No Worries, Mate!

Almost through my Canadian in Australia posts, this one’s on Australian culture.

The phrase “no worries” is not just part of the vernacular in Australia, it’s a way of life.  Aussie are notoriously laid back, and after five years in the rush of Toronto it was a breath of fresh air.  Of course, when I lived in Toronto and had to deal with anyone in Australia, it was a nightmare.  Doing business, in particular, is very difficult when the people you’re dealing with have no concept of deadlines (not to mention the time difference).  That’s not to say that’s true of all Aussies, but it can sometimes become difficult to impress the urgency of things.

Being in Australia, though, there’s something so very whimsical about it all.  It impacts on every little bit of life – the idea of scheduling and timelines is just so much less important to Australians.  One place I saw it most often is in the media.  Popular political show Q and A, for example, is often introduced by its host as “live from 9:35, or thereabouts, Eastern Time” – and that’s actually pretty accurate.  It’s often listed as being on at 9:36 but really, it’s just an estimate.  It comes on whenever the previous show happens to wrap up.

The same is true of the radio – I used to listen to 2Day FM, and if I was up before 10 I would often catch the tail end of the (ever-irritatingly offensive) Kyle & Jackie O show.  Nominally, this show would end at 9 and the next show was something like the “top 5 at 9” – but I don’t think I ever heard the show end on time.  Typically it would end somewhere in the ballpark of 9:15-9:30, ish, depending on how the hosts felt and what had happened on the show.

Comparing these to Canadian radio and TV that frequently have very specific time slots that are usually so accurate you can set your watch to them, it’s all a bit strange.  But really, unless it’s super-important (it probably isn’t) for you to watch / hear whatever the show is, it doesn’t really matter.

It stretches into real life too.  Films, for example, have a time on the ticket. Sometimes it matters.  Usually it doesn’t.  The later it starts, the more time you have to get drinks at the bar, so no worries mate, it’ll start eventually.

Concerts were the biggest frustration for me – sometimes the ticket would give the time the doors open. Sometimes it would give the time the show starts. Sometimes it would give the time the opening act is on, sometimes the time the headliner is on.  But never would it say which of those times it is – just a generic time printed on the ticket (or disclosed on the website).  But if you miss part of the show, no worries. You can always buy the tracks on iTunes.  Or not, whatever.

The only time it really becomes a problem is when something actually requires forethought or planning.  Like eating dinner.  It’s a common thing in Australia to go out for drinks with mates in the after-work period, and to easily forget about the requirement for food. Hours go by, and no one thinks about getting food, and usually by now you’re somewhere that doesn’t serve food and you don’t really want to leave.  It can make for some drunken and un-fed nights, which are never pleasant the next morning!

On the flip-side of this is that Australian businesses often have really strange and absurd rules – dress codes being the most obvious example.  A friend, visiting from the US, invited his sister-in-law to join us at a club in Darlinghurst. She was prevented from coming in because she was wearing open-toed shoes.  Apparently the dress code very strictly prevented all of these – even though they were actually quite dressy.  The funny part about this, though, is that without such a rule people would show up at the club in thongs (flip-flops).  No worries, that won’t cause any problems will it?

At first this flightiness just seems quirky; eventually you come to accept it as normal.  As someone who gets very stressed about trivial things, and who is often fussed over deadlines, it took conscious effort to get used to this approach. But I did make the effort — not to ‘fit in,’ I’ve never been one to do that, but because it’s often a much better way to live.  So much less stressful, so much less to fuss over.  Just live. And be happy.  I like it.  And need more of it.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Traveleish on 2011/12/21 at 1:08 am

    IMO, having lived in a multiple places in Australia, and also in Toronto, I didn’t notice a difference in attitudes to time… Exceptions being in movie times (some cinemas show 5-15 minutes of ads from the scheduled stating time, others (usually art house cinemas) had no ads at all. If you go to the same cinema each time, they generally follow the same time delays/ad schedule.
    Concerts often have a variety of definitions of start time, but if you look at the promoter’s website, they generally have listed the doors open time, the time that the support act starts, and the time for the main act.
    Time is more relaxed the further inland you go…


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