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Australian culture and way of life

Traditionally the Australian work force has demanded a moderate working week to ensure adequate time for family and for sports and other recreation. Indeed, the May Labour Day holiday in New South Wales is informally called “Eight Hour Day,” commemorating the institution of the 40-hour work week. A healthy balance between work and recreation coupled with a very high standard of living is an essential part of the Australian lifestyle.

Australians, as is well known in India, are sports fanatics. Cricket, Australian football and rugby league are the popular team sports. However, competition in individual events at international athletic meets, particularly swimming and diving, is of a very high standard in Australia, as evidenced by the Australian medal count at the Summer Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, always a remarkable achievement for a country of only some 18 million people. There is always an opportunity to every one who has talent and interest.

The beach is an Australian institution and weekends there are the common family activity.

Despite the image of Australia as a largely empty continent with far more sheep than people, its large cities are cosmopolitan and sophisticated. (Melbourne, you will be surprised to know that it is historically the second largest city after London in the British Empire, with more people than Calcutta or Bombay.)

Accordingly, the arts are highly developed in Australia. World famous authors, composers, film-makers, actors and popular musicians have established a formidable reputation, entirely out of proportion with Australia’s small population. Authors such as Tom Keneally, David Malouf and Patrick White have been Booker and Nobel Prize winners and the recent India-based Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga was raised and educated in Sydney. The monumental Sydney Opera House is a world-famous landmark but every major city has comparable facilities and they are in full use for concerts and live theatre.

For curious historical reasons, Australia has been something of a blank slate, with few indigenous customs and traditional festivities. (Visitors from Europe and North and South America are startled by the low-key observance of traditions such as Christmas and Easter; Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en are unknown.)

As a result, it is been remarkably hospitable to the contributions of non-traditional immigrant communities that have arrived since the Second World War. European Jews, Greeks and Italians, Turks, Lebanese and, latterly, South Asians (Indians, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis), Southeast Asians and Chinese have made a conspicuous contribution to the interest and appeal of Australian cities while keeping their cultural integrity.

Increasingly neighbourhoods of Australian cities boast Hindu and Buddhist temples, gurdwaras and mosques as well as Christian churches of the newer immigrant communities.

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