Tuesday, October 21, 2008

World Tour: Australia

I'm driving up the East Coast of Australia, beach bumming away the last days of my world trip. Avis gave me the tiniest Hyundai Getz rental car, and after just a day of driving, I'm now able to manage the combined difficulties of driving on the left side and switching gears with my left hand. I've even stopped wiping the windshield every time I change lanes.

My mental image of Australia had been formed by Outback restaurants, and stories of Swiss friends spending months there after high school, as bumming away months in Australia before you join the military is a quintessential Swiss thing to do. Thus, I thought Australia would be a country of rough individualists, crisscrossing the Outback in their 4WD Range Rovers. I didn't know just how wrong this would be.

Instead of being some permutation of the US, Australia seems most like Western Europe with a huge backyard. Taxes are high, health care is free, education is cheap, workers have lots of vacation. Cities are well organized, and roads are well maintained. Thus, Sydney looks more like Hamburg than LA.

A friend at Google explained that while Americans celebrate fame and fortune, Australians lack respect for wealth, power and assorted pretensions - "tall poppy syndrome" (not tall puppy syndrome, see the comments).

A great example of this might be the Q1 Tower in Surfers Paradise. It is the tallest residential building in the world! Yet, the info brochure doesn't even name the architect, and there was indeed no star architect of the likes of Norman Foster, Santiago Calatrava, or I.M. Pei involved. Instead of praising the vision of the planners, the brochure talks about the labour of love of the hundreds of construction workers. The resulting building is no Chicago Spire, but still very pleasing to the eye. Oh, it also has fantastic views from the observation deck.

Other highlights so far: Fabulously pretty beaches. Wildlife World in Sydney, where they have kangaroos, koalas, and you can watch them feed the world's most dangerous snakes. Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge was also quite an experience, although it took us hours to get geared up - I've climbed the alps with less safety equipment -, but the views were worth it.


Andrew Lampert said...

Hi Gabor,

Glad to hear you're enjoying your drive up the east coast so much!

Just one minor (and humorous!) correction - it's the tall poppy syndrome, not tall puppy. Google suggests you're certainly not alone in using this eggcorn though :-).

Happy travels!


Felipe Costa said...

"Australians are skeptical of it - "tall poppy syndrome": Puppies get less love if they grow too large to be cute. Quite a European phenomenon. "

Interesting it. And it really exist! But I must say that is common to countries society-minded (where the community come first than the individual) as Eastern, Balkans and South European Countries, South America and Africa.

Not sure if it is the same in Nordic and Central European Countries.

Felipe Avila da Costa

Anonymous said...

Very intresting and beautiful pictures.