Do you feel like there are more Americans in Australia lately? ‘I think that’s just your friends, Clinton’, was a mate of mine’s response. But I think that we are in the midst of something interesting so I looked up the statistics.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection tells me that in 2008, long term visitor arrivals were at 8,971. Last year, there were 14,805. That’s a 65% jump, compared to a 25% increase overall. An upward trend since 2008 gives the hint that they’re economic refugees escaping the recession Australia avoided.
In fact, over the last five years, migrants and long term visitors from the States amounted to 80,404. That’s 10,000 above the last ‘wave’ of immigration from Vietnam in the decade after the Vietnam War. In the American instance, you’ll have to excuse me for lumping in long term visitors with settlers. Settler numbers are small, but then they are also above trend. There’s been a 2% increase comparing 2008 and 2013 in people moving to settle overall, while the American experience is 6%.
But are they really economic refugees? Australian Bureau of Statistics data also shows they’re mostly tertiary educated and on high incomes. These are the socially mobile who could easily get a job back home.
That’s certainly the case with the Americans I’ve met. I know it’s just a handful but living in the inner city is not to be underestimated. A quarter of immigrants move to Sydney. And, yep, a majority of Americans move to the inner city, so my milieu is the frontline. Not surprising given their social mobility that they’re going to want to live where the cool kids are.
Admittedly, it’s not a substantial enough change, year-on-year, to warrant too many conclusions. We couldn't talk for instance about the American middle class not just in decline but actually fleeing to countries with higher levels of human development. But we could certainly imply it.
Things Americans in Sydney Say
These are real conversations I’ve had with real Americans over the past few years.
Me: Rent’s really expensive in Sydney. Mine is $270.
American: Hmm, that’s not too bad.
Me: You think?
American: Yeah, back home I’ve had to pay about that per month.
Me: That’s per week.
2. 'You're Welcome'
At Bondi Trattoria, I proved that Americans say ‘you’re welcome’… A LOT.
American Waiter: [hands menu]
American: You’re welcome [sets up cutlery]
American: You’re welcome [pours water]
American: You’re welcome
Me: Can I have a glass of the pinot noir?
American: You’re welcome
3. Not understanding how suburban Sydney is
American: I want to live in the city.
Me: The area you’re looking at is the CBD. No one lives in the CBD (aka the financial district).
4. Different places have different people
American: It’s so vanilla here.
Me: What do you mean?
American: There are no black people.
Me (what I wished I’d said): Yeah, real sorry we didn’t have a slave trade from Africa, so there’s not as many black people from Africa. We were built largely on white slavery (convict labour).
5. Casual Racism
American: There are so many Asians here.
Me [gritting teeth]: Yeah, well, we are close to Asia. It’s the Asia-Pacific.
6. Assertiveness vs. Passive Aggressiveness pt 1
American: Australians are really passive aggressive
Me: We are. But we understand the language of passive aggression so well that, to us, assertiveness is just aggression. An American would say, “I need to ask you something about this…,” an Australian would say, “ahhhhhhhhhh…so, I was thinking maybe we could…,” even though they definitely needed something.
7. Assertiveness vs. Passive Aggressiveness pt 2
And just the other day, over text…
American: Thank you for the offer.
Me: So, is that a no…?
American: A maybe.
Me: Yeah I just wanted to check. Cause in Australian passive aggressive English, you were saying a clear ‘no’.