Why I love Australia

I just returned from speaking on innovation at the Web Directions conference in Sydney, followed by two weeks of vacation there with my wife. It’s my second time to Australia and I have to say, it’s my favorite country on the planet to visit. Here’s why:

  1. The people are great. I can’t recall anywhere I’ve been where it’s so easy to make jokes and small talk with people I didn’t know. And it’s not the polite, but chilly vibe I  often find in America (even in Seattle), it’s this totally warm, friendly, isn’t life funny, knowing vibe. When Australians say no worries, it’s pretty convincing that they believe it, and as a traveler it’s a delight.
  2. The food is magical. I love to eat, and know where to go to find great food in most cities. But everywhere I’ve been in Australia it’s too easy. Food courts, those evil zones in American malls, are fantastic in Australia (at least in Sydney and Melbourne). It’s fast food, yes, but the quality of produce and the range of high quality ethnic foods is hard to match. (And what’s with the dairy products? Yogurt and cheese just taste amazing). I’m a health food guy, and the number of juice bars, vegetarian restaurants and healthy options is unmatched by most world cities (The Glebe neighborhood in Sydney has been a favorite haunt on both of my trips there. Had a great meal at Badde Manors).
  3. Public transportation is fantastic. I’m a former New Yorker, and I miss living in a city with real public transit (The Seattle metropolitan area, despite it’s enviro-self righteousness, is a public transportation disaster). In Sydney you can get from the airport to downtown in 20 minutes for $10: It took us 30 minutes, on foot, to get from our hotel to our air-line check-in. Melbourne has free tram service (like Portland) in the downtown core. It’s all smart, clean and fast. Very impressive. I wish more Americans could see what a city is like when the infrastructure is done right, so we can admit what a crime against mental health the sprawl-o-rama urban planning of cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles are.
  4. The vibe is comfortably in-between England and America. Like the British, Australians have a sense of proper rules of order and how to run things well. But like Americans (and unlike the British), Australian’s seem naturally laid-back in their manner. Things run on time and there are standards, but there’s no snobbery about it. As an American, coming from perhaps the most casual country in the world (for better and worse), Australia feels like America+: it’s familiar, but things on average look, work and taste better.
  5. Two hours to the wild. We took the train from Sydney to Katoomba, and spent a week in the Blue Mountains. Only 100km or so away, but enough to escape any trappings of the big city. Katoomba was my perfect country town: a half-dozen used bookstores, a health-food co-op, and an affordable cottage with a mountain view. We did the giant stairway hike (photo above), and I spent many hours with my feet up, reading and sleep all day.
  6. I love Australian slang. I admit I do love Commonwealth accents (British and Australian makes American English sound flat and boring), but little Australian phrases and shorthand like “exy” for expensive and “brekky” for breakfast are just too fun not to use. I’m sure my friends back at home will think I’m a weirdo, but it will be hard not to keep using the bits of Aussie slang I’ve picked up.

Thanks to everyone I met on this trip, at Web Directions and elsewhere, especially John Allsop and Maxine Sherrin for inviting me to keynote their conference.

60 Responses to “Why I love Australia”

  1. Julian

    Scott,

    It was great having you here! Glad you liked it! (Sounds like you didn’t do any actual driving here!)

    Your web directions talk rocked.

    Julian

    Reply
  2. Gary Capell

    Good on you, mate! :-)

    Reply
  3. jen

    What a great wrapup of Australia. I’m glad you enjoyed it here. I really enjoyed your talk about the Myths of Innovation and am glad I got to see it.

    Reply
  4. Robert

    Why not make your next visit your last, and stay permanently next time ;).

    Reply
  5. ebony

    haha, brecky. had never even thought of that as being ‘slang’, just such everyday language!
    its so refreshing to hear a positive view of australia, makes me appreciate what i have around me!
    glad u like it =)

    Reply
  6. John Allsopp

    thanks so much again for coming down, and your wonderful keynote Scott, and glad you liked it down here – we rather do too ;-)

    john

    Reply
  7. Scott McArthur

    I’m visiting and talking in Auz next week for the 1st time and your post has made me feel REALLY positive about it! Thanks!

