Thursday, January 26, 2006

Prozac Nation? ...in a good way

Happy Australia Day!

Yes, today's the day that [I think I got this right] Australia celebrates the fact that Captain Cook and his crew arrived in Oz, murdered the natives, raped the unique ecosystem of indigenous plants and animals by bringing in their own "superior" ones, strangled the English language, and made a nation suited for a halfwit like John Howard to be PM. So, lots to celebrate then. O, and I think it's also to recognise that Britain still owns their beautiful land.

But seriously, it's a great place. There's a feeling that people are just generally happier here than in the UK [yes, yes, sweeping generalisation, I know, but please, indulge me]. Claud mentioned something yesterday that I'd already noticed, which is the fact that even people in the most mundane of jobs seem to be relaxed, happy, and enjoying their work. The surly youths that serve you in the supermarket, clothes shop, petrol station etc. in the UK, just don't seem to exist here. It's not that working in retail is intrinsically destined to be mundane, but simply that in the UK so many people seem to be fed up to be doing what they're doing. I'm not a sociologist, and the reasons are probably multiple and complicated, but the difference is so striking that I always find myself slightly bewildered by it.

As an example, going into the local bottle shop [off licence] a couple of days ago [the only solution on a roasting hot evening is a bottle of Carlton Cold], the guy serving me asked, "How you goin'?" This is the less formal version of the normal Australian question as you go into a shop/restaurant/public place of, "How are you?" in a very sincere and apparently interested way. He added to this with a "So how was the weekend then?" I resisted my initial reaction to think that he had me down as an alcoholic who probably had a raging, drunken weekend that was either entirely fantastic or that I would not be able to remember in any detail, but still only struggled to mumble, "Yeah, alright thanks."

In the past I've occasionally been rather more surly and sarcastic in asking back in their bright-as-a-button way "I'm good! So how are you doing?" which always seems to baffle them somewhat. But I've learned that there is a genuine degree of sincerity, of politeness, of general perkiness and ease with doing their jobs which is generally pretty alien to us Brits. I've said to some of you, when asked about moving to Oz, that I'm a different person here, and I think that's true. My normal disposition is to see the glass half-empty, despite whatever facade I may be able to construct at the time. But I am more gregarious here, more full of energy and interest, less negative and bored. And I think that's largely down to the people, I really do.

That the climate plays a part in that, I'm pretty certain, but there's more to it than that. It's like the country has never suffered really bad times [though it has], and as a consequence is not anticipating more bad times. There's no residual depression here, it would seem, and there's always something good to look forward to. Not only is the glass half-full, some bugger must keep filling the thing up.

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