From Athens to Melbourne: Impressions of a fresh start in the multicultural nation of Australia

·

It was a cold Saturday afternoon in Athens and most Greeks were getting ready to welcome 2023 inside their cozy homes, together with their families. Only a few people were in the airport, ready to fly abroad on New Year’s Eve, and my friend and I were among them.

We passed the security checks looking at the empty lines around us, holding a ticket to the edge of the world in our hands. A trip of 20 hours was ahead of us. A new challenge, a journey to the most distant place we could have ever picked to live in.

After four hours of flying, we landed at Abu Dhabi and before we leave for Australia, we could already hear Greek voices on the plane. A couple of older people waved their hands at us.

“We came to Australia when we were 18 years old and today we are 70. We got married and we still live in Melbourne,” they told us.

Another Greek man in his 60s started narrating his experiences as a taxi driver in Melbourne. All of a sudden, it felt like home.

Melbourne at night. All photos by Giorgos Psomiadis.

Happy New Year

It was 10pm when we fastened our seatbelts. The plane staff provided every passenger with hats and huge paper glasses with ‘Happy New Year’ on them. The Greek couple smiled in a festive mood from the other side of the plane. Moments later they were counting loudly backwards to welcome the new year with us. The thirteen-hour flight to Melbourne, Victoria had begun.

Time passed slowly, with occasional packed meals, chocolate treats, unfinished movies, podcasts and only two hours of sleep. We tried to close our eyes many times, but we couldn’t. Australia was waiting for us, and together with that, the exciting feeling of the unknown.

Touchdown

Heat. The moment we left Melbourne airport, we realised that summer was here. While we were in our Uber, on our way to the hostel, there was a specific moment when the city’s skyscrapers were visible in the horizon.

“The center of Melbourne was full of people yesterday night,” the driver said as I noticed he was sitting on the right side of the car. He looked at me through the car’s rearview mirror.

“Fireworks were everywhere in the sky. You should have been here to see that.”

After leaving our stuff in the hostel, we went out. On January 1, a few people were having fun in the city. There was a certain sense of freedom though. It was night and streets were lit up with neon signs. Asian restaurants were serving ramen and Vietnamese soups. Elizabeth street was full of customers lining up to get poke caps from Hawaiian restaurants. The temperature was 38 degrees. Next day it would be 16.

Wearing funny T-shirts, swimsuits and flip flops, people were celebrating the new year in groups enjoying summer in the city. Hippies were playing music with their dogs laying tired next to them. Everywhere around us there were skyscrapers next to old Victorian architecture buildings, screens with burger advertisements high above our heads. In the CBD area you could feel close to the sea even though you were lost in a labyrinth of buildings. Walking in the center of Melbourne for the first time, you get the impression that you have suddenly discovered a city of parallel universes. A vibrant, multicultural society is waiting for you to be integrated and together with that a futuristic, rapidly changing world welcomes you.

It took us a while to get used to the hour change. For six nights we were waking up in the middle of the night waiting for time to pass. One of these early mornings, we got off our bed and went out on the street. While we were taking a walk in the quiet northern suburbs, the sky was lit by the first morning light. We were astonished to find boxes full of books and toys in front of the doors of some people’s homes with the words ‘Free for everyone.’ It was almost six when we got back to our hostel. The sun was reflecting on the skyscrapers and the dawn felt like a warm welcome.

Apartment Hunting

Before visiting our first apartments for inspection in the centre of Melbourne, we knew that finding something good would be a challenge. Soon we realised that we had absolutely no clue how hard it would prove to be. 30 people were waiting in the inspection line. References after references were requested from us. Inspections were cancelled once you were already at the meeting point. The price of renting skyrocketing at the last minute. In the CBD area, it’s almost impossible to find an appropriate, furnished apartment for two people for less than $420 a week. If you do, good luck applying for it. While searching for an apartment in a big city, you get the feeling that absolutely no one cares about you. A true marathon, with runners packed in elevators.

Greeks everywhere

Coming to Australia we brought with us an old book with yellow pages that we had found in a second-hand bookshop in Athens. It was written in 1953 and its title was I am coming from Australia- Impressions of a journalist. For us, this was our first contact with the Greek people here. The admiration of a visitor who seventy years ago was walking on the same streets that we were about to walk.

From traditional Greek restaurants, to Hellenic museums and orthodox churches, Melbourne felt like home. We were lucky enough to be invited to the home of one Greek family. One generation after another, Greeks are keeping their traditions alive and that is something you could notice everywhere in the house. On the newspapers’ front pages hanging on the wall, in the traditional food they served us and the Greek music which was playing on repeat while we were talking.

I also don’t think I have ever been to such an impressive Cretan festivity before as the one I saw during the first days of my life in Melbourne. People of different ages coming together, musicians playing traditional instruments and cheering the crowd up, talented dancing groups giving everything they have on stage. You could see the nostalgia for home in people’s faces. Emotions were everywhere. And we hadn’t been to Oakleigh yet. The most famous Greek neighbourhood in Melbourne is waiting for us.

*All photos by Giorgos Psomiadis.

Advertisement

Share:

KEEP UP TO DATE WITH TGH

By subscribing you accept our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Advertisement

Latest News

Fresco of Helen of Troy uncovered at Pompeii

Nearly 2,000 years since it was buried by volcanic rubble, the lost city of Pompeii is yielding even more impressive discoveries.

New casual Greek restaurant brings meze and cocktails to Adelaide’s CBD

Andrew Papadakis, the visionary who founded and successfully sold Meze Mazi, returns to the vibrant Adelaide restaurant scene.

Two Greek women included in ’30 Under 30′ Forbes list

In this year's European Forbes "30 Under 30" list, two exceptional Greek women have managed to stand out for their successful paths.

2,300-year-old tomb unearthed in Greece

A tomb in the ancient Macedonian city of Aegae in modern Vergina, Greece,  has been unearthed according to an All That’s Interesting report.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ new movie ‘Kinds of Kindness’ included in Cannes lineup

New films from Yorgos Lanthimos, Andrea Arnold and Francis Ford Coppola, will compete for the Palme d’Or at the 77th Cannes Film Festival.

You May Also Like

TGH Exclusive: Sophie Cotsis on International Women’s Day, “I have a responsibility to talk about my illness”

Sophie Cotsis spoke exclusively to The Greek Herald, ahead of International Women’s Day, to share her journey throughout politics.

Op shop assistant Angela Skordalis creates bargain bridal bonanza in central west NSW

Roughly 18 months ago, Dubbo-based homelessness service, Orana Support, was looking for an opportunity shop site. Tina Reynolds, the charity's chief executive, jumped at the...

Greece’s Foreign Ministry hoists Italian flag in symbolic solidarity

In a symbolic move of solidarity with the Italian people, the Greek Foreign Ministry raised the Italian flag at the central building in Athens.