Sunday, 15 June 2014

Sedentary Society?

I was reading an article which says that Australians are becoming less and less likely to move interstate for school or work or anything really.

It was one of those things that was both surprising and unsurprising.

My family is one of the ones that has moved for work before.

I was born in Melbourne, my family relocated to Canberra before I was 1, stayed there until I was about 8 (long enough for my brother and sister to be be born in the same place), and then moved to Coffs Harbour. We stayed there long enough for me to finish primary school, then moved back to Victoria in time for me to start high school.

And there we stayed.
I got to complete high school in one place, my sister got to attend both primary school and high school in one place, while my brother finished primary school and then went through high school without another shift.

Each of the moves had been prompted by my father's job, when new positions or promotions became available.

There was a point when I was in high school where we might have moved to Tasmania but Dad either didn't apply for the position or didn't get it.
At the time I was glad because I was a stubborn teenager who wanted to stay with my friends.
Now I'm kinda wondering what life would have been like if we'd made that move as well.

The thing is my father had a job in the public service.Even before the advent of the internet they had a pretty good listing of jobs that was available internally so you knew what was available.
I assume you either interviewed locally and a report was passed on or you were interviewed by phone back when that was the only sensible option*.

And THAT is the point my brain got all hooked up on initially when I read the article.

'How the shit are you supposed to get a job in another state?' I thought.

'Are you going to bung along your resumes, then go on some kind of interview roadtrip?'

'What kind of employers are going to be comfortable hiring someone who isn't local?'

'What if you get there and you don't like the town?'

These are all thoughts that, as a person who has friends who interview for jobs in other countries and then bugger off overseas when they get them, I was a bit surprised to find myself having.

If they could do it back when all job postings were by newspaper and employment agency then obviously they can do it now, we just don't.
Maybe because there is a part of our brains that is still rattling along, unobserved by the conscious mind, still thinking this shit.

'How the shit are you supposed to get a job in another state?'
Search for jobs in your field online and apply for them, durr.

'Are you going to bung along your resumes, then go on some kind of interview roadtrip?'
Well what with these magical advances in technology, any employer willing to hire someone from out of state would be willing to interview you by ye olde phone or videoconference over Skype or Viber or another similar program.

'What kind of employers are going to be comfortable hiring someone who isn't local?'
Well some employers would be fine with it, others wouldn't.
A lot of government organisations, chain businesses, or big companies that have offices in more than one city would think of it as business as usual. If you have the qualifications and are willing to relocate, then you're a good candidate.
Some towns or cities that need more people from various trades, or more medical professionals and the like, hold information events to attract anyone qualified to do the work and willing to up stumps.
There are some employers who wouldn't consider it but they would for the most part be smaller businesses or in industries that have a certain kind of turn over.
You wouldn't expect to apply for a cafe job on the other side of the country and have the owner excited to Skype you for a casual position.

'What if you get there and you don't like the town?'
I am very aware this is a question you ask yourself when you've never been in proper economic difficulty.
You've never had your back to the wall and been looking down the barrel of 'do I pay the rent or do I buy groceries?'
If there is work available locally and you're just a bit bored and looking for a change you may not be that thrilled about the idea of moving to a town/city/state you've never visited before and decide against the idea.
If the shit is heading for the fan and you've got a chance at this distant job I expect you take it and worry about whether your prospective new home has a bowling alley or a place of worship of your choice later.
There are people who move purely because they want to experience life in different places, to get more experience.
There are also people who move wherever they need to in order to support themselves and their families.
If you've got the luxury to be in the first category then good for you.
If you're in the second category you probably find this whole discussion a bit frivolous.
If you're partway between the two... good for you, you're probably very level-headed and making the best out of your opportunities.

This topic has been in the public eye recently with Prime Minister Abbott answering questions on the lack of work available for young Tasmanians and what this will mean with harsher welfare benefit criteria by saying “If people have to move for work, that’s not the worst outcome in the world … for hundreds and hundreds of years people have been moving in order to better their life,”.

At the time this comment was met with outrage which I joined in with in a vague sort of way, waving my fist at the car radio and muttering imprecations, but now I can see that most of that anger came from a possibly subconscious reaction of 'what if they don't want to?' or 'why should they have to?' the answers to which in previous generations would have been, respectively, 'tough titties' and 'because they want to eat'.

It's amazing that in a time of faster travel and easier communication in many ways we are becoming more rooted to our physical locations.

