Yesterday evening, a friend of mine from New York living in Paris was having a going away party (in Paris) because she's heading back to New York for a while (it's complicated). We've known each other for a couple of years (a friend from Ireland introduced us), so we have quite a few friends in common, including one of the co-hosts of the Facebook event (how can you have a proper going away party without a Facebook event, I ask of you?), who's Finnish-American (try and beat that).
However, I hadn't met the other co-host before, even though we had a dozen friends in common (on Facebook). All I knew was she looked pretty friendly on pictures (again, on Facebook, see the trend here?), and she ran: a bunch of the people there yesterday are part of a running group with freakishly athletic members going through marathons in under 3 hours... The only way I ever meet them is at the bar after their trainings - with my ginger ale.
Anyway, we start talking and it turns out she's from Australia, where my girlfriend and I just spent a month going from the East coast to the desert and back:
Me: Oh, I didn't realize you were from Australia... That's so cool... Whereabouts in Australia?
Me: Wow! We spent like a week there!
Girlfriend: Actually, more like 5 days...
Me: Who's counting?
Girlfriend: I am.
Me: Anyway, great city!
Friend: Huh... Thanks!
This went on for a bit: we exchanged pleasantries about this monstrous island of a country, where a medium-sized city has a headcount of 20 000 people, living 5 hours away by car from the nearest other town, yet getting paid more than the average Parisian executive with a Harvard MBA.
The thing is, and we only discussed this with my girlfriend in private, our opinion of Australia was somewhat mixed: while everyone there does get great wages and all the plants are green (except in the desert) and everyone looks like they have enough to eat (or more), everything also seems to be happening at a very slow pace. All things take time, including ordering black coffee in a coffee shop (my record was 10 minutes with 5 waiters and 3 customers waiting in line), picking up a van that we had fully pre-ordered online (1 hour at the store), booking a tourist cruise to Australia's #1 beach (90 minutes with the manager in front of us)... Australia hasn't had an economic crisis in decades, and it shows: everyone there lives like there is a tomorrow, and stuff can wait till then.
Obviously, I didn't say any of that to my new Australian friend: I'm neither a complete idiot (I think) nor deeply obnoxious (I hope). Instead, I focused on the upsides: incredible scenery, friendly people (with time comes congeniality, which may or may not explain a few things about Parisians) and koalas (who doesn't love koalas? ISIS?). Then I forgot about it.
A little while later, while the New Yorker was asking about our trip, I decided I would tell the whole story:
Me: In truth, Australia is like a Western country with a developing country mindset.
New Yorker: Oh...
Me: People have great living conditions, but everything is so damn slow!
Girlfriend, in a hushed voice: The lady next to you is Australian...
Me, suddenly remembering that fact: Huh... I mean...
Australian: I agree!
Me: Oh... Good...
Australian: That's why I'm here, in Paris!
New Yorker: Right...
Australian: With an Australian salary!
Me: Good on ya!
My only excuse is age.