There’s a lot of strange questions I get asked by Brits curious about Aussies in London.
For the older people who spent time there when they were younger it’s usually about how it’s changed (Brisbane is much trendier than it used to be I swear). For the younger crowd who haven’t made the trip yet, they seem to just be trying to wrap their heads around the sheer size of the place. We once worked out the furthest you could drive in the UK on mainland from London was 12 hours north to the tip of Scotland. And depending on how technical you want to get you’ve passed into another country in less time than that.
From Brisbane, 12 hours only get you to just past Sydney, and there’s still another 9 hours to Melbourne and the southern coastline. The drive from Brisbane to Perth (east coastline to west coastline) is a casual 45 hour drive, just to give you an idea of full-scale. It’s a bloody big place.
Yeah, Australia is Super Great
I like answering these kinds of questions though because I love my country and I love to encourage every person I meet to visit there. Yes of course, it’s safe. No, not everything will kill you – if it did, we’d all be dead (in fact you’re more likely to die from the heat). Snakes and spiders aren’t that common – just don’t stick your hand into any dark places without looking first and you’ll be fine. No, I’m not afraid of sharks. I am afraid of irukandji jellyfish though, those things will kill the shit out of you and you won’t even see it. Also, have you seen the size of a fully grown male kangaroo? No, thanks.
(I’m not doing a very good job of reassuring you that Australia is perfectly safe, am I?)
Yes I have seen all of these animals in the wild, but you do generally have to look for them. You aren’t going to have kangaroo bounding through the city central.
The question that baffles me the most though is why would I leave paradise? And fine, when you’ve got beaches and rainforests like this on your doorstep, you can maybe see their point.
But if we go back to my little lesson about the sheer size of Australia and then throw in the fact that there are only 8 capital cities and a total national population of 24 million, you may understand when I say that living in Australia is like living in a bubble. (That’s just 36% of the total population of the United Kingdom, which sits at 65 million).
Awful things happen really regularly around the world, in South-East Asia, America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East and we know about it and we feel sad but it doesn’t really touch us. Because we’re such a big country that is so isolated from everywhere else it’s kind of hard to imagine anything truly bad happening to us. (Although if Trump keeps antagonising China and North Korea, we’re maybe a little bit too close to all that for comfort.)
Isolated in Paradise
So living in Australia is like living in a bubble. Bad things happen there and good things happen there but we are so wrapped up in our own little world, it’s hard to even feel like apart of the actual world from so far away.
So that’s a big part of the reason why I would leave paradise. I wanted to feel part of something bigger. I wanted to experience what it was like to have dozens of other cultures right on your doorstep. Jump in a car in London and in 12 hours (with the help of some tunnels and ferries) you could be in Toulouse in the South of France, a completely different country in a completely different culture. Jump in a car for 12 hours in Australia and you’ll just find more Australians, more desert, more spiders and more beaches.
A lot of Brits really take this for granted, this doorway they have to the rest of the world but I never will. I’ll take every opportunity I have to explore it while I can, while my visa is still valid. Because it won’t always be there for me.
But beaches and sunshine and 40 degree days and flies (so many damn flies, I hate flies) and killer jellyfish will be.
Tell me your expat stories! Why did you move a world away from home?
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Photos are all by me, Laura Gosney.