I remember the way the air smells the first step you take after getting off the plane. Fifteen hours in the sky and your legs feel like an uneven blend of wet cement and jell-o, but you barely notice because the atmosphere your nose inhales is so crisp, laced with the scent of eucalyptus trees and salt water.
For foreigners, the perfume would be labeled as "Australia." For me, it has always been, and always will be "home."
My family, composed of a father, a mother, three daughters and one tiny niece, follows a long lineage of Australian heritage that takes us back to our Irish ancestors that ventured Down Under to escape the potato famine in the 1850s. In 1993, our little family of five took permanent root in Columbus, Ohio, leaving a handful of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins behind. Today, I boast dual citizenship and a right to vote unlike my parents and sisters, but I yearn for the deep blue waves, dry, arid heat and koala-dusted forests that is Australia.
Not only is it a place to escape in my dreams, far away from the hardships of divorced family and college classes, but that is where my life began, before I was even conceived.
I will never forget them, the somewhat unfamiliar faces of the relatives I have seen only a few times, or it, the land I couldn't navigate to save my life. It is my home, and I want to go back.
My entire life, I have been immersed in two cultures. Born and raised in America, I rock the accent, the fashion, the love for college football Saturdays and summer BBQ picnics with the neighbors. But a daughter and sister to Australian immigrants, I say "gone off" instead of "gone bad," I eat plum pudding on Christmas day, and I thoroughly understand why koalas aren't, in fact, bears. I will always identify with each culture and, I suppose I am very lucky in that I will always have a love for each culture.
Americans, seen from an Australian perspective, are wealthy, rude, pretentious and overweight. I suppose that makes sense, but in reality, both you and I know our culture is a bit more dynamic than that. We live in a large country, a growing population that dominates one of the largest spans of land in the world.
Our government is flawed, too small for the country it manages, and the economy is dwindling. We are taught from a young age to fight, to compete, to be the best of the best and leave the losers out to dry. We crave success and will not stop until we achieve it. Because of that, only a few actually succeed in a monetary sense.
We live in small family units, leave our parents young to attempt to thrive in the financial world, marry, make our own children, and the process starts again. Once our parents age, we either take them in, or more often than not, put them in the care of nursing homes.
We tend to stray from aunts and uncles and cousins, only uniting a few times a year for family reunions and large holidays. We, as defined by sociology, are an individualistic culture.
Our lives revolve around televisions. We stay indoors and underground. We are up to date with national news and popular culture. We boast the strongest military in the world.
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We are technologically advanced, always first to announce the latest iPhone or comprehensive medical procedure. It is ironic, however, that we know barely anything about the outside world. We are oblivious to the just-as-powerful nations that surround us. The ones we call our allies.
However, we are full of freedoms. We dare to be different; we are encouraged to embrace individuality, spirituality.
We love our country and those that live in it. We gather on a hot July evening each summer to observe parades and fireworks in honor of the country we call our home. We will protect it to the very end. We love ourselves.
Australia's culture, in many ways, is similar to that of America. Western and individualistic, Australians are also taught at a young age to compete for success.
However, as a much smaller country, supported by a strong iron and mining industry, Australia boasts a sturdy economy and job growth is fervent. Perhaps this explains the easy-going nature of Australians. The culture there is relaxed, optimistic, and leisurely. They enjoy ironic and sarcastic senses of humor. This could also be because the population flocks to the coastlines so they bask in warm and sunny weather-the middle desert regions are too hot and dry to be habitable.
Like Americans, Australians attend university in their late teens, and many go on to further their education to gain PhDs or Masters. However, a large difference exists here in that Australians are much more family-oriented.
Instead of moving in to dormitories on their college campuses, most college students stay at home with their parents until they are old enough to afford their own apartments or they get married.
Grandparents tend to live with their children and grandchildren until death. Families are much less spread out, so they are much more close-knit.
Australians are much more in touch with nature than Americans. Citizens here are relatively unfamiliar with air conditioning: their houses-with wide windows and open doors-can easily withstand temperatures as they climb into the 100s.
Even if summer thunderstorms produce flooding downpours, meals are taken outdoors on roofed verandahs. Any drop of rain is precious to an Australian, after a long span of winter drought. America and Australia also differ geographically in that Japanese immigrants to Australia are like Mexican immigrants to America.
Like Americans, Australia was colonized by England, however it was over 200 years later than when America was founded. We share a common language, a fundamentally Christian population, and similar democratic government; yet, Australians did not fight a revolutionary war, so they are still under British rule as a Commonwealth. Their government is run in majority by the prime minister.
Too many Americans are unaware that Queen Elizabeth reigns over Australia and Canada. I find this ironic when my Aunt Lizzie, who lives in Australia, knew the score of the NCAA Basketball National Championship before I did.
While the rest of the world is so connected, I find America in this kind of isolationist bubble, lacking insight into how the globe really works.
This is the largest difference between America and Australia.
The importance of America and Australia's similarities lies in the ability for a person from each culture to easily relate to one another. While the language may differ in idioms and dialect, it easily understood across cultures. Prominent religions and holidays are the same. Technology and an emphasis on education are the same. An American could journey to Australia and feel perfectly content and comfortable in Australia, only having to adjust to the time change, different currency, and toilets that spin backwards.
I believe the most important difference between Australia and America is Australia's strong awareness of different cultures and ways of life.
As America is such a powerful and prominent country in the world, I find it strange and disappointing that so many are unaware of the goings-on and current events outside our coastlines. We control so much of the world, we should know what is happening in it.
Even a small and far-away country like Australia understands who we are and what we do, as well as many other countries time zones away.
We should follow their lead in this kind of global education, in order to increase respect, relatability and cohesion amongst all of the world's countries.