Archive | SBS Life

Brexit or not, one place in the UK still welcomes foreigners

In 1985, we had a dream of a better world, a world that came together like Captain Planet’s Planeteers to solve problems. We, the human race, joined hands across the oceans and saved not just the lives of people in need, but “our own lives” at the same time. Because, as dozens of rock stars told us, “We are the world”.

In this more ironic age, the USA for Africa song seems more insipid than inspiring – but it was a time where people really did believe in common-sense international solutions. Sure, many of those people were rock stars, who tend to solve any problem by inserting themselves into it. And looking back, it was sometimes difficult to discern the line between selfless acts of charity and a career-enhancing stadium gig.

But Live Aid made a difference, both in terms of awareness and fundraising. And We Are The World’s writer Michael Jackson and his band of idealistic musos seem far removed from a Presidential nominee who’s more interested in building walls than solving hunger. Continue Reading →

Rocking out in Thainatown

Once upon a time, the pubs of inner-city Australia were full of music. Or so we’re told by those lucky enough to have lived through those halcyon days. Global names like Midnight Oil, INXS and Cold Chisel blazed a trail for local heroes like Regurgitator, the Whitlams and, for all I know, Frenté (hey, they were big when I was in high school). And they packed out many a local from the Seventies through to the Nineties.

Then the pokies came. Publicans decided that live music and the beer its audiences consumed weren’t lucrative enough, and cordoned off part of their establishments to become windowless dens full of banknote-devouring ‘gaming’ machines.

In a pokie room, the only original compositions you’ll hear are the dinky electronic bleeps played on the rare occasions when players defy the heavily-stacked odds and win something. But nobody ever took home an ARIA Award for a pokie jingle. Continue Reading →

What I learned getting naked in public

I was 20 the first time I was invited to get naked in the company of other men. I was in Fukuoka, Japan, accompanying my parents to a conference, and we had been invited to a fancy dinner by the professor who was hosting us.

Before the formal kaiseki meal, our host and his colleagues – nearly all of whom were men – planned to bathe together before changing into bathrobes for the meal. Apparently it’s customary to chillax in the hot tub before an umpteen-course meal, and donning a yukata (a thin robe) afterwards means it’s easier to loosen than your pants as your stomach distends.

But when we were asked to arrive early for a dip, my father and I exchanged a quick glance of terror. We hadn’t shared a bath since I was a toddler, and it definitely didn’t seem the ideal time to start, let alone strip off in front of a dozen or so strangers. Continue Reading →

Forget mind-altering drugs – learn a language

Australians have grown lazy about studying languages while our own has spread inexorably across the world, but we should make it a national priority.

I’m regularly astonished by the multilingual skills of my Indian relatives. Their first language is Tamil, but they were educated in English, and switch between the languages constantly when they talk among themselves, sometimes forgetting that I can’t understand the Tamil bits because the mix comes so naturally to them. (Either they forget, or are joking about me – I’m not quite sure…)

They also speak Hindi because it’s the national language, and some Sanskrit, too, because it’s the language of the Hindu scriptures. Continue Reading →

We should share housing for longer

Unless you’re an impossibly wealthy plutocrat, or a smug baby boomer who bought in the 90s (much the same thing), browsing a real estate website is incredibly depressing. It’s like listening to Adele while watching this video of a sad kitten and peeling onions into the shape of Nicholas Sparks.

Until the bubble bursts – which may never happen – huge numbers of Australians below the age of 40 will struggle to buy their own place. For many of us, a house with a backyard, or even an apartment with enough rooms for a couple of kids, is out of reach unless we go to regional areas or live on the outskirts of major cities. Continue Reading →