    Reply
  8. Maxine Sherrin

    Hah! I love the idea of you using the term “brekky”. It’s one of my faves too. Glad you had a good time!

    Reply
  9. A Melburnian

    I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but the trams aren’t free anywhere in Melbourne. Everyone just pretends they are and gets away with it. I’m glad you didn’t get caught by a ticket inspector.

    Reply
  10. Ben Buchanan

    Hey Scott, it was great to meet you while you were here :) Glad you liked your trip! I have to agree on the Blue Mountains – some of the prettiest country you’ll ever find.

    Reply
  11. Scott

    Dear “A Melburnian”: There is at least one free tram – the the city circle line. Not sure how useful it is for locals, but for a tourist like me it was super handy (Just wish it ran later at night :)

    Reply
  12. CHESSNOID

    Nice post. You make me want to visit Australia. The scenery always looks beautiful in the movies and tv shows I have seen. Thanks for sharing. Sounds fun.
    Cheers!

    Reply
  13. Wolfie!

    Yep, The City Circle is a nice one to get around on, though it doesn’t go too far.

    I took some American friends around on it when they were here, the other unusual tram is the restaurant one, but I believe you have to book a long time in advance, and it’s expensive.

    Wolfie!

    Reply
  14. Ayatrollah

    Get fucked mate. Aussie malls have shitty food just like in the US, US shopping centers are owned by Westfield’s, an Aussie company.

    Reply
  15. A Melburnian

    True, the City Circle is free. My mistake. Unfortunately transport is pretty bad in a lot of the metropolitan area.

    Reply
  16. Ruth Ellison

    It was nice to meet you briefly at Web Directions. Loved your talk!

    Glad that you liked Australia. Isn’t the Blue Mountains great?!

    Maybe one day you can pop past Canberra (spend about a day doing the sites).

    Reply
  17. Digitowl

    Hey Scott – it was completely refreshing to see a presenter as enthusiastic as you at WDS07.

    “Dunny” is some more slang to start using in your neck of the woods.

    All the best

    Reply
  18. Alton Owens

    Stumbled in here using Stumble!
    Your so right about AU, this is my favorite travel destination. From Arkansas to AU 4 times. Keep going back to ride the Trains. When you can a must is the Indian-Pacific from Sydney to Perth, 3 days & 3 nights a rolling party. Such friendly and cordial people and I like the western style of Perth and WA.
    Next time save some time for this trip, and don’t fly back just ride the train back, for double the fun.

    Reply
  19. ian

    Not sure if Sydney and Melbourne are representative of Australia as a whole. And I have to agree with Ayatrollah and say that food in Aussie food courts is crap.

    But yep, thanks to the people, she’s a great country.

    Reply
  20. sybil

    I’m a migrant to Oz and I love it!

    Next visit come to Western Australia – the last frontier. The forests in the south west are stunning, giant eucalypts called Tingle Trees and some dinky-di characters too! Only 5 hours south of Perth by car … or fly to Albany – too easy!

    Reply
  21. Yvette

    Public transport in Sydney is atrocious! The State Government always promises to fix it, but it never happens. Trains dont run on time, they are dirty, staff are horribly rude, and if you’re commuting during peak hour from either Wynyard or Town Hall, take a fumigation mask and a lot of water in summer.

    Trams in Melbourne aren’t free… glad you weren’t caught by an Inspector!

    One thing that I partially agree with is the food is awesome – but not food court food. We have a great variety of restaurants offering a wide range of delicacies because we are so multicultural. Spanish next door to Chinese, which is next to ‘Australia’, followed by Thai, Turkish, French etc etc. That is the one thing I miss about Australia when I’m overseas.

    And, as you said, the people here are awesome. A great sense of humour, and (generally) true freedom of speech. Have you ever watched the Chaser? This is what Australian humour is.

    All in all, I’m glad to call Australia my home :)

    Reply
  22. Ric

    Scott – we try (but not too hard, because then we wouldn’t be so laid-back).

    I think some of the points above about the food not being as good as you thought are:
    a) situation-specific … it depends on the mall,
    b) and indication of how much we take good food for granted here in Australia.

    Oh – public transport isn’t as good in Adelaide (but here I could give you a lift instead!)

