Two contradictory aspects of life in Australia

During my first weeks in Wollongong I have noticed two contradictory aspects of life that surprisingly go hand in hand here in Australia.

On the one hand, Australia seems like a country that is protective of its citizens: tons of rules and signs always remind citizens of what is prohibited and what is not, especially concerning alcohol. At the beach, in the bus, at bus stops, in the pedestrian parts of the city, in parks and pretty much at all other places open to the public, drinking alcohol and smoking are not allowed. In a liquor store or the supermarket, the salesperson will give you a paper bag to store the alcohol if you do not have a backpack or something else with you to carry it.

Another thing apart from the handling alcohol in public in this context is the awareness and relevance of safety here in Australia: For not wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle there is a fine up to 200 Swiss Francs. It is compulsory for every student to complete a Consent Matter test about sexual consent, drink spiking and sexual abuse. Also, when we had a pool party organized by the university, everyone had to do a swim test and got a wrist bandage, otherwise guests had to stay out of the water. Obviously also here: no alcoholic beverages allowed during the pool party. In clubs, they have staff in the bathrooms so that people do not go to the toilet together as this is prohibited.

Furthermore, the university advised us to install the “SafeZone” App on our phones where you can press an emergency button and call the security office of the university in case you are feeling unsafe und you get picked up. Also, there is an escort service from the library when you are leaving late and feel unsafe. Since Wollongong seems like a rather small city I was surprised when I was walking home at midnight with my female friend and three Australian guys told us on the way that we should never walk home alone as women since it can be super dangerous. However, I have never felt unsafe at all so far. On the contrary, sometimes I feel less safe in Bern. In conclusion, looking at all those safety measures and awareness in various aspects in life, I feel like the Australians have another sense of security and cautiousness than I have.

On the other hand, apart from all the bans Aussie people and the vibe in general is enormously chill and welcoming. People are talking and chatting to one another out of the blue in class, on the street, in the bus, at a market. Classes and professors are not as formal as in Switzerland, since there are a lot of discussions and group tasks. Everyone is called by their first name, this also applies for the professor and the latter usually shows up in short pants and a T-Shirt in class (which would never happen in the law faculty at the university of Bern). Literally, all the Australian people I met so far, have been extremely chatty, interested in my background, helpful and welcoming. Also, young people dress way more extravagantly than Swiss people, walking around in tight sport clothes, sometimes only in a sport’s bra and in general naked skin is quite normal as well, also in the lectures.

What strikes me about this is that on the one hand Australia seems to be a protective country with a lot of rules and bans for their citizens, but on the other hand the people are not strict nor stern at all and the mentality about life seems a lot less rigid and more easy-going than in Switzerland. In conclusion, despite that I sometimes get annoyed by all the bans, it is obvious that there is a high quality of life here in Australia which is shown to outsiders like me by the welcoming people living here and by the vibe and mentality in general. 

Gina Baumgartner

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