Have Australian values changed for the new generation?

Jan 23, 2022
What do you think? Is it unAustralian to say hello on the streets? Or is it unAustralian NOT to? Source: Getty

If you were asked what it means to be Australian, what would you say?

Loving the beach? Enjoying the sunshine? Cruising through the vast vast countryside for hours upon end, just to visit a somewhat nearby town?

What about Australian values – what are those? A fair go? Freedom? Opportunity? Mateship?

Australia is a land of the brave. Colonised just over 250 years ago, growing into what it is today. But what exactly is that? Have the Ausralian values fallen by the wayside as new generations grow? Some would say yes.

One person who would agree with this sentiment is a 20-year-old Perth woman, and Reddit user, who claims that she is living the Australian values in her everyday life; however, her friends disagree.

“So, I (F, 20s) had a conversation with friends tonight that left me taken aback and kind of irritated? I’ve lived in Perth my entire life and have always gone on relatively lengthy walks through my neighbourhood and surrounding areas.

“In my experience, it’s normal to smile at strangers as you pass them (if there’s not many people around) or even greet them/make a comment on the weather. Most of the time it’s a closed mouth smile or even a nod, just as a peaceable acknowledgement of their presence.

“If you’re in a busy space, this is unnecessary and its not like I would acknowledge random people at the supermarket etc, but I also don’t find the concept of speaking to strangers disturbing (I would easily trade comments with a stranger in the line at a cafe or waiting for a bus etc).

“Tonight, my friends were saying that people who smile or say hi as they walk past are creepy and weird and make others uncomfortable. They claimed that it’s not ‘the Australian way’ to acknowledge others on the street (my perception) and that non-weird people would just mind their own business and avoid eye contact.

“I understand not striking up a conversation with strangers or people visibly reading/listening to music but smiling? A small closed mouth nod to acknowledge them as they pass? Really? For context, one friend is an international student and the other has lived in Perth their whole life. Am I wrong?”

One person commented in support of the poster:
“Not unusual to acknowledge people when walking around. Not unusual to ignore them if they don’t initiate contact either. I find it depends whether the person seems approachable (looking around, not distracted, etc). I tend to nod if a random and I make eye contact. All bets are off with a dog though, dogs are great conversation starters if the owner is open to it. My grandparents were always keen on a chat when walking but not sure how much of that was living in the country for decades or their age.”

Another said: “It’s maybe an age thing? Older Australians will typically throw a “morning” or maybe a nod, younger Australians I have noticed less so. I now live in the US where friendliness to strangers is pretty much the norm, at least outside the megacities and in decent neighbourhoods. I actually miss the more subdued Australian mannerisms in this respect – I can’t take a step into my backyard without my neighbours Ned Flandering me.”

A third shared:  “Your friends are weird. What you do is perfectly normal and acceptable. It’s pretty much what I do.”

@chokethebinchicken shared: “I have been living in the UK for the past few years. When I came back to Perth 2 years ago for Christmas, I was very pleasantly surprised how much warmer and friendlier the people are in Perth in the way you described. Probably abit harsh, but I reckon your mates are the ones that are unaustralian.”

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What do you think? Is it unAustralian to say hello on the streets? Or is it unAustralian NOT to?

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