    Reply
  23. Lid

    Melbournian (sorry it was driving me nuts)- the Melbourne City Circle tram is free and fantastic for visitors.

    Australia is pretty amazing full stop! Thank you Scott – I’m an Aussie mum living and working in Silicon Valley (nearly 2 years) and I really miss all of the things Scott talks about – especially the variety of food (the taste more).

    So before we get all the “bad, bad, Australia stuff” – check out the rest of the world and you might find that those in the land Down Under have it pretty great!

    Incidently, Silicon Valley is pretty terrific too (if only I could get some decent chocolate ;) – beats Melbourne weather hands down.

    Reply
  24. Blair

    Just a response to Yvette –
    To you, the public transport maybe atrocious but to the average American they are spectacularly well run. I have been all over both OZ and the US. I hail from the US… There are only two to three cities in the us where the public transport is worth anything. Among these are New York, San Francisco and Chicago. These exist only because the city founders had the vision to see them through. I live in Los Angeles. We have lots of trains to nowhere.
    We get these great plans to have a nice system and the populous immediately takes a “not in my backyard!” stance. Therefore the public transport is an absolute joke. Like Australia, the western US cities are huge and spread out and unlike much of OZ, impossible to get around if you don’t have a car. In LA we have people that literally commute 4 hours each way each day between home, work and back! As bad as it might seem OZ is LIGHTYEARS ahead of the US, in public transport and MANY other ways. It is all relative.

    Reply
  25. Geoff the Elder

    Glad you liked Oz too!! I was there in November
    visiting a good mate of mine in Frankston. I liked Melbourne a lot and I don’t normally like cities.
    There’s some real good food and some crap (but the crap ain’t as bad as the crap food in the UK!!
    The folks I met were great! Mainly blues musos as my mate is a great blues guitar player, but people were genuinely friendly. Yeah, I had brekky every morning and it wasn’t exy at all!!
    Can’t wait to get back!

    Reply
  26. Allen D.

    I invite you all to visit Adelaide , South Australia’s capital –It’s the worlds best secret , greatest city in the greatest country in the world (well that’s my opinion anyway) hope to see you here one day .

    Reply
  27. Bilby

    yeah, the Australians

    we’re Arabs without faith, we’re Africans without rhythm, we’re Americans afraid to tell the world we love ourselves.

    we’re Brazilians who can’t dance, we’re Britons without eccentrities.

    we’re Westminster in weekend clothes, capitalism counting loose change.

    we’re modernism, decadence and soft colonialism. we don’t believe in ideas, not on their own, though sometimes we try to prop up a flaky one with another.

    we’re cities without history, we’re small towns without a future, we’re hobo clowns looking for any gag in seven-million kilometres of wilderness.

    we’re born with a stamp of emptiness; we grow old and die still with emptiness to spare.

    we’re Asians without tranquillity, Canadians without a memorable flag, passengers of any nation who forgot to get off the train and just kept on going.

    we hate ourselves but still we keep on going. keep the show on the road, eh, mate?

    we’re dust and flies, we’re mud and mosquitoes. we love our furry animals. at least the ones not yet driven to extinction.

    we’re proud of something. can ya remember, Bluey? we’re forty thousand years young and pissing it all away.

    yeah. we’re the Australians, baby

    Reply
  28. Kurt Eskildsen

    I must say that Australia is the finest country that I have ever visited. The people there that I met treated me like family. I had been over in Perth and never in my life met such great folks.
    I struck up a conversation with a family at the Perth Zoo and they literally adopted me during much of my stay as a member of their family.
    That was back in the early 1980s and I lost all of the contact information for the family I met there and have been unable to find them ever since. I’d love to have them over to my side of the planet and treat them as well as they treated me.

    Reply
  29. Leslie Downham

    Having visited Australia twice for family reasons I find that after a few days I am overcome with a feeling of boredom. Sure, the country has some nice scenery but most countries do. Yes, the people are great but again most people around the world are pleasant.

    I think the problem for me with Australia is that it has so few items of historic interest. Usually the oldest building in town is the Post Office.

    The rest of the buildings are about as interesting as any suburb in the US or the UK

    Reply
  30. Rita

    I fully agree with Kurt, Australia is the most beautiful country on earth.

