Landing in the Land of our Cousins: Australia
(Following is written from journal notes I’m wanting to complete the trip blog with Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii)
Our flight from Thailand and Malaysia signaled a reentry of sorts. We landed in Darwin in the Australian Northern Territories. Although I have been in Australia many times – this region was different as evidenced in the people. They were young, multi-ethnic and well, a little on the ‘rough’ side. They made me smile.
The rather warm welcome we received at Australian Customs and Immigration was akin to meeting up with cousins. My customs agent even smiled and added, “So you’re Canadian eh?” as he looked at my passport trying to find a page where he could squeeze a stamp on.
It is true. Our countries are like cousins. Australia and Canada have been linked for the past century. Both countries share similarities in terms of their sprawling geographies and being resource-based. We are both former British colonies with a common history and guilt-laden problems associated with our native people. We have also become two of the richest nations in the world.
Our son Jeremy and wife Shari lived in Perth when first married. In typical Aussie manner he was quickly given a nickname that shortened his name to simply ‘Jez.’ They love doing that and don’t really care what you think of the name they adopt for you. In the time our kids lived in Australia they developed ‘mates’ they are still in touch with.
I love this about Australians and I have many friends there I keep in touch with. I love their Aussie sense of humor, their ‘attitude’ of independence and what I might call their ‘sauciness’.
Now there are some people whom Australians offend. They find them arrogant and rude.
It’s important to understand the Australian psyche here rather than get all bent out of shape about this. The Australian culture is largely based on the premise that “anything goes” and “anyone is fair game”. Mate-ness is spread throughout the restaurants to the casual BBQ setting; the light-hearted work environment to the jovial yet die-hard sport rivalries in ‘Footie’ espousing a “no worries, mate” attitude. They are what we might call earthy, and forthright.
Becoming Fair Dinkum
As a mentor and student of leaders I have often wondered if beneath the seeming authentic bravado of Australians there may be an underlying insecurity that is embedded in the culture or their family history.
Most often a person or leader who’s first impression is one of being overwhelming, brash, bold – often sprinkled with a sarcastic style of humor – has some significant insecurities beneath all of that. How does one address this?
Well for Christian believers, it is by establishing your security and identity in being a child of God. This is something that a mentor or spiritual director can guide you in to break down old thought patterns and establish new ones. Once that is in place, we become comfortable in our own skin or “fair dinkum” is the Aussie expression for someone who is really genuine.
Accept or Tolerate
It has been said that Canadians accept you while Australians tolerate you. Outsiders can sense a bit of this in Australia. It is like they are checking you out. If you pass their ‘test’ (whatever that is) they can quickly move to calling you ‘mate’ with lots of warmth.
When Bob and I arrived in Sydney. We were met at the airport by Chris – a man we did not know except via email who was connected to Bob through the Parkinson’s world of relationships. He and his wife Pam hosted us for the week in Sydney and we left them feeling the warmth of relationship you would share with a close cousin.
As I am writing this I am also thinking of my close mate – Graham Johnston from Perth who is now with the Lord. He and I shared ‘mate-ness’ and I miss him greatly but will forever be grateful for all that we shared together. We even shared a name in that his son is named “Carson.”
Cousins are unique and our stay in Australia should be inspiring.