Study Melbourne partnered with Melbourne Writers Festival 2017 to host a storytelling competition for international students. ‘The Tim Tram Ride’ by Michelle Lind Østrup from Denmark was shortlisted in the University category.
The Tim Tram Ride
I wouldn’t say that Danes are cold and unfriendly, but I would say that it takes longer to get to know us and that we are shy about intruding into the conflicts of others, especially when in public. In this regard, we are almost the exact opposite of Aussies. At least that’s how it came across to me one cloudy afternoon as I was going home by tram.
Trams are awesome, by the way! I wish we had them in Denmark.
I’d just come from a meeting in the city with my local buddy and was quietly sitting in the back of the tram, with a newly bought package of Tim Tams, listening to music and looking at the wonderful city that will be my home for the next five months. The half-full tram was creaking its way through the city, and conversations were carried out by tired travellers who wanted to go home.
Then a man entered the tram. He was only a few meters in front of me (yes meters, deal with it). He looked slightly more wobbly than the other passengers that held their balance on the vehicle. A permanent frown dominated his features and he ignored some empty chairs in favour of going toward the front of the tram. Then the road made a turn and we all went with it.
Usually, when you are on a moving and unsteady vehicle you hold onto something. This man did not. He wobbled to the side, nearly falling on top of a woman sitting quietly by herself. It wasn’t a hard fall but you still slightly cringed as you saw it.
Looking towards it, I felt sorry for the guy, most people did as we’ve all been there. One woman even looked on the verge of trying to help him. That was until he started shouting at the driver.
“Ey! Watch where the f*** you’re going,” he hollered “How the f*** did you even get a driver’s license, you ****!”. He did indeed ruin any hope of sympathy as he continued barking his abuse.
I took out one of my earphones and looked at the scene with worried eyes. Communicating the irritation through my stance and glare as I’ve so often done in the Danish public. Ready to do something that not even I knew what it was, if the guy became physical, but not willing to either fuel nor get involved in the situation if I didn’t need to be.
However, I didn’t even get as far as to silent-discontent-with-your-actions-mode before I surprisingly heard a man speak up in a thick Australian accent.
“Oi mate, shut up or get off the tram”
“Yeah leave him alone. He’s just doing his job,” a small woman continued.
“Yeah, bugger off,” another said.
It didn’t take long before the larger part of the tram-riders ushered the man to get the hell off, with rather blunt statements. Moreover, it didn’t take that long before he got the hint and wobbled off the tram.
“Finally” I heard a woman next to me mutter as she resumed looking at her phone as she had before the incident. Likewise, most of the other passengers had gotten back to their conversations and seemed quite at ease with the newfound peace of the tram. A few were sharing small remarks and laughing a little about the entire thing, but most of them just shrugged it off.
To me however, this was amazing. Someone was clearly doing a social faux pas and he had been called out about it, by people who didn’t have any relation to the person who had been yelled at.
I’m not going to say that this could never happen in Denmark but I know that most often people would wait to see the situation diffuse on its own, especially if there was no one who could get physically hurt. This, however, is loads better; even if the driver knows that he did nothing wrong, he will get that positive confirmation from others who are willing to speak up about it.
I really like that about the Australian culture. You don’t take crap from anyone and you call it like you see it.
After this episode and my first few weeks in Australia I found one word that I personally think sums up Aussies pretty well: Straightforward. Meant in the best possible way. This is especially why I enjoy small talk with strangers so much in this country. You don’t have to walk around on eggshells (i.e. religion and politics, Australians will just call a spade a spade) and with such a heap of unique people you’ll always learn something interesting if you take it upon yourself to talk to a new person when the chance appears for you. Of course I don’t mean randomly walking up to people who are standing on the streets, but if you’re in a waiting room and a person seems open to conversation or if something out of the ordinary happens, just give it a little remark and sometimes people let the stranger-danger-shield fall and you can end up getting new mates.
So to sum it up: Talk! Talk to everyone around you and if you’re not being outright unpleasant and rude you will most definitely get an enjoyable conversation with wonderful people and an insight into themes and other aspects of life than you’re used to. Especially if you have a Tim Tam to share with you.