About a year ago now, I wrote a pretty controversial piece listing the 10 Reasons I Hate Living in Australia. I hadn’t written the post because I felt anything other than love for the country that I call home, but because I was sick of being asked “Why would you leave?”
With it now coming up on six months since I returned to Australia from China and with Australia Day coming up next Monday, I thought I’d finally write the counterpoint I’ve long planned but never committed to.
Australia is a fantastic country both to visit and to live, and the hardest part of writing this rebuttal to my own article has been narrowing my list down to just ten.
If you’re looking for more reasons to love living in Australia, the #AussieFan campaign has plenty from Aussie celebrities and normal folk alike.
#10 – Aussie Holidays
It seems that 90% of Australian holidays are celebrated in a way that really speaks to the social alcoholic in me: with a BBQ, good friends, and plenty of beer or wine.
Australia Day? Pissup!
ANZAC Day? Pissup!
New Year’s? Pissup!
Christmas Eve? Pissup!
Aussies have a love of getting together with friends, eating good food, and enjoying a few beverages to commemorate the occasion. It’s not great for the waistline, but it’s rarely dull.
It’s not all booze and BBQs, though. I love the solemnity that Australians attach to days of remembrance such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day. I still get a chill up my spine when hearing the bugle play ‘The Last Post’ at dawn on ANZAC Day, and one of the greatest honours I’ve had bestowed upon me in my life has been being asked to read the Ode to Remembrance in our Chinese celebration of Remembrance Day.
I love that Christmas in Australia is a juxtaposition of classic northern hemisphere ideals such as Christmas Trees, a fat Santa in his trademark red, and Christmas Carols about snow; and the distinct Aussie traditions of cold seafood on Christmas Day, a bit of beach cricket, and being able to stand outside and admire the stars in the warmth after Midnight Mass.
Easter in Australia still has the chocolate eggs and hot cross buns, but it’s also about a big roast dinner with the family as you seek shelter from the coming cold.
The over-arching tradition when it comes to Australian holidays seems to be one of being with people you love and having a good time. I can respect that.
With Australia Day coming up on January 26th, I thought this handy little infographic might give you some ideas on how you can spend Australia’s birthday.
#9 – Aussie Cuisine
Australian cuisine is a fusion of a great many flavours from around the world, but I’ll touch on Australia’s multiculturalism later in the list.
For now, I’m talking about the most dinky-di (authentic) of Australian foods; those that speak to our formerly very British roots.
The humble meat pie and sausage roll are the Aussie equivalent to a late night slice of pizza or dodgy kebab, the pavlova (a New Zealand dessert we’ve adopted as our own) is a fantastic treat, ANZAC Biscuits are popular even when it’s not the holiday they’re named for, and the Aussie BBQ is such a staple that it’s rare to find an Aussie house without at least one grill out back.
If you look at conventionally Aussie food you can see our British roots. It’s a diet heavy in meat (particularly chicken, lamb, and beef) and vegetables, with bread and pastry being more prevalent than rice or pasta. It’s simple, nourishing food that speaks to the country’s harsh environment, but more and more are experimenting with ways to liven up what some might call a dull palette.
We’re the only country I know of that proudly eats the animals on its national emblem, with kangaroo steaks and stir fries being available in virtually any supermarket worth its chops. Emu and crocodile also end up on the menu from time to time, and the more adventurous can try traditional Aboriginal Australian tastes such as witchetty grubs.
#8 – Festivals and Shows
With a pleasant climate most of the year, it’s perhaps no surprise that Aussies take any opportunity they can to get outside and enjoy it.
Across Australia, there is an abundance of festivals (both musical and otherwise) giving people an excuse to get out and do something interesting with their free time.
From massive music festivals like Supernova or the conspicuously absent Big Day Out, to events such as the Sydney Good Food & Wine Festival or Gay & Lesbian Madri Gras, down to local festivals such as Guyra’s Lamb & Potato Festival, the Australian Celtic Festival, or A Little Bite of Italy in Broke; Aussies are spoiled for choice when it comes to finding something to do with their weekend.
