Friday, February 17, 2006

Maybe convict ancestry has long-term consequences

One thing about this town creeps me out a little. It's the set of questions that people here ask each other when they meet for the first time:

"How long have you been here?"

"What made you come here?"

"How long are you here for?"

Every time I hear this set of questions I start to wonder whether I'm actually in prison and just haven't noticed it. Especially the second one, which sounds a lot like "What are you in for?".

It's as though there's these assumptions that (a) no one was born here (b) no one would come here of their own free will, and (c) everyone is planning to leave just as soon as they get the chance. Assumption (a) is true enough, as far as I can tell. I've never met anyone who claims to have been born and grown up in this town. Assumption (b) is also true for a lot of people. The typical answers to question (2) are "For university", "I got a job in government/the military", or "My partner got a job here". And assumption (c) is supported by the way this place empties itself of people every weekend and public holiday -- it's like they just can't wait to be somewhere else.

Incidentally, it's not just me being asked these questions because I talk funny and am obviously not Australian. I've often overheard pairs of Australians at parties asking each other the exact same things.


Lucy said...

I think I can guess what city you're in just from those questions :) Those assumptions are pretty much true for the place I'm thinking of, anyway. I have a friend who actually likes it there, which always surprises people who ask when she's leaving. I think it's more about the perceived desirability of the city than any convict heritage.

StyleyGeek said...

Yes, I kind of like it here too. I hope my posts don't come across too negatively. At least, I like a lot of things about the place. And some things that I strongly disliked when I arrived have grown on me now. When I first got here after spending years in busy European metropoles I was really freaked out by the emptiness of the streets and centre city. Now I like the fact that, Saturday night, after a couple of hours at the pub, I can cycle home down the middle of the centre city streets, knowing the chance of meeting traffic is infinitessimally small.

And as you can probably tell from my parrot posts, I love the wildlife here, which you wouldn't get in a more densely populated place.

At first I thought everyone here was quite unfriendly, but eventually I came to see that it was a city of academics and civil servants, and both these jobs tend to attract the introverted sort. So really, it's a city of introverts, which is quite the ideal for me!

Alex said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
StyleyGeek said...

Sorry, Alex, I had to remove your comment because of my intention to remain semi-anonymous.

I don't mind that people can easily guess where I am living (you're correct, by the way) or even, if they dig around a little, who I am, but I don't want people to be able to google me and find this site.

Nor do I want people to be able to find it by typing in "linguistics + [city name]", since the university here has a record of getting cranky with bloggers who portray it in a bad light. (Not that I intend to bitch about the uni much, since I quite like it here, but I'd still prefer not to have to worry about censoring myself if I do get pissed off).

Anyway, that's why I removed your comment. Please don't take it personally!