by Emily Carson
Photograph courtesy of Geddy Images
Australians and Americans don’t have a lot in common. Sure, they both speak English and have strong historical feelings about Great Britain, but that’s about where the similarities end. They drive on the opposite side of the road, Australian tax isn’t extra and even that English language has an accent. But nowhere are the differences in Australians and Americans more prevalent than in their core mentality and wellness.
As an American, especially one living in the city of Boston, I am constantly rushing. I’m running to class, I’m trying to catch the T or the BU Bus; I speed walk everywhere, even when I don’t have to. In general, a fast-paced lifestyle has become the norm for most Americans, especially those in cities. We want everything and we want it now, at our fingertips. We have Wi-Fi and full cell service everywhere, so we can stay updated on social media and connected with everyone in our lives. I never used to be a heavy technology user––I didn’t even have a smartphone until college. But like many millennials today, I’ve found that connectivity and social media are necessary in order to keep track of for classes, jobs and friends.
But studies have proven how constant connectivity is a negative. Researchers have suggested that “Digital Attention Disorder”, the addiction to social networks and screens in general, is on the rise and a serious problem. A Swedish study found that heavy technology use in young people increased the risk of mental health problems such as sleep disorders, stress, and depression. Research suggests that social media and technology use actually doesn’t bring us together, but does just the opposite; it makes us lonely, jealous and mentally unhealthy. America may be on a healthy eating and exercise craze, but more often than not we leave our mental health in the dust.
Australians are a polar opposite. I’ve been living in Sydney for the last three-and-a-half weeks for study abroad, and one of the most immediate things I noticed was how relaxed everyone here is. Understandably, the weather (especially compared to Boston) is enough to make anyone relax; even in winter, it’s blue skies, cloudless and 75˚ Fahrenheit (24˚ Celcius). But it’s not something you can just chalk up to the weather. Australians don’t feel the need to rush everywhere.
Australians have a saying that encapsulates the mentality of the entire country: “She’ll be right.” This is a statement of confidence and complacency; it essentially means that everything will work out in the end, minimal effort required. This applies to all aspects of daily life in Australia. If you miss the train, if your car breaks down, if you get locked out of your house: everything is going to be okay. She’ll be right.
This relaxed contentment with life is culturally engrained and extends to things like going out to eat. Often, you are responsible for flagging the waiter down, whereas in the U.S. the waiter checks on their tables rather frequently. It takes a lot longer to eat, but the mentality is that you’re taking the time to enjoying the meal that you paid for. You aren’t paying to eat, you’re paying for the experience, and the Aussie mentality is that you should enjoy it.
Another aspect of Australian wellness mentality is living in the moment. Australians have beautiful nature and weather, and their relaxed state of mind allows them to be present and enjoy everything. Unlike America, Wi-Fi is not everywhere, and when it is somewhere, it’s slow or password protected. Cell service in cities is strong, but everywhere else it’s virtually non-existent. The lack of connectivity makes it easier to live in the moment with your mates and not worry about what someone else on the other side of the country is doing. Aussies, unlike Americans, tend to slow down, look around and not take their beautiful country for granted.
This type of deep-set relaxation and complacency would be difficult to implement in America; it’s almost like being on a permanent vacation. I’m a type-A personality who stresses about everything and has quite literally been prescribed to relax by a doctor because of my daily stress headaches. It’s been incredibly beneficial to go with the flow of the country. I notice that I’m a lot more relaxed and I haven’t had a single stress-related headache in weeks. America still has a stigma surrounding mental health, and we do not take care of ourselves and promote wellness in the way we should. I think America can learn from the Australian wellness mentality; just take time, stop and sniff the flowers and remember: she’ll be right.