Most towns in Australia also have an ‘agricultural show’, which is the Aussie equivalent to a US county or state fair. Rides, sideshow games, fresh produce, live performance, fireworks, demolition derbies, rodeos, and all manner of other activities typically take over a town’s show ground for a weekend or two every year – bringing the community together in a riot of colours, smells, and sounds.
These festivals, large or small, offer visitors a great insight into Aussie culture and also give people a chance to interact with their community on a more personal level.
#7 – The Landscape
The nation of Australia occupies a huge continent with a diversity of landscapes matched by only a few other countries. This means that travellers both local and international can experience everything from tundra to deserts to beautiful beaches to steaming rainforests without having to cross a bunch of pesky international borders.
Australia is a nation blessed with some truly stunning natural wonders. The Great Barrier Reef and Uluru are perhaps the most famous, but lesser lights such as the Twelve Apostles, the Kimberleys, Kakadu, Cradle Mountain, and the Daintree are no less impressive.
Australia’s National Parks are similarly broad in scope, offering campers and hikers access to all manner of adventures.
Even the simplest of Australian landscapes can be beautiful. An Outback sunset (or, if you’re lucky, thunderstorm) can be absolutely breathtaking, the country has an abundance of idyllic beaches, and even the rolling green hills of my native New England hold a simple beauty.
When you’re done admiring the landscape, look up into azure skies that seem to stretch forever or a night-time pall of stars that dominates the sky each night away from light pollution.
#6 – World class health care and education
Australians are (for now) blessed with access to amazing health care and world class education, giving us the opportunity to grow up free of worrying about bankrupting ourselves trying to stay healthy. Our parents don’t need to scrimp and save to be able to afford to send us off to university, either.
Australians have access to free doctor’s visits and heavily subsidized prescription medicine and major surgery. While mental health still lags behind (as it does almost everywhere), I’m still able to get access to six free psychologist’s appointments as part of a government run Mental Health Plan. Not bad at all.
Education wise, I’m about to embark on my second Bachelor’s degree. The Australian government pays tuition as a no interest loan that citizens pay back – not in crippling lump sums, but as a manageable portion of their taxable income each year.
My American friends baulk at the idea of me going back to university, but for me it’s not a source of stress. The work of the late Gough Whitlam still enables Australians to have access to education regardless of their financial situation, and still allows them to lead healthy lives without fear of going bankrupt should a family member fall ill.
It’s pretty fucking glorious, to be honest.
#5 – Rural Australia
Having grown up jumping from rural town to rural town, I’ve got a huge soft spot for the Australia that exists outside of Sydney and Melbourne. Sure, the locals can occasionally be a little backwards in their thinking when it comes to multiculturalism, gay marriage, or the above ‘socialism’; but you’ll find few people who are more honest and warm-hearted than somebody from rural Australia.
Far from the hustle and bustle of cities, small town Australia still very much embraces the ideals of hard work, knowing your neighbours, and helping out when somebody is in trouble.
As I recently highlighted in my Flavours of Country Australia post, there’s no reason that time spent out ‘in the sticks’ need be boring. There’s plenty of innovators who call rural Australia home, and race days, local shows, and other local festivals keep things interesting.
#4 – The Beaches and the Ocean
Sure, they fall under ‘the landscape’, but I had to give special mention to Australia’s wonderful beaches and the wealth that its oceans provide it.
Australia is literally ‘girt by sea’ and it’s no surprise that fantastic seafood is available virtually anywhere in Australia within cooee of the coast. Prawns (shrimp) the size of your fist, flavourful fish, chewy calamari, and other delicacies from the deep are readily available even as far inland as my sleepy mountain town.
Aussie beach culture needs to be experienced to truly be understood. Not being able to swim is almost a mortal sin in Australia, even if you don’t grow up on the coast. Whether you’re a surfer or simply somebody who enjoys the feel of the sun on their skin, the beach in summer is where you’ll find huge crowds of Australians enjoying the bounty that we’ve been blessed with.
