I had a fortuitous happening about a month ago with regards to employment. In a serendipitous stroke, someone I know from the water program here (who knows my background and had my resume) had a contact who needed an immediate and flexible consultant for social media on a WASH-related program. The woman called me, and 36-hours of a whirlwind of emails and communication, I became a consultant.
It is a really great opportunity! It is a program directly related to the work I am working towards in my program, and I am getting paid to do some work here and there, which is a relief for my bank account. The women I work with are very knowledgeable and we get along well, and we talk about WASH-related topics while I work on creating their social media presence. It is almost like being in my own personal heaven. I am, surprisingly, learning a lot more about social media and packing away good information about WASH programs I want to research more during my studies here.
Another perk about working in an office setting occasionally is that I get to see Brisbane in a completely new light as a professional, not a student. Being a student, my lens on the city has been more relaxed and youthful. Perhaps even a bit more bohemian. Being a professional, on the other hand, has let me see the more edgy, responsible adult aspects of the city. Waking up for the commute with the rest of the city gives me the chance to see that Brisbane’s rush hour for workers is very similar to how it is in NYC – crowded, somber, and efficient. Getting on the train with everyone else as we blearily power walk to work has reminded me that I am an adult, which I have forgotten a bit while studying.
Though I would say the work atmosphere is much more laid back than in NYC. For example, people relax more during lunch hours (dare I call it lounge?) in a way with which I am almost uncomfortable. I’m used to the rushed lunches of Manhattan, but here people in the office unwind a bit and appear to relish every single minute available for lunch. I wonder, how can people seem so calm?! I think their work-life balance strengths really shone out to me in the office setting. And people are pleasant and chat more in the office where I’m working. They joke and take moments to chat and connect throughout the day. My client even acknowledged a Friday and told me that I should go out and have a life – a comment I was surprised to hear from a non-governmental organization!
I am learning a bit more about other smaller pieces of Aussie culture in the work place. Like the word “Look.” In the US, I feel like when people preface their response with “Look,” it usually means they’re irritated or irked talking with you at the moment, and you’re taking their time in a way they’re rather you didn’t. Here, people use it a lot more in conversation, and for a while I thought I was just skilled at bothering people. But, after talking with Photosynthesis Drew, I’m realizing now I think it’s more like a pause for people when they talk. Kind of like how people can start their sentence with an, “Ummmm…” which seems much more agreeable.
Another thing I have gotten to ask my colleagues about is about dating life in Brisbane. I am not on the market for dating, since I love someone back home, but I am always curious about dating cultures, and here I have felt like it has been invisible to me. It turns out, according to the ladies at work, it’s because this city does not really have a dating culture. Guys are not as aggressive with approaching women (surprisingly), and people often end up staying in relationships from when they were in college or some other young age, and living the simple life of what I call the “Next Step Lifestyle”.
The Next Step Lifestyle means going through the normal Western lifestyle of finding a partner in the early twenties, getting a stable job, getting hitched, buying a house, having a dog and/or child. Apparently this lifestyle is huge in Australia. The women at work grumbled about their unfulfilled love lives and unconventional lifestyles, and I realized that it’s true that I have not really ever seen people newly dating here or courting – most people I know are already in long-term relationships or are planning to move out of dodge to some other glorious country.
The funny thing about Australia, in addition to everything else I’ve ever written about since I moved here, is that it kind of feels like a parallel universe of the US. So much of this place is eerily similar (even identical) to the US, yet there are certain pieces and aspects that are clearly not the same as what we have stateside. In a sense, that is what is making me feel most homesick while I’m here – I am feeling comfortable enough yet certain things I want as a result I am unable to get, which is both bewildering and frustrating.