The denial at the heart of the Australian way of life.

A post over at Catallaxy Files on the subject of the Australian cultural attitudes to spending and saving money caught my eye today.

Being the son of two immigrant parents who came to Australia in the 1970s (I was born in Australia in 1981), I have been able to witness clear differences in attitudes to work, consumption, savings, debt, etc between myself and my peers in the Illawarra region in southern in NSW. I have also been able to talk to many 2nd generation Australians from non-British and non-Irish backgrounds who have witnessed some of the same differences in cultural behaviour that I have observed and whose parents also saw the same differences when they came to Australia in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s from Southern or Eastern Europe.

This was my response to the post:

As a native born Australian, (1971), with ancestry in Australia going back to the early 1800s, I entirely agree with your observations on the cultural unwillingness of Australians to save and for their propensity to throw away their money with just about any excuse. I only came to this understanding myself after I spent 10 years outside Australia without returning during that period.

I was by no means immune to this behavior but before it could get me into serious trouble I was fortunate to marry a lovely Dutch girl whose attitudes to money were entirely contrary to my own. The Dutch are a nation of savers. They are so tight that they make the Scots appear positively profligate. By the example that she set I learned not only to save money but to love doing so.

Two weeks ago we left Australia for good for life in Holland. Family reasons were a major part of the decision, but another big factor in the decision to go was the Australian economical situation. Australia and Australians are a nation and people in complete and total denial. I lived in Italy in the first decade of this century when their economy went to shit but they’ve got nothing on what is happening now in Australia. The difference was that the Italians are also a nation of savers, not comparable to the Dutch, but far superior to Australia. That mentality has so far saved them from their government’s economic ineptitude.

But Australia is on a fast train to economic ruin that is cheered on by the passengers and the drivers of that train. The government and the people are in it together. I have had so many conversations with my fellow Australians over the last few years on topics ranging from spending habits, to saving habits, to the purchase of homes, and to the willingness to take on extraordinary amounts of personal debt.

They are in complete and total denial. As far as they are concerned, real estate always, and I mean always increases in value, no matter what happens overseas or may have happened in Australia’s past. And if you ever dare to suggest that they might be better off servicing those enormous loans instead of going out for their smashed avo breakfast then just sit back and watch the infantile temper tantrums.

It’s over. The only thing holding it up is the mass importation of 2nd world peasants to give the growth rates a temporary false veneer. That and the fact that Australians refuse to even think about it. Willful denial will still get you a hell of a long way. But when it gets set off, when the bubbles all burst in an awful domino effect, then Australia really will have become the banana republic of the South Pacific that we were once warned about, ironically enough by one of the worst offenders in this entire debacle.

7 thoughts on “The denial at the heart of the Australian way of life.

  1. Adam

    This is modern consumer culture that is not just in Australia, but throughout the world. The old ways of thrift are nearly extinct. People want things right now and go into debt without thought. I rememb the old days when you could do lay-by for things you couldn’t afford right now, do they even do that nowadays?

    And really, its not that hard to live on less and pay off debts. If your family has 2 incomes, you can live on 1, and still live well. Lifestyle doesnt have to inflate as your income does.

    Anyone sick at the thought of working for 45 years to retire on a pittance, check out http://www.mrmoneymustache.com, it might change your life 🙂

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  2. It’s the same way here in the US. I don’t think it’s too far away from a total economic collapse here. I simply think that the government has been working overtime to keep the plates spinning however it simply cannot be maintained. It’s quite obvious but as long as the distractions of bread and circuses are maintained the masses will be quelled.

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  3. I told you all he would renege on Poland and go where his wife told him. But it is just as well away from Australia,
    It took me too long to be outside New Zealand for long enough to see how self satisfied and insular we are. You would think being small we would be wary and watchful of the world but we are not..
    We also live on the ‘ guarantee’ that property will continue to appreciate constantly and forever. Didn’t do that in Christchurch though, the earthquake sorted us out down there for a generation or two.
    Our latest poll tells us very few are frightened of Immigration of refugees, and whats this nonsense about using capital in industry not land .

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  4. John Coe

    Grim thoughts, Adam. Sadly I suspect you are quite correct. Even more so when coupled to the culture of the ‘long weekend’ and entrenched indolence. .

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  5. The Dutch are a nation of savers. They are so tight that they make the Scots appear positively profligate.

    As we used to say in the Sakhalin Energy bar: four Dutch come in and order a pint and four straws.

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