Off the shore and beneath the waves, scuba divers and snorkelers are in for a treat as well. I lost my scuba virginity on the Great Barrier Reef, and have seen some scintillating sights just beneath the waves in the years since.
#3 – Aussie Sports
Australians love their sport, and it’s a good thing I jumped on that bandwagon back when I was seventeen. Not that you’re not allowed to dislike sport – but a big part of the social fabric in Australia is watching, attending, or discussing sport.
It pays to have a team picked out for the NRL and AFL just in case you’re asked.
On a national level, Australia comes to a standstill for major sporting events such as the Melbourne Cup, the NRL & AFL Grand Finals, the Ashes, State of Origin, the Australian Open, the Sydney to Hobart, and virtually anything else of sufficient size and splendour. Aussie TVs tune in in record numbers to watch these events as well as foreign affairs such as the Premier League & World Cup, the Super Bowl, and the Olympics.
Aussies also love to play sport. Weekends are reserved for weekend football, soccer, cricket, netball, or whatever other sport takes your fancy. Many kids grow up playing 2 or 3 sports, and adults across the country still enjoy sports both indoor and outdoor long after their dreams of sporting greatness have faded.
#2 – Friends and Family
This one is obviously personal, but I couldn’t write a list of the reasons why I love living in Australia without mentioning the people who make it feel like home to me.
I’ve been blessed with a big family (three brothers and a sister) who have been with me through thick and thin.
My brothers came to Fiji to cheer me up after a break-up, my folks have spent inordinate amounts of money visiting us when we’ve been scattered across the globe, my sister once flattened a bully for me (not my proudest moment), and I’ve been blessed with an adorable niece and three precocious nephews to shower with gifts and attention before offloading them to my sister to deal with.
My family’s mountain home may not be the most exciting place on earth, but having the safety net of a place to return to has given me the confidence to go abroad without fear of starving or being homeless should it not work out.
Growing up in Australia, I’ve also made some fantastic friends along the way. Friends who – even after a few years apart – slip right back into the easy and amiable ribbing and in jokes we’ve forged over the years.
In 2014 I was lucky enough to be the best man at the weddings of both of my nearest and dearest friends, and I’m quite excited about living less than an hour’s drive from my oldest friend for the foreseeable future.
#1 – Multiculturalism
This one is likely to be contentious given the Australian government’s current stance on outsiders and the very real issue of racism in Australia, but I’m inordinately proud of Australia’s multiculturalism.
I’m not going to lie; a big part of the reason I love it is because it means there’s an abundance of delicious foods from across the globe to sample. While selection out in the country is usually limited to Indian, Chinese, and Thai – the cities boast everything from Moroccan to Malaysian to Greek to Afghani and everything in between.
The average Aussie grows up not eating a single cuisine every night, but a veritable world tour of tastes. As a kid we might have Mexican one night, a generic Asian stir fry the next, Aussie lamb & veggies the next, Italian on Thursday, and finish with an Indian curry on Friday night.
It’s more than just a culinary decision, though. With the exception of the Australian Aboriginals, all Australians are from somewhere else. Sure, you might have to go back a generation or four to find it – but we’re all immigrants bringing our own traditions and stories to these country.
To those who came across as convicts under British rule, Australia was the land that gave them a second chance. To those who have come more recently to escape war or oppression or simply to seek a better life, the country has come to represent that as well.
There’s something truly beautiful about that. If you go past the ugliness of petty politics or ignorance, underneath it all most of us are the result of somebody seeking a second chance. While many Australians now lead lives of privilege (in a global sense), it’s worth remembering this country’s very humble roots.
If more people did that, perhaps we’d have less needless racism and could get on with the business of being a truly great country.
If you’ve called Australia home (or do now), what is it that you love about life in Australia?
If you’re not an Aussie or an expat in Australia, what do you love most about your own country?