Initial observations of a Kiwi in Melbourne

February 27, 2014

“I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m a Maori boy in Melbourne…”

This was the tune I kept singing to myself during my first week in the city of Melbourne. In the space of a week I had a new job, a new home in a new country and in a city I knew next to nothing about. 

Confronted with a new environment I couldn’t help but feel a little like an alien blending in. I have noticed a few things since arriving here.

Big city, small town courtesy

I come from a city where you need to pay attention when walking down a main street. Drivers will exercise their right of way and you had better be nimble. The speed of life seems to dictate the level of common courtesy. At least that is the excuse we tell ourselves. On my walks to work I have found myself waiting for a car at an uncontrolled intersection and it became awkward as we both tried to give right of way. Melbourne has the combined population of my entire country but at the same time has maintained a greater level of the niceties of civilization that are only commonplace in rural centers back home. I don’t know if this is because the inner city of Melbourne is more public transport centric with trams and bike lanes making drivers more aware of their surroundings but it is a nice point of difference in any case.

Cultural diversity vs. diverse culture

The city of Auckland is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. According to the last available census data shows that forty percent of Auckland’s population was born overseas. This has lead to city where the minority and majority is a blurred line in many places. We have defined our culture according to race and nationality; it’s a simple and classic way to distinguish different groups of people. History has shown the downfalls again and again with using race to classify a group of people. I also don’t believe it is an influential demographic when thinking about insights to drive consumer behaviour. While a person’s race can have very dramatic impacts on their cultural perspectives in our increasingly diverse world it is having less impact on their consumer behaviour. It has more potential to create bias than insight.

Using nationality or race to group people into best-fit categories doesn’t seem to be the best strategy here.  The people of Melbourne to me are grouped more distinctively by the differences in their interests. The things people are passionate about, the clothes they wear, the music they listen to are all ways we could explore profiling the people of Melbourne. Melbourne’s culture seems to be defined less by the culture you were born into and more by the culture you have adopted as your own compared to Auckland. 

This to me is exciting as it would be a move away from classical approaches of demography to include more attitudinal modeling. Talking to the right people is just as important as the conversation we have and any more information we can gather to accurately target the correct sample is an advantage.

I have never been a prolific user of online social networking keeping my Facebook posts to an as needed basis. However I have never been as disconnected from my friends and family as I am now. In my first month in Melbourne I had become far more engaged with online life as I once was, posting non consequential things about my day just to keep some form of interaction with my recently left home. Being immersed in a new culture had changed how I interacted with my previous culture.

Being from New Zealand I expected the jabs about sheep and other stereotypes and surely was not disappointed. But they were in jest with a jovial tone that felt more like an icebreaker at a meet and greet than an insult. I liken the relationship between Australia and New Zealand as that of close cousins. We give each other grief and will turn everything possible into a rivalry. But if push comes to shove in the face of a foreign adversary one would always back up the other. We talk in a different dialect, you say “mate” and I say “bro”, but at our core we are the same. We have the same values, the same principles, dreams and aspirations.

Of course I can’t sit here on my keyboard and say this is 100% the case but be it in a bar on the other side of the world or on a battlefield far larger I want to believe that the ANZAC spirit is still intact. It is surely not as strong as it once was since our generation has been blessed with peace. We haven’t had the need to step into a major conflict side by side. This year will mark the 100-year anniversary of the ANZACs at Gallipoli and it is a year that has started with increasingly volatile international relations in many regions. The ANZAC pride may be a remerging trend to watch out for in 2014.