Sunday, September 19, 2004

Sydney has Character!

I was most worried that like most cities Sydney too would be all caught up in concrete, but scarcely an hour after I got off the plane, my fears were laid to rest. And I haven't even see downtown yet. The houses are all quiet cottage houses and the roads are all semi deserted and all the roads look like they were built yesterday. Of course I may be a bit biased since I saw all this only through the windows of endless train rides as i made my way through several suburbs. Coming fresh from India, it seems amazing the the roads are so empty. Where are all the people? Occasionally you'd see people walking but more often than not, it's the cars that let you know that the city is alive and well. The sky is a brilliant blue, and the trees and the birds are raging with colours and suddenly it feels good to be here. Its quite pleasant to find familiar things in an alien land and I keep mentally exclaiming whenever I do see something that I recognize. Oh look! they drive on the left hand side of the road. Oh look that's an Indian Myna. Oh look that's an emu staring at me....well maybe thats not so familiar, but still, I recognized the first emu I've ever seen. how cool is that.

But far outdoing the familiar is the strange and all the little rules. Every foreign place has its own rules, and finding them out can be quite tricky. For example one cannot smoke in the railway station even if there's just an overhanging ledge type thing. Semi enclosed areas are a no-no. The right way to use the train ticket, or how to deal with buses...and never assume that just because you're on the right platform its the right train...I ended up in some small suburb by doing just that. Australia, or at-least Sydney, is more multicultural than I had ever imagined. I never expected to hear at-least four different languages every-time I ventured out. My university is so filled with Chinese/Japanese types that there are notices in those languages.

But the straight out striking thing are the Australians themselves. They show an almost excess of friendliness, so much so that I was quite taken aback by this torrent of courtesy. The counter girl at the pharmacy not only sold me what I wanted, she even gave me advice on the best medicine: and all I wanted were cough drops. the guy at the bookstore engaged me in an half hour long conversation on spiders. The bus driver, the pizza store girl, the list is endless. But somehow the whole country has taken courtesy to different level altogether, and made it if not a fine art, at-least a fine science. The roads are littered with signs imploring you to do this or don't do that, or walk like this, be this or don't be like that. A plague of politically correctness has taken over the land. I usually read all the signs, because I think that these signs along with newspapers and TV ads give a clue into the character of a country, and hence my mind is targeted by a barrage of instructions. I feel like I'm walking on tiptoe all the time.