Aug 29, 2012

A Malaysian's observations about Australia - part 2

A continuation from Part 1

1) Australians are not very adventurous with food. I'm used to going "Ooh, what is that?" and popping it in my mouth before someone can answer. If it looks suspicious, I might get some info before I pop it in my mouth. But Aussies automatically shy away from anything that they don't recognise.

2) Their repertoire of food appears limited. I once brought a sponge cake to a tea party, and the moms did not know what a sponge cake was! "Err...chiffon cake?" I voluntered its other name. Nope.

3) Aussie boys and girls are very good with young ones. I have witnessed children Number One's age, treat Number Two with the greatest kindness - random strangers at the park remember his name, listen to him patiently (and he can be hard to decipher sometimes!) and play well with him, then politely say goodbye. Ten year-old boys carry their baby sister willingly and gently.

4) Aussies are the friendliest strangers in the world. (my definition of world includes South East Asia, Japan, parts of Europe, US, UK and Scandinavia) You get a smile and a "How are you?" from a passerby, a chat with the plumber, a commiseration from another parent while you are arguing with your own on the street... There is an innocence in this passing interaction which is devoid of any intent or want, just warmth. In the past, I've recoiled from such interactions - in the Asian context, exchange between strangers are usually when something is required. Once, a stranger offered me advice on which baking product to buy whilst I lingered over the aisle and my first reaction was 'Is she working for the manufacturer? Has she mistaken me for someone else?'. But I've learnt to let my guard down.

5) There is still a big sense of trust in transactions. I can withdraw money at the bank with just my ATM card and my PIN. I don't have to fill in any forms and I don't even have to show ID. In Malaysia, Public Bank would not let me transact even though I had the ATM card, ID, my finger (they use fingerprinting technology), all because I did not have my passbook! At the petrol station, you pump first, then go in and pay. In some parts of Australia we visited, you had to tell the cashier how much you pumped - talk about trust!

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