The Homecoming-An Expat Returns
Two weeks on from returning to Australia from two years overseas, Lambros Karavis shares his thoughts on what's changed and what has stayed the same
It's late on a weekday evening at one of Australia's metropolitan capital cities. It's a cold winter's evening and the chill has penetrated the walls into the offices, giving us all a foretaste of the what's to come when we head home. Nothing unusual you say? Well, it is for me! Just three weeks ago I was sweltering in 45C heat in the evening in Dubai. It's been a bit of a shock acclimatising to the weather, from that searing desert heat back to the rain and chill of a (southern) Australian winter.
To call Australia "home" is probably a bit of a misnomer. (Sorry about that Qantas.) Truth is, over the past thirty plus years, I've become a bit of a global misfit travelling here and there for my work. I'm part of that genus "peripatetic" that is related to the Aboriginal genus "walkabout" but comes from a slightly different Euromix stock. (By the way, thank you Mr. Portokalis for reminding us that peripatetic has Greek roots, coming from the word "peripatetikos". Also thank you Mr. Wikipedia for reminding me that I am also a member of the "peripatetics", as followers of Aristotle and his philosophies are called.) But I digress!
Yes, I'm back in Australia after two solid years abroad working in Dubai. The homecoming has me feeling a little bewildered; everything is comfortably familiar but everything is so, so different. Hungry Jacks is the perfect example. I mean, it is Burger King everywhere else in the world except Australia. You can buy a Whopper in all Burger Kings I have visited (in the USA, Canada, the UK and even in Dubai). The Whopper at Hungry Jacks is something else and (I believe) nowhere else can you buy that AussieBurger.
What a time I picked to come back to Australia! No sooner had I arrived back in the country than Julia called an election. Being of no fixed abode, I think I may have even "stuffed-up" my chances of voting. I was too jet-lagged to even remember whether I was still registered to vote let alone fix things by Monday evening. Of course I was overseas when Kevin Rudderless uttered the (in) famous line "Et tu Bruta". Democracy is such a wonderful thing. A "bloodless" coup that is both functional and factional.
I love Australians. Here we are in the middle of an election campaign and at a dinner with a group of middle-aged, typically suburban Australians the conversation was steered by me to "the election". It must have taken a total of five minutes to exhaust discussion. (Try achieving that in Greece, impossible!) Over a meal of osso-bucco, wonderful gravy and roast potatoes, the conversation turned to public transport. Now there was a topic that stirred the blood of my Australians. Everything from why the tram lines need to be extended from St. Kilda/Glenelg, how much we really need to improve the bus service (can anyone get a bus at peak hours anyway?) and why the trains are not running on time. Rarely have I heard so much passion in an election year about any topic!
It's nice being back in Australia. I was able to register for my uni course on-line in less than 10 minutes. It took the library just five minutes to take a photo-id, issue me with a library card and allow me to borrow a book. I signed a lease for my new apartment in less than 15 minutes and it only took three hours to do all the reference checks. Try doing that in Dubai! To rent an apartment, I had to give a copy of my passport, provide twelve months cheques in advance for rent payment, give a salary letter from my employer and provide a copy of my employment contract. It took three days to get all the paperwork ready.
Of course, it's not all in Australia's favour. It only took me one week to get a broadband connection and cable tv connected in Dubai. (Thank you Du!). It's going to take three weeks to get my connection to the apartment here in Oz and I still have to pay a licensed cabler to take it the last few metres separately. (Guess who manages to do that).
Look, Australia is a great country. So far we haven't needed to call in the World Bank to help us manage our finances (we just threaten to tax mining companies), we don't have the wharfies on strike (we broke that monopoly up almost two decades ago) and one doesn't need New York style security to get into a bank (who needs a branch in Oz anyway!).
It's nice being back, honestly!
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