displays of racism like the Cronulla Race Riots or the recent violent attacks on Indian minorities in Victoria – it’s the pervasive, often easily overlooked casual racism that comes in the form of racist jokes, racial slurs, and racial stereotyping that virtually every Australian has been guilty of at some time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m of the opinion that there are no taboos when it comes to comedy, but it seems that the average Australian has forgotten that regardless of whether you’re ‘just joking’, it can still be racist. And I include myself in this from time to time.
It’s not just jokes, though. It’s people who throw around racial slurs like ‘fucking Chinks’ or ‘God damn Arabs’ when they’re angry about something innocuous. It’s the incorrect belief that people who come here should ‘act Australian or get the fuck out’. It’s people shouting ‘learn English!’ at people from other countries, complaining about Indians ‘stealing their jobs’, and arguing vehemently that we have no room for ‘terrorists’ from other countries who are seeking refuge.
As I stated in my prologue, none of this is intended to deter people from visiting Australia or moving there. I adore the country and feel very lucky to be able to call myself Australian.
These aren’t reasons I hate Australia or reasons not to go there, they’re just a few reasons why I choose not to live there. And there are many, many more reasons why I would love to someday call it home again.
What do you ‘hate’ about your own country or your adopted country?
Have I hit the mark? Or am I way off base with these?