    Reply
  31. Binxalula

    It’s so nice to read such a great review on Australia. I lived in New York for 1 year as an exchange student about 14 years ago and I have to say; yeah, that PT shits it all over Melbourne (where I live). Doesn’t help that the only other country I’ve visited is Japan.
    Anyway, I agree the food here is great its subtleties obvious agree with your palate.
    Thank you for correcting Melbournian; I always thought we were Melbournites anyway *shrug*.
    The City Circle Tram infuriatingly runs FREE of charge between 10am and 6pm Monday to Friday (until 9pm during the summer months). It’s never early enough for me to get to work on time, but I do catch it down LaTrobe to sneak in a whole station early during peak hour home.
    I would have to say to Leslie Downham, the country was only settled in 1788 an amazingly long time after the US; so if you’re interested in historic attractions then Australia wouldn’t be the best place to travel.
    Also, Bilby love the poem. I whole-heartedly agree with “we’re Americans afraid to tell the world we love ourselves.”

    I hope that you can find your way down here again sometime Scott. Thanks for the smile.

    Reply
  32. Mike

    Australia is a magical place without a doubt. I should know, I live here. I’m glad you liked it here Scott. I grew up in the Blue Mountains (Katoomba actually) and now live in Sydney and always return to “The Mountains” when I need to recharge, times seems to stand still there.

    I was surprised about your positive comments regarding our food halls here however upon thinking about it for a while I am reminded of a recent trip to NYC where I found myself eating a slice of pizza from one their food halls and I must admit the quality was quite poor, even though the serving sizes are beyond belief. (The pizza slice was bigger than my head – no kidding!)

    I also love Canada, Canadians are so nice and I love the cooler climate. It also feels very familiar there for Aussies.

    I love the way Australia is so isolated, I feel a sense of safety here that I feel no where on Earth. I have travelled a lot and always get homesick after a couple of weeks no matter where I am. I love it here, it is truly a great nation, lets hope it stays that way. Hoo Roo! (Australian slang for Goodbye)

    Reply
  33. The Wiz

    Having just read most of the comments on this blog, I just thought I would add my 5 cents.

    I have travelled Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Bali (regretfully) and I must say upon arriving home to Australia, I was really happy to be home.

    The european countries have such a depth of history and achitecture, breathtaking scenery and the public transport was terrific.

    In comparison, I live in regional australia where we don’t have public transport, but we do have the breathtaking scenery and people who know each other and stop to talk to their mates down the main street, or wil talk to someone they dont know over a beer.

    One of our oldest buildings was a pub that burned down, and if I drive more than 10 minutes in any direction I am suddenly in the bush. You cant do that anywhere else but Australia.

    What makes me love Australia is that our food is natural (for the most part) and full of flavour, our history lies in the stories of the “Dreamtime” from the aboriginals, and we look forward in most areas of art and culture including architecture (see federation square in Melbourne).

    Australia is unique and rich with our own history, culture and scenery (Ayers Rock/Uluru)which pre-dates anything any other country can offer.

    We have good, honest, hard working people who would give you their last posession if it meant helping out. Nowehere but Australia will you find this level of generosity.

    I pity those of you who have written in to say how poor your public transport is, or that the “mall” food is horrible. We have so much yet we get caught up in the little things.

    Australia is the greatest place on Earth, a secret worth keeping.

    Having said that I take back all that I said, if we want to keep Australia for ourselves we really need to say that it’s a horrible place. Yep. That’s it. A really horrible place….Can’t fool you can I. Bugger.

    We’ll just have to appreciate what we’ve got untl they come.

    Reply
  34. Pam

    g’day mate, never realised that brekky was slang haha I must be too Aussie for my own good! Glad you liked our awesome country! ;)

    Reply
  35. Eliza

    Aww, our little Oz.
    Gorgeous, so glad you liked it. :D

    Reply
  36. Pete

    Good to see some appreciation of other peoples ways from a Septic Tank (Yank). The ‘feeling’ you get is that the Yanks only care about themselves and their way of life…

    …dont tell everyone how great it is here, or everyone will wanna come :)

    Reply
  37. Rob

    I love Australia and all about it! But you’re comparison that Australia is like America if soooo far off the charts, if anything, it reminds me more of Canada but an accent lol, I’ve visited both and Australia and Canada are like sister countries i find. America is in a class of its own which is okay too.

