Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Business Lunch

How does one keep track of events in one's personal life? I noticed that I do so by referencing notable events in my life. As in, that desktop came in right after we moved houses, that printer came in during my mother in law's previous visit, and that photo was taken right before we had Dylan.
The strange thing about it is that I have been noticing it’s getting harder and harder for me to keep track of the times. Some of it is probably to do with senility creeping in with my advancing age, but a lot of it is to do with the age of my ultimate reference calibration point for estimating periods: the date I moved from Israel to Australia. It's ultimate because it’s a date where pretty much everything I’ve had before was replaced by new stuff, but it’s starting to fail in its role as a reference point because by now I have gone through several cycles of life in Australia.
Then it dawned on me. Even though I still regard myself as new to Australia, by now I have actually spent some 20% of my life as an Aussie. That’s a lot of time! Sure, I’ve missed out on growing up here, probably the defining experience for being a fair dinkum Aussie, but the fact is I am now more Aussie than anything else. Sure, I consider nationalities and borderlines to be humanity's most stupid invention other than religion (and one look at our planet from outer space is good enough to see why), but as small as our world is becoming it is still not that small; geography still matters.

This got me to reminisce on the hardships of moving to Australia and the things I’ve had to contend with, new habits I’ve had to assume. Especially when it comes to work, given the traumatic experience I’ve had at being unemployed for some six months during the early stages of my Aussie adventures.
There are many things one needs to get accustomed to when it comes to Aussie work etiquette. Dress code is one thing I’ve discussed here before, but there's another thing I’ve neglected to mention thus far but which has a significant impact on the general feeling of workers at the workplace. I'm talking about the institution of lunch.
I didn't really appreciate it much when I worked in Israel, but throughout my working career there work has supplied me with free lunches. Even while working as a student on a measly pay, I still got my lunch. My first proper job was at a government place where the food wasn't great (it did have healthy options) but the entire team would go together to eat and it was great fun. Later, when I moved to the high-tech side of town, my lunches were upgraded to proper restaurant business lunches: these were probably the best tasting lunches I've ever had.
Then I moved to Australia. Gone were the free lunches.
I didn't realize it at the time, but one of my initial shocks upon starting my first job in Australia came from having to find a place to have lunch in. Given the low density of Melbourne, unless you're at the CBD you do need to look quite hard for a proper place to eat; you're usually required to make a car trip. That takes time, which means your lunch break is extra long, which means you have to stay late at the office. Eventually I gave up and drove to the nearest shopping mall where I usually ended up with some garbage fast food.
With my second Aussie job I quickly settled on bringing food from home. At first it was leftovers, then the lazy person in me (the dominant side of me) resorted to tinned fish with bread - the perfect lazy man's lunch which earned me the nickname "tuna man". That particular place had a lunch room but didn't have any facilities other than a microwave, which meant I even had to bring my utensils with me from home - pretty pathetic.
At least that place had company, something that's missing from my current job. Nowadays, come lunch time, everyone disappears their own way. I usually disappear to read my Scientific American while munching on my fish; the point is, it's a miserable solitary lunch.
The point of the story is simple. Work wise, my immigration story to Australia is not only the story of how all my professional aspirations vanished in the haze of the mediocrity that dominates the virtually non existent Australian high-tech insudtry, as I have discussed here in the past; it's also the story of how office life had deteriorated to but a pale shadow of what it used to be.
The average Aussie worker is not appreciated half as much as their European colleagues and works under much sadder conditions. While, generally speaking, Australia offers a much better lifestyle than Israel, Australia still has a lot to learn.

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