Why Europe Is Totally Wasted On The Brits
Dear Britain, I love you, but you have no idea what you’re talking about.
“But you’re Australian, why on earth would you live in London?”
If I had a pound for every time a Brit has asked me this, I’d have enough cash to buy a yacht, park myself off the coast of Hamilton Island and retire at the ripe age of 26.
And I’d be safe to assume the tens of thousands of Australians who migrate to the land of Marmite, World Cup failure and political chaos that rivals the calamity of Canberra also cop this same line of questioning.
It doesn’t matter how we answer it either; they just don’t get it. And they probably never will. Our blasé ‘I might just pop over to Spain this weekend’ retorts seem to puzzle them even more.
“Really? You travel on weekends? I wouldn’t dream of dashing over to Europe for just a few days.”
It takes less than two hours to touch down in Barcelona from Heathrow. Another 30 min or so and you’re admiring the at sandy dunes of Playa de la Barceloneta. On my home shores, that’s about how long it takes to get from Melbourne to Brisbane and out to the XXXX Brewery.
I know where I’d rather be. (Brisbane, yeah? Kidding).
To be fair, I need to disclose that a number of my incredibly well-travelled British friends have seen more of Australia than I have.
I first visited the English capital in 2013 where I caught up with another friend of mine. He was well-educated, worked in finance in a high-paying role and, more importantly, had a sense of curiosity. Or so I thought.
At dinner one night, we chatted about my travel plans and I mentioned my trip to Paris the following day.
“I’ve never been to Paris,” he replied. “But always wanted to go.”
I was a stunned mullet. Sometimes it takes longer for the hosties to fill our drink orders and ensure tray tables are in their full upright and locked positions than to duck across the channel to Paris.
I was quick to tell him as much and he followed with three words that made me almost lose faith in Britain forever: “Yeah…I know.”
As the old-age saying goes, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’. And for the UK, that’s about to ring true.
The UK wouldn’t realise the rest of Europe was on its doorstep, even if the clear skies, colourful cuisines, languages, salt water and snow -- real snow, not “haze”, “sleet” or “mist” -- slapped them in the face.
Even one of my colleagues here confessed to the fact Europe is wasted on the Brits.
Clean water, clean air and fantastic produce all at the tips of their fingers -- or a £20 Ryanair flight -- yet many are sadly convinced London is the be-all and end-all of the world.
While it has its perks (dogs in pubs anyone?), there’s so much more to life outside Zone 9.
In 2016, a report found a quarter of Brits had never been on a plane let alone to a European capital. This figure doesn’t sound all that significant until you compare it with the 10.5 million Australians who returned from short stays overseas in 2018 -- that’s almost half our entire population in one year alone.
Going anywhere, even across the pond to New Zealand or within our own country, is incredibly costly. But travelling is entrenched in Australian culture so much so that you’ll never hear an Australian say: “Oh, but it’s just so far away.” Losing an entire day to air travel is simply short-term pain for…you know what I’m getting at.
And if you haven’t backpacked or lived abroad for a chunk of your life, it’s considered unusual. Living and working in London in particular is often referred to as a ‘rite of passage’ for Australians in their 20s and for a nation so far away we really need to make the effort to open our minds to the rest of the world.
But London's access to Europe isn’t the only lure. We hate to admit it but in spite of my slamming of this city, I do have some love saved for London. Yes, that’s right. We actually don’t hate it -- entirely.
I like, like (love is too strong) London. I do. I do. Beyond the accessibility to travel, I love the cheap gigs, pop up markets, dogs in pubs, Jamie Oliver, cultural activities, the ability to buy groceries and alcohol at the same location, anonymity, the opened-minded expat lifestyle, the parks in summer, meeting new people and the history left behind on every corner.
It certainly has its perks.
But what I don’t love is Londoners’ sense of privilege and their willingness to gloat about the fact they’re from here and that they went to “said” boarding school.
If you’re British and reading this you’re probably thinking silly bitch, why doesn’t she just leave then?
I could, but there’s still more of Europe to see and an AFL London premiership cup to win.
London is also agonisingly expensive, wages are terrible, and the cost of living is f*cked. Not only that, but the medical system is a mess, flats are shoeboxes and the ‘hard water’ will eventually do the hair pulling for you.
But you begin to overlook the fact you’re eating beans and rice for a month when you can get to Norway for £9. The city is very clearly great for a short time, but not a long time.
Lucky for me, I can live in Australia for the rest of my life. A nation which -- though not shy of its own problems -- is home to thousands of glorious beaches, some of the cleanest air in the world (holla, Tasmania), dozens of wine regions, world-class coffee, Buddy Franklin’s left boot and Vegemite (Marmite can get in the bin as far as I’m concerned).
I’m also eternally grateful for the opportunity to experience living abroad, that I can put up with the empty wallet and my temporary countrymen.
So, Britain, please stop asking why we’re here. And London, don’t flatter yourself. You’re okay, but to us, you’re mainly a gateway to a series of adventures.
For now, I’m off to browse some yachts.
Just another Aussie on a Tier 5 Visa.