It's hard to believe it could be a fear of the unknown, seeing as so much more information is available to us these days, but are we coming less adventurous as a result?

Have we decided that being able to see things virtually rules out the old saying 'if you never ever go, you'll never ever know'?

Or maybe, like me, everyone is thinking of moving about as something they'll do 'later' but because we never apply any proper thought to it, later doesn't come and all of a sudden we'll be in that age bracket who are less inclined to move at all.

Whatever the reason it'll be interesting to see how trends develop in the future.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Russian Bride

I went to a party on the 31st of May and I am still in shock.

Not because the party went off like something you read about in the papers and tut tut when they talk about it on the radio.

The party was for a friend's birthday and she decided to have a 1950s theme so we all turned up dressed appropriately, faces and hair gussied up, made cocktails, ate edible versions of tragic 1950s party nibbles and enjoyed some period appropriate music until everyone got drunk enough to put on Amon Amarth, Puscifer, Tool and Korpiklaani.

The thing that shocked me is that one of her friends who had casually mentioned he'd be bringing a guest, turned up with a lovely young girl who essentially seems to be a Russian mail order bride.

He had told literally no-one that she existed.

He hadn't said he'd met anyone online, that someone was moving in with him or that he had suddenly turned into the kind of guy who tells his friends that his girlfriend* isn't allowed to drink because he's told her she's driving...

He's closer to 40 than not, she looks like she's around 20 and speaks English with hesitation.

She didn't seem cowed or shy exactly but she wasn't actively engaging in conversation, rather responding when asked and content to stand around and observe otherwise.

He didn't hover over her like a hawk all night but him swanning off to talk to other people and leaving THE GIRL NOBODY KNEW EXISTED who doesn't speak very good English with a bunch of loud, tipsy strangers isn't much better behaviour.

I had actually seen him down the supermarket with her once a couple of months before, said G'day in passing, gotten a Hello back from him and a smile from her and wandered on thinking 'I guess he's got a girlfriend?'
If it hadn't have been for that encounter absolutely nobody would have any idea how long she'd been in the country.
And that's just when I saw her.
For all we know she's been here since his last visit to Russia** and he just hasn't seen fit to mention it.
The last visit to Russia that we know about was late last year, in case you were wondering.
What if she's been here this whole time?
Just... sitting about his house...

The thing is he's always been shit at sharing news.
You find out he's due to have knee surgery a week or two before it happens because he makes a throw away comment about taking time off work.
You find out he's going overseas because he says something about a VISA.
But moving a human being from one country to another and possibly having to sponsor them legally?
And moving them to a shitty country town with nothing going on, and not introducing them to your friends*** so she possibly has no social circle?

The friend whose party it was thinks he said she's over here teaching Russian but I don't know where or to whom or even if this is an accurate recollection as the problem with 1950s cocktails is that the party started at 6pm and everyone was stinko by 8:30pm.
Luckily they slowed down, eased off to lighter mix drinks and didn't wreck themselves but there were a lot of lapsed memories that evening.

It is a very weird situation to find yourself in.

He was acting as if nothing was wrong but getting a bit stubborn if anyone asked him why he wouldn't let her drink.
Her English is functional but not very complex and if he's the only person she knows, she mightn't be willing to risk getting him offside if we start asking her if she's OK or happy.

Maybe they're having a perfectly good time together, it's hard to say, but the situation seems creepy.

So I guess now we know she exists we'll have to try and work out what the hell is going on, who she is to him and make sure he's treating her right.

I can imagine wanting to start a life in a new country and being willing to shack up with somebody to make it happen but moving to a small town in central Victoria and spending most of your time in the house of a man who barely talks doesn't seem like a great reward for your bravery.
Better than actual abuse - which we don't think is going on - but yeah, not the cream of the crop of promised lands.

He's always been a bit NQR in some social situations but even people who have known him since high school are stunned.

And so now we're questioning everything we know about him.

So now that we know those who know him best are going to try and get the two of them to come to more days/nights out, get to know her better and ask him what precisely the deal is before we all die of curiosity or start stalking them around the place to make sure she's OK.

Because she's a total sweetie and we would throw him over in an instant if we thought he was treating her badly.

*We assume, for all we know they're married...

**He's been two or three times and had never really said much about the trips even when pressed and now we're worried we know why.

***Or family? We have no idea if he's told his family...