Over the fence

For Brits moving to Australia, or even thinking about Australia for whatever reason, whenever you hear the word ‘neighbours’ the theme tune to the popular Aussie TV soap opera with the same name, probably jingles through your head. Mum can be caught humming it as she walks down the street waving to ‘lady with the best kept council strip’ and nodding her head to ‘man with the big blue car’. I only stop humming when I stop to talk to the five or six families living on our street that we know by name.

There are generations of Brits who think that Aussie life is equal to what goes on in the TV soap, neighbours appear with casseroles whenever a family on the street shares some bad news, and if they come back to pick up the empty dish an illegitimate child will be born nine months later.

The truth is, Aussie neighbours are pretty friendly. Not THAT friendly, sure, but when Mum compares what we knew about our neighbours in London to how we know the people on our street in Sydney, it is worlds apart.

In London we lived in an apartment and knew the names of the people who lived above and below us. This happened because of water leaks and break-ins rather than any open friendliness. Our walls probably joined six other properties and our front door was within touching distance of three other doors. People said hello, sometimes, but to stop and introduce yourself would be overstepping the mark.

Because we lived in a central, fast moving environment, where people rent property and don’t spend much time at home, this explains some of the isolation we enjoyed in London. Yes, Mum said ‘enjoyed’. I’m not going to put it down, because actually, it can be nice to be anonymous.

The contrast in Sydney, on our street at least, is that people know each other by name and not only are they likely to say hello, they’ll probably stop and have a chat. For such a big city, we feel that sense of community is thriving in Sydney, and that’s great.

Because our children are growing up, this sense of belonging is important. Without knowing it we’ve moved our kids from an environment where people look the other way, rather than say hello, to somewhere where people look you in the eye and say hello using your name. This is quite an adjustment, particularly for Mum who is rubbish at remembering names and quite enjoyed being anonymous, but it’s a good place to be.

Sunday 27th March is Neighbour Day in Australia

Of course, Mum has made it sound like neighbour day, every day, in Aus. But in case you need an excuse to get to know your neighbours, or wonder what the impromptu street party is all about; the last Sunday of March in Australia is Neighbour Day.

Neighbour Day was founded in Melbourne in 2003 and was prompted by the discovering of a lady’s dead body at her home in Melbourne, she had been forgotten for two years.

If you’re new to Australia, use Neighbour Day as an excuse to introduce yourself to the people next door. If you’ve been in Aus for a while, what’s your street like? Any special plans for Neighbour Day? Mum would love to hear your stories, casseroles and illegitimate children included!