My neighbor should be hired by the city of Perth as its official ambassador. She has dropped by with brochures about various outdoor concerts and kids activities, invited us over for lunch, entertained us with stories at the school social when it was clear we didn’t know anyone, and is generally smiley and warm. I am very grateful, and as soon as the weather cools down a bit, I will turn on the Celsius oven and bake her some cookies.
Her behavior makes me think about how few of my San Francisco neighbors I know by name, and how I did absolutely nothing last year when I saw a U-haul pull up across the street, and watched from the garage as a new family moved in. I mean seriously, what is my problem? Why was I ghoulishly hiding in my garage like a freaky pervert? Why did I not walk across the street to simply say, “Hi, I’m Rebecca. Welcome to the neighborhood.” It’s especially weird given that I am a friendly person. And I believe that most people are good human beings who are not going to punch me in the nose. But, as it turns out, sometimes I stand in the garage like a creepy stalker.
When my helpful neighbor in Perth is chatting with me, I occasionally have a really awful thought: she is absolutely adorable. The way she talks about afternoon tea and biscuits, and the way she says, “I reckon” in conversation as if that is a totally normal thing to say. It’s not just with this woman, mind you. I am constantly thinking about how impossibly cute everything seems here. The parrots we see on the way to school, the roundabouts, the school crossing guard with his handheld stop signs, the small orange lockers at the pool, the trail maps in the park, the iced tea served in mason jars, and, the children – my god, these children. What is more adorable than an eight year old in a school uniform with an accent? Nothing I tell you, not all the hand-blown glass miniature hippos in the world. I want to squat down in front of Australia, pinch her little cheeks, and say, “well aren’t you the sweetest little place I’ve ever seen?”
So I’m really hoping for two things here:
1. This feeling goes away.
2. I’m not a xenophobic jerk wad.
This has nothing to do with Australia as a country. This is not a “what an adorable little British colony and I will never take it seriously” feeling. I am not an idiot, and, in fact, the smartest person I know is from Melbourne, so if I were to stereotype based on my own experience, I’d say Australians are savvy and Americans have a lot to learn. I have experienced a similar cute-attack in every other country other than my own. What’s different about this trip is that it’s not a trip. We will be living in Perth for at least two years. So I expect to stop behaving like I’m perusing the Vermont Country Store catalog and actually start living here. But what if I don’t? What if I start collecting adorable crossing guards and storing them in a glass cabinet?
Do people visit the United States and find everything adorable? Do tourists walk around San Francisco and say to each other, “Look at those charming tattooed hipsters and the way they make their darling coffees! They are just TOO precious.”