Australian Friendliness

Mim and Michelle with Lily celebrating family Christmas in Melbourne
Mim and Michelle with Lily celebrating family Christmas in Melbourne

Scattered through this entry are photos of a few of the many people who have made our stay in Australia grand. Aussies have the reputation of being informal, easygoing, friendly people. I’ve been thinking about friendliness and friendship and what it all means to the decision we face as to where we will spend our retirement years.

Natalie and Darren at Lily's first birthday
Natalie and Darren at Lily's first birthday

When we visited New Zealand, we were sure no people could be friendlier. Then we spent two months in Melbourne and found its urbanites friendly and warm. We thought maybe it was the friendliest city in Australia. Now we’re sure it’s Adelaide. Of course, it could be Perth or Port Elliot or Healesville or Margaret River, where we also found friendly people.

Or maybe it’s our hometown, Kelowna, or…perhaps it’s just wherever we are.

I’m reminded of the old story about the farmer who was standing in a field beside the road when a traveler stopped to talk with him. The man was looking for a new place to live.

Jeannette holding the Farmers Union iced coffee to which she introduced me. Now I'm hooked on it. David's peeking over her shoulder.
Jeannette holding the Farmers Union iced coffee to which she introduced me. Now I'm hooked on it. David's peeking over her shoulder.

“What are people like in the next village?” asked the traveler.

“What were they like in the place you came from?” asked the farmer.

“Miserable, selfish, mean. I’m glad to be out of there.”

The farmer thought for a minute and then said quietly, “The folks in the next village are a lot like the ones in your last town.”

The traveler shook his head and decided to keep moving on.

The farmer was in the same field a couple days later when another traveler stopped to talk.

We'd gone to check out the West Lakes area and watch a regatta when Allen and Eileen called. They own the flat next to David and Jeannette, down in Port Elliot, but their Adelaide home is a block from where we were walking. Without hesitation, they invited us over for coffee and a chat.
We'd gone to check out the West Lakes area and watch a regatta when Allen and Eileen called. They own the flat next to David and Jeannette, down in Port Elliot, but their Adelaide home is a block from where we were walking. Without hesitation, they invited us over for coffee and a chat.

“What are people like in the next village?” asked the traveler.

“What were they like in the place you came from?” asked the farmer.

“Finest folk you’d ever meet,” he said. “If I didn’t have to find a new job, I’d be there still.”

The farmer nodded. “You’ll find the people in this village as friendly as they were in the one you left.”

Robin and I count ourselves lucky that we find friendly people everywhere we go, but we know it’s never just a matter of luck. We all take our expectations and experiences with us.

Sarah and Karen, relatives of Irish storyteller Liz Weir, who connected us from afar. We had a grand evening with them and with Karen's mother Freda.
Sarah and Karen, relatives of Irish storyteller Liz Weir, who connected us from afar. We had a grand evening with them and with Karen's mother Freda.

We also take our willingness to reach out, to take the first step…or not. The environment in which we live is not neutral. A motorcycle gang may move in next door. Loved ones may move away. We may find ourselves isolated by injury or illness or hard times. Of course, kindred spirits may become neighbours. Family members may move closer. We might even come into a windfall.

In our time in Australia we have met people, and heard about others, who have relocated in their fifties or sixties or even later. Some are happy with their decisions. Others are not. The challenges of re-locating at any age are complex and cannot all be anticipated in advance. No place is perfect, no situation ideal.

Will we be happy if we decide to move to Melbourne or Adelaide or if we decide to stay in Kelowna? My hunch is that any decision will carry with it some “what if we had…” questions. Our hearts are scattered like shattered glass across several continents. There’s no way we can gather all the pieces in one place.

On the other hand, those bits of glass are pieces of a colourful mosaic. Each one represents someone whose life has become intertwined with ours, some through blood, others through friendship or work, all of them through something in each other’s souls that connected.

Josephine, one of the friendly folk who make up the Adelaide Storytelling Guild, telling a tale at the March gathering
Josephine, one of the friendly folk who make up the Adelaide Storytelling Guild, telling a tale at the March gathering

Wherever we are in the world, we will yearn for loved ones far away. Phone calls, e-mails, Skype (we WILL get a camera soon), and occasional visits will keep us from drifting out of each others’ lives but will never be as satisfying as being close enough to share the ordinariness of our day-to-day selves.

Robin and I have the “where shall we live” conversation on a regular basis. What a gift it is to have the problem of choice, knowing that wherever we are we will be with at least some of the people we love.

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3 thoughts on “Australian Friendliness

  1. Hali

    Dearest Cathryn and Robin,

    I believe that there are many of us who look forward to your blog to be able to read of your new adventures, your new friends, and your thoughts on the environment and food topics plus so many, many more things that keep us wanting to read more and more. I know that is true for me. This page is even more touching, for you still keep us all so dear to your hearts no matter the distance. The decision on where you two will decide to settle down will be an interesting outcome for many of us, know you both would have conversed and debated all the pros and cons possibly by the time you return to Kelowna. No matter where you choose to live we will always be there for you. There are times we feel that life is too short. We form acquaintances and are lucky enough to form some wonderful friendships that will last forever. You two are very special to many of us all over the world and I am just one lucky, blessed person to have found you both in my life! Love you both dearly! Hali…xoxoxoxo

  2. Pingback: Australia - What I Would See If I Was A Visitor - Planetdwellers

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