Recently I had the opportunity to visit my son in Australia. Going to a different continent, albeit one that speaks a form of English. can at first rattle your cage after 30 hours in planes and airports and crossing 15 different time zones. When arriving you realize everything is so much different than you may have expected. But, as the phrase states, ‘when in Rome do as the Romans’ and as a visitor you quickly realize that patience and understanding is not only valued but expected – it is the Australian way. The major differences in choices and accessibility … food, entertainment, shopping, transportation, and just basic living as well as the overall cost associated with each activity reminded me of how much we take for granted as Americans. We have it VERY good. We have more choices, options, and opportunities than we realize. Maybe it takes an opportunity to get out of our comfort zone to truly get it.
The Australian people are gentle, kind and accepting. Their highly efficient, immaculate and safe transit systems have signs that say, ‘please give your seat to someone who may need it more than you. If students are riding another sign directs them to give up their seat to an adult. Amazingly, these students – frequently teenagers – all do so willingly and with a gentle smile on their face. In the grocery stores people pushing their trolleys (grocery baskets) have just a few items – enough for a day or two in them. Food is costly and it appears never wasted. Also, you don’t see papers or trash on the sidewalks or streets. There are signs that instruct people to report anyone if they are littering. Consequently, people do not litter. The Aussies seem to take life in stride in a peaceful, unhurried manner. When driving people do not cut you off, honk their horns or merge quickly. They drive as they live. At work if they do not get everything accomplished they had planned, well, there is always tomorrow. Their mantra, ‘no hassle, no worry, no problem is truly their way of life. They just don’t seem to get rattled over anything. As Americans we have LITTLE patience with interruptions, delays or inconveniences. We know what we like or want and are usually able to get it. In Australia stores close at 5:00 P.M on weekdays and every Sunday. In America we are a 24/7 culture. We move fast, talk fast and usually expect – even demand that complete accessibility is available.
Our nonstop work ethic demonstrated the greatest difference between the cultures. As Americans we seem to be in a permanent state of rush, rush, rush just going faster and faster to get more things done. The good news is that as a culture we do get a tremendous amount accomplished. We are the innovators that seem to be in a seamless morphing state of constant improvement in everything we do. We work hard and can take great pride in what we contribute to the world. There is a reason why we are a world leader.
But, could it be that in our rush to accomplish more and become better and better that we have forgotten to give ourselves permission to really live and enjoy the special moments of our lives? I ask this with great humility. I lived the 24/7 lifestyle for years, now I wonder if it really was all that necessary or if I could have modified it slightly and taken a little time to smell the roses.
I remember a time …. long ago when as Americans we did enjoy a little more relaxed lifestyle – true it was years ago but I still remember. Family time was valued, holidays celebrated together, actual cards were sent in the mail telling someone how loved and important they were in our lives. Service personnel were treated by customers with appreciation and respect. Drivers were courteous. Living just felt safer and life a little more in balance.
I believe every experience we have can teach us something. My take away from this visit was to make a greater effort to take a few minutes and genuinely thank people for being in my world. To reconnect with friends and tell them how important they are to me. As Americans we are very generous when a major catastrophe happens – it is part of our DNA. We can take great pride in this and tap this part of our DNA by extending these thoughts of caring to a daily basis by remembering to be a little more gentle, patient and understanding with others and ourselves. As people of the world we have the power to change it one person at a time as we extend a hand to our fellow travelers.
Have a great few days!