One of the things I’ve always loved about Australia is how friendly everyone is; when you walk (or cycle!) down the street, people you pass will give a smile and a cheery ‘How are ya?’. Kids smile and wave back when you say ‘Hi!’. Strangers will come up to you to ask about something you’re wearing/doing that they’re interested in. This as opposed to what I tend to see more of in the UK as a sad sign of the times, where it seems the default response is one of suspicion or fear: are you about to rob them or be the local weirdo whom, once engaged in conversation with, they won’t be able to get away from?!
Is it all down to the sunshine?
Maybe it’s the almost continual sunny weather they get to enjoy here that puts everyone in a such a happy, sociable mood? I know it certainly makes a difference in the UK when we get our 2 days of summer each year, as it can put a smile on even the grumpiest of busy commuter faces! However, I think it’s more than this. Without wanting to put my fellow country folk down, I think that, even though we’ve (thankfully) come on in leaps and bounds since the Victorian days, we still suffer in some part from those old-fashioned ‘stiff upper lip/polite manners/children should be seen and not heard’ attitudes. Don’t get me wrong, being polite is far from being a bad value to operate with, but when it gets in the way of interacting with others or striking up conversation with a stranger for fear of embarrassment or being seen as annoying or a weirdo, it can be. I’ve often joked that I was born in the wrong country, with one of the many reasons being that I am that person who will talk to strangers (sorry Mum and Dad!). I think they realised this though, when at the tender age of just 4, I’d gone into the hallway at home, picked up the phone, (yes it was in the time when we all had landlines at the foot of the stairs that weren’t mobile in any way!) and dialled away – for my Dad to find me some 20 minutes later, deep in conversation with a lady from Aberdeen, who just happened to have the phone number I’d randomly dialled! Funnily enough, it was that incident (and the subsequent phone bill no doubt!) that spurred their purchase of a phone lock!
A Bounty of Kindness
Plus, I’ve also noticed how it’s not simply happiness that is in bountiful supply with Australians, but kindness too. During our 6 weeks here so far, we’ve experienced many examples of people almost going out of their way to be kind and generous, which I believe shows an intrinsic trust in others. These have included:
- When we hired a kayak for a half-day adventure on a lake, the owner told us we could keep it for the day as he was in the area anyway and would pick it up whenever we were finished with it. This meant we had a lovely relaxing time paddling across the lake and exploring it a number of times throughout the day, rather than feeling like we had to rush to fit everything in and have it back in the allotted time we’d paid for.
- When taking the kayak onto the lake, a young lad jumped up and helped me carry it down onto the small sandy area without me asking and later another man gave us a push-off onto the water so I didn’t have to risk tipping me and my son out! On our way back to shore, a woman saw us and called a man in her group over to help me carry the kayak back out and up the bank (after a lady in her 70’s I’d been chatting to had started to volunteer to!). I must admit at this point I started wondering if I just looked like a very incapable novice, but decided that it was definitely more their kindness at play!
- A long-held goal of mine is to try my hand at Stand Up Paddleboarding (or SUP’ing as it’s know in these parts!). So, when I saw there were SUPs for hire at one of the many gorgeous beaches we were staying besides, I couldn’t wait to take the opportunity! However, on the morning I decided to do it as the sea was nice and calm, the people who normally hired them out were nowhere to be seen! I was so disappointed but thought I’d simply have to wait for another opportunity. However, on registering my son to have an hour’s fun on a big inflatable assault course instead, I asked the owner of that if he knew where else I could hire a SUP from and he lent me his own one instead for the hour before my son’s allotted session time! It was great fun and although admittedly my son was better at it than I was, I’m certainly going to be giving that another go very soon!
- Whilst staying at a resort for a couple of nights during our drive down the east coast from Brisbane to Sydney, we decided to spend a relaxing day at the pool. There were just a handful of mainly Australian families staying at their holiday homes around us but after a little while, the manager of the pool area and kiosk introduced us to his wife and 2 daughters and their friend. My son had a great time playing with them, especially when he got a free go in the Zorbs (big inflatable balls that you stand in and try to run across the water in, a bit like a hamster on it’s wheel!) and they even invited us to join their BBQ tea at a private lock-in!
- During our time in Adelaide, I really wanted to kayak the Onkaparinga river (another thing I love about Australia is the names of places!), which I’d seen others doing on a previous visit to the city but never got the chance to do. So, my sister drove us down to where she’s seen people doing it and on seeing a number of kayaks in the water, I got out at the layby to enquire. A man was just driving in with a trailer half-filled with kayaks and started loading the others in, so I presumed he hired them out. On asking him, he said no, they were just his family’s kayaks but immediately offered to lend them to us! I thought I’d misheard him but on double-checking, he insisted we could borrow them free of charge and gave me his number to arrange where and when! I don’t think I look like an untrustworthy person, but even so, I couldn’t believe someone would really do this for a complete stranger! Anyway, that evening I dropped him a text to check, arranged the time and location to meet and lo and behold, he was there with the 3 kayaks, life jackets and paddles just as he promised! We had such a blast, paddling upriver to see the pelicans and other birds and fish that love the reeds and lagoons, then turning once tired and allowing the current to carry us back down towards the mouth where it meets the sea, where the landscape turns to golden sand dunes and soft banks to get out and sunbathe upon.
- Whilst out for a meal watching a live band play, the owner of the venue apologised profusely for my son’s meal not coming out first on the table (we were part of a group of 10), which hadn’t been an issue for us as it came with other meals, but she insisted on giving him a free dessert and also handed him a Xmas stocking filled with toys! She certainly made a certain 10yr old very happy!
- On visiting a florist close to where we were staying in the run up to Christmas, we were given excellent customer service, from chatting with us about our travels and experience so far, to giving us free samples of various products and beautifully gift wrapping the items we purchased as presents. Yes, I ended up spending more than I’d anticipated on entering the store, but it meant getting more presents ticked off my list in one place than I’d expected and I was made to feel like a very valued customer, so I’d say that’s a massive win/win!
What can we as Business Owners Learn from this?
So, not only have we been made to feel very welcome in this country, but as a business owner myself and a coach of other business owners and employers, I’ve been really impressed with the way Aussies operate day to day and in business. As we start a new year, I wonder if we could all benefit from asking ourselves the following:
- Where could you act more from the heart, in a kind and compassionate way, with yourself and with others?
- What small changes could you make at work to ensure your clients, customers, peers and team members are receiving the best service from you, so that they not only leave feeling happy and valued, but are also more likely to return for more, stay employed with you and tell others about you too?
I promise that not only will you help make others feel better but you’ll also benefit from it too. And, like the ripples in a lake when a stone is cast, the positive effects will continue to flow outwards, touching more and more people as it goes. If you want to read more about the neurological and psychological effects of kindness, read my blog here:
As I enter the last ¼ of my time here in Australia, I know that the warmth and kindness of its people will be one of the many memories I take with me that will last for a long time.