A medley of foreigners
Other foreigners also added interest or colour to Australia. There was frequently a central European self-titled impresario amongst us – we were not sure what he did apart from attempting to seduce the girls with us. A Singhalese student, a bit of a philosopher, very slightly built, went fruit picking. At the end of the first day, it was clear that he would not earn much. But he played cards and drank whisky.
At the end of his contract, he came home with quite a swag, because he remained sober (while drinking steadily) during card play, whereas his fellow fruit pickers became increasingly inebriated. A Malayan held on to his girlfriend by promising marriage – he even had her wearing a sari on social occasions. On graduation, he left her. Another learnt to suck at the right teats and joined the international student jet-set.
A Singaporean lad and an Aussie lass went to buy wine for a party. Neither had any experience of wines. The proprietor of the shop, overhearing them expressing their ignorance and uncertainty, came out to offer them guidance. He took them on a private tasting, from whites to reds to fortifieds – every mouthful being swallowed. They learnt quickly (they said) and had a great time of it. In about thirty minutes, they were quite high, and were seen walking off with two bottles each. It was quite a party too.
A flamboyant Asian, studying for his pilot’s licence, had so many married women winging around him, especially in the afternoons, that his aerial time was reduced.
In a short period, I came to know well some beer-drinking Indians who never seemed to become inebriated; a Czech couple whose goulash was cooked like a curry and who made their own alcoholic liquors; and a Ceylonese student of architecture whose Yugoslav girlfriend did all his drawings for him, plus everything else. This fellow’s architectural skills were good too. Early in his final year, he received some accolade from some UK authority which put him on par with his lecturer. After that, the lecturer would not offer comment on my friend’s work. He therefore did not bother to complete his degree, and soon reached a senior position back home. Denied further promotion, he went to work at expatriate remuneration, in an African country. It was an interesting thought – a black expatriate in a black African country.
I also knew a Ukrainian who had spent two years cutting cane in tropical Australia as a condition of his entry to the country. He subsequently became a lawyer. There was a Hungarian lawyer who was delighted to have escaped Soviet control, although he was only a lowly clerk in his new country.
Many of these migrants met at a coffee house in the city called “Raffles.” It was a great meeting place. There were Aussie-born ethnics amongst us, who were characters in their own right. There was a Greek Aussie who did not believe in wasting time. Periodically, he went to a public dance and asked each girl he danced with if she wanted a f..k. He said that he never had to ask more than twenty. The search did not take up much time, because he left his partner as soon as she said no. Now, that was an efficient fellow.
An Austrian was more of a philosopher, with a steady girlfriend. At one of our parties, she came to me for a cuddle. Later, he objected. I remember that at two o’clock in the morning I threatened to hit him. To do it properly, I would have had to climb onto a fruit box, as he was a good deal taller and bigger than me. Since he was already a friend, and a peaceable man to boot, we got tired of threatening one another. The next morning he took some money from me to buy more grog – for that evening’s celebration. This was true friendship.
I thus gained confidence in dealing with all manner of people, at all levels. This was useful one day in a country town. A tall Chinese and three of us brown blokes were at the bar, when we realised that we were being examined and talked about by the only other group there. We Asians did not spend all our spare time in pubs. However, it is only in such places that some of the more interesting cross-cultural contacts took place.
Then a large fellow broke away from the group and approached us. Without a smile or any greeting, he said, “Where are you boys from?” I thought that was rude, and decided on a gamble. I said, in typical Aussie style, “What’s it to you, mate?”
Thank heavens, he received the message in full; he understood that we were his kind. He grinned, stuck his huge hand out, introduced himself, and bought us a beer. We got along famously with his group. It took me a while to realise that we were in “boong” (Aboriginal) territory, and that the big man was probably the local sergeant of police (hence the greeting). That experience confirmed our practice of never being subservient or overawed.
(This extract from ‘Destiny Will Out’ will indicate that within white British Australia was an admixture of young foreigners from Europe and Asia and local-born merging into a multi-ethnic and thereby multicultural society. I can safely say that, over a near half-century ending with the last millennium, I have met representatives of almost every nation either studying or now living in Australia. Collectively, we were creating the new Australia.)