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It's not a bad place

By Alan Austin - posted Wednesday, 15 February 2012


It's not a bad place to live. The small city of Nîmesin the South of France. One early experience was a bullfight in the l'arène romaine – the ancient Roman stadium– followed by a late night drinking Pastis in the streets, dancing in cafés and meeting friends of the in-laws-to-be.

Difficult to say what was more striking – the differences between Nîmesand Melbourne or the similarities. In both places people gather outdoors regularly. Think Moomba, footy finals barbecues, the Grand Final parade, the Melbourne Cup, the formal apology in Federation Square and fireworks on the Yarra.

People in both places enjoy dining with friends, especially outdoors. Both are tourist destinations and keen to make visitors welcome. How did you enjoy the bullfight, I was asked.

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"Well, the score at the end was 6-0," I reflected. "Personally I prefer a more even contest. Maybe 3-3 or 4-2 would have been more entertaining."

This is the upside of migration, of course. All things new in a place where you understand little of the conversation and none of the conventions. Like being a kid again with discoveries and excitement every day – provided you have someone to hold your hand. (Fortunately my wife has two children.)

The downside is missing Australian family and friends, the sunshine, the fruity wines, live sport and barbecued roo fillet.

Distance from friends is of course less problematic in the digital age. With email, cheap phone schemes and free voice and video links some expats actually find themselves closer to family.

Fortunately footy and cricket are available live by internet radio. An ad-infested version of Channel 9's Test broadcasts can been seen via an Indian website. You have to get up early for the afternoon footy. But the cricket in England, South Africa and the West Indies is in our daytime. So it evens out.

The internet enables work in Australia from virtually any location. Where contact with colleagues is mainly electronic we can be separated by a partition, a suburb or a hemisphere.

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Okay, a journalist abroad misses the natter in cafés, at parties and on live radio. But virtually all print is accessible. Most radio programs can be heard live or by podcast.

Important TV programs or news events can be found online if needed. And not just Australian TV – which turns up another advantage of living abroad. I have discovered Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert in the US. How did I survive without them?

The news clipof Australia's Prime Minister being dragged shoeless by a grim security guy on Australia Day circulated widely. Worthy of reflection.

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About the Author

Alan Austin is an Australian freelance journalist currently based in Nīmes in the South of France. His special interests are overseas development, Indigenous affairs and the interface between the religious communities and secular government. As a freelance writer, Alan has worked for many media outlets over the years and been published in most Australian newspapers. He worked for eight years with ABC Radio and Television’s religious broadcasts unit and seven years with World Vision. His most recent part-time appointment was with the Uniting Church magazine Crosslight.

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