    Reply
  38. Kurt A. Eskildsen

    I never though about what Australia reminded me of but when I saw your post about being like Canada I agreed instantly. The country itself isn’t like Canada but the lifestyle and pace is similar.

    Reply
  39. Jordan

    How could you NOT like Australia? Just kidding, its a great place :D

    Reply
  40. Richie B

    Hey Scott,
    Well thank you for the lovely comments! I love my country Australia very much. I am so proud of our innovation, multiculturalism and way of life, we have had to work hard for it and continue to do so. I personally believe that it is in large part our political structure that has enabled us to flourish, and we all have an equal say here in Oz, and we do exercise that right often :)

    I have lived in the good old US of A and loved my time there, but my heart belongs here in Australia.

    Come back anytime mate.

    Cheers

    Reply
  41. Claude

    My son travelled then stayed (after residency paperwork) in Byron Bay. My wife & I went down (literally) for a month.That was NOT long enought.I,ve been on many vacation but this is the 1st time we felt…we were leaving home to go home???
    From Airlie beach to Coff’s Harbour…Beautiful.

    Reply
  42. David H

    I’m an American who lived in Australia for many years. I was befriended many times by people from various parts of the country. Australians seemed a very cheerful lot and had a healthy attitude about taking care of each other.

    I don’t know why things are so pricy there but, apart from that, it is a wonderful place to live. Maybe things are so costly just because that is the price you pay to make sure everyone keeps afloat. If so, great stuff!

    Reply
  43. Ian Grantham

    Australia cannot be compared to any where on earth, it is a an island continent roughly the same size as continental USA it is located at the ends of the eart, out of season with most other countries, you cannot compare it to Canada, it only has half its population yet performs at the highest level in sporting achievments – threatening the larger superpowers like the USA, Russia and China. Its small population over perform in many areas and recently GDP PP has outstripped the USA, it is the most highly urbanised country in the world and is the driest. Ethnically it is a melting pot – perhaps (and including the USA) the only real melting pot of cultures left on the planet that will produce a new people) it is a free democracy with the highest standards applicable for all areas in the communtiy. Most who come here from some where else dont want to leave and those here say welcome. No place on earth compares if you want to do statistical comparrisons in many areas, health, education, gdp, democracy, lifestyle, oppor tunity, sporting prowess, economic growth, down to earth friendly people, you can be a critic if you want, but bring ALL the things about ANY where that you want to spend your days, look for them and be honest in your appraisal, and this place is it…….AUSTRALIA.

    Reply
  44. Kurt

    Pete’s portrayal of us Yanks only caring about ourselves and our way of life sucked in a big way. The way our celebrities, poloticians and a few others act is not the mainstream American. They are elites that really do think they are above all of us. We don’t like em either. With a little hope we can vote the pricks into the unemployment line. Most of us in what the “elites” call flyover country refer to the Northeast coast as the armpit of America and the west coast as the asshlo of America. Us flyover folks make up the largest part of the armed forces along with the many good people that are stuck in the armpit and asshole of our country. We are the real Americans that aren’t as narcisistic as our elite counterparts that live in the armpit and assholes of our great country. And make no mistake America and Australia are two of the greatest countries on the planet and it’s our everyday, working man, patriot that make our countries great. I fear for most of Europe though…. they are in for a wakeup call that I’m not sure they’ll be able to recover from and it will be up to th Yanks, Aussies and Kiwis to save them.

    Reply
  45. Louisa

    I love hearing someone from overseas compliment Auzzie! We really do try. It seems like brits despise us, americans like us and germany adores us. I actually never thought brekky was slang, ahah its just how we speak.

    Reply
  46. April

    You’re Fantastic! Thanks for the nice complements mate!

    Reply
  47. Scott

    G’day mate, feel free to come to our country anytime u like. What u have said in your article is spot on and the kind of people we love here are you. We might be a little rough and tumble to start with, but people who inbrace us will get it back ten folds. I’ve traveled the world twice and your type are alway’s welcome with a beer and a good time at my house.

    Reply

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