My Friend Darion
Alex Horne - October 29th 2006
Some people (like Milco from Macedonia and Carl from the Philippines) think we'll easily find our 192 different people. Others, like myself and Owen, are much less optimistic. That's largely because we're the ones who have to leave our homes, go out and talk to strangers again and again and we probably know more about our levels of laziness and fear than Carl or Milco.
For that reason I'm particularly interested to find out how many different nationalities I'll meet in the course of my normal London life this year without even trying - as opposed to the ones we'll have to actively seek out in various inappropriate and potentially embarrassing ways. I think of myself as fairly cosmopolitan and multicultural, if a little socially reticent, but how often do I actually bump into people that aren't British? Every week? Every day? Every hour? (I could go on, but I don't think there's any need).
One thing I already know is that I don't have many foreign friends. However liberal I may or may not be the fact is that I very rarely hang out with people whose skin is a different colour to mine.
Now that sounds bad but statistically it's not actually that shocking. I also very rarely hang out with people who aren't Owen (my collaborator on this project) or Tim (my collaborator on other projects). Comedy is a kind of lonely job. I meet people from all over the world every night and many of my colleagues (some of them I might even call friends – not mates or buddies but friends) are from all sorts of backgrounds (and by backgrounds, I do mean physical backgrounds like skyscrapers, beaches or canyons).
I am, of course, friends with an Australian. Well, technically he's my wife's best friend's husband but I think that counts. We might not meet up regularly on our own but we get on pretty well and I'm sure we like each other and if that's not grounds for calling each other friends I don't know what is.
(friend/fr?nd/Pronunciation Key - [frend]
1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter: friends of the Boston Symphony.
3. a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile: Who goes there? Friend or foe?
4. a member of the same nation, party, etc.)
So on October 29th, when my wife and I were meant to be spending a relaxing Sunday evening in a pub with a few mates including this antipodean, I seized my opportunity and cornered Darion. Would he mind representing his country here in London? Of course not. He'd be proud to. He's Australian.
In fact Darion Pohl, my 34 year old FRIEND from Oz, is a particularly interesting Australian because his job, technically speaking, is "in cross border finance for people emigrating between the UK and Australia". In other apparently simpler but actually more complicated words, he's the bloke who helps people, like himself, to settle in London, and British people, like myself, to settle over there, if that's what I wanted.
So I decided to formally interview him. I'm fairly sure that's what friends do:
So, how hard actually is it for Australians to come and live over here?
In reality, very easy if they are under 30. They can then get a
visa to stay for two years in the UK and work for one of these 'working
holiday visa'. If they are over 30, they need to get a UK Highly Skilled
Migrant Visa or a Work Sponsorship visa, which is not too hard to get if
you have a degree qualification and over three years work experience in
a certain area. After five years, on the right visa, you can get a UK
That sounds like a lot of admin. Fine, if you like admin. Less fine
if you don't. Why put yourself through all that admin? Why come to London?
To create havoc, win sporting contests and take the piss
out of the Poms!!
That's fighting talk.
In reality it's the ability to earn sterling (much more
valuable than the Aussie Dollar), travel and experience history.
That's sensible talk.
Australia is so bloomin' far away from everywhere and
'white oz' is only 200 years old. London has more buzz, lots to see and do,
and closeness for travel. Australia has the lifestyle - more relaxed, more
outdoor activities, better beaches, more sun, better beer and fresher food,
in my opinion. London is very expensive in comparison, but not too bad if
you're earning pounds. It's also more 'international'…
I sincerely hope so.
…which is both good and bad, as you can experience the
cultures, which is great, but you can also get lost in the swarm of people
on the tube! Australia is more personal and 'community' spirited – although
maybe that's just because it has much less people.
And maybe that's because you're all over here.
Interview over. It's good to find out what you're friend actually does for a living. I know several people fairly well who do things that I've never really understood so it's good to have a reason to finally ask them what it is they do.
I guess I take Australians for granted. They seem very similar to us (for obvious historical reasons) just with that extra confidence I wish I possessed. But when I asked Darion if he thinks of London as home he replied, "Yes, and no. A tricky one, with an English wife and the rest of my family in Oz… We'll see what happens over time". Perhaps even brave, strong Aussies sometimes get homesick. They do live an awful long way away.