6 April 2014

Young nations

My travel plans in Australia got interrupted quite abruptly, so if you're looking for pictures from a road trip across the outback or a story about diving with whale sharks on the Ningaloo reef, I will have to disappoint you. But I won't stop blogging. So here I share with you some thoughts about differences between Australia, New Zealand and Europe. I hope you'll enjoy the read.

Container mall (built up after the 2010 Christchurch quake)
From a European perspective, Australia and New Zealand feel very young as nations. I'm not going to tell you their history here, Wikipedia can do that better than me. If you're interested, check the relevant sections for Australia and New Zealand. But here a couple of examples that made me feel this way:


- Their history is rather brief. New Zealanders are generally aware that the history of their country didn't start with the arrival of the first European settlers. This is simply due to the fact that the former inhabitants (the Maori) make up a quite large percentage of today's population. As the Australian aborigines make up only about 2.5% of the country's' population, Aussies tend to forget that their country was not just empty prior to the arrival of Europeans settlers in the late 18th century.

A historical village (1840ies)
- Likewise, historical sites and buildings are usually less than 200 years old. But then, this simply questions how we define "historical". A lot of important public buildings and landmarks in Europe aren't that old either. Same goes for a lot of buildings, sights and landmarks in Asia. E.g. the Eiffel tower in Paris or the Atomium in Brussels. Probably most people would agree that the building that houses the Hungarian parliament is a historical building. It has been completed in 1904.

- Both countries have still a rapidly growing population, mainly due to immigration, regardless of recently tightened immigration rules. While early immigration was mainly European (British, Irish, Italian, Greek, German, etc.), both Australia and New Zealand abolished their "white immigration only" policies in the 1970ies and 1980ies (the White Australia policy was abolished in 1973). Today, a lot of immigration into both Australia and New Zealand is Asian. I'm very curious how this will change the population mix and the culture in general by 2040 or 2050.


A historical hiking path in the Blue Mountains
- In comparison to Australia and New Zealand, I feel that both countries and people in Europe are "stuck". Please let me explain before you cry out loud. It took centuries to build and shape the present societies, political systems and cultural mentalities in Europe.This is not a bad thing, but as a consequence, societies and cultures in Europe often seem to be focused more on the past than the future. The societies of both Australia and New Zealand seem much more oriented towards the future. While there are important lessons to be learned from the past (and we all should!), being focused on building the future is definitely more helpful when dealing with today's issues and problems than the constant admiration of our own glorious past. Europe is rapidly losing importance in a constantly more interconnected world. To me, this is sad, as I still believe that the European values such as universal democracy, protection of the less fortunate (welfare state), human rights, etc. are beneficial to mankind in the long run. I wish Europe could learn from countries like Australia and New Zealand to focus a bit more on the future and it's opportunities.

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