Karumba, QLD, Australia

Disembodied audience voice: So Greg & Tiffany

You’re out in the middle of nowhere,

Us: Yep

Disembodied audience voice:  Far enough out that the EMT needs volunteer drivers and the nearest medical facility is an hour away by ambulance?

Us: Right

Disembodied audience voice: 28 foot crocodiles?

Us: That’s what they say

Disembodied audience voice:  And you’re tending a bar at a pub.  Serving drinks.


“Thongs” mean “flip-flops” in Australian.  It leads to funny conversations.

Us: There’s betting too.  Mostly drinks though.

Disembodied audience voice: 


Who the heck is willing live there!?

Well during “season” this place is a tourist destination.

(we know right? But that’s what they tell us.)

Guess we could see it, the weather is amazing and the view is awesome.

100_3292You can look, but don’t go swimming!

But this is off season right now so no tourists.  What keeps the two bars in town running now

(518 people and 2 full pubs…)

is mostly the miners who work in the ore refinery down the road.  Now, as we’ve said in the past, Australia is an “imperfect mirror” of the United States and these miners that we served beer and food to on a nightly basis were interesting to us as they represented a sector of the workforce in Australia that is treated very differently than in the United States.

Because in Australia, being a “Tradie” can be a good thing.

Now what we’re going to say here, as with everything else, is

a) Based on our highly subjective personal experiences at home and abroad and
b) Paining with a very broad brush.

(For example, we have friends in the States who are miners and probably wouldn’t agree with some of our assertions here and in their particular cases they would be right.  We are speaking in generalities here vice particular cases or for people who are at the top of their fields.)

As Americans our current work force seems to be facing a conundrum: we have all been raised to be executives…and specifically indoctrinated that, with very few exceptions, being a “blue collar worker” was “Not living up to our full potential.”

So in the United States we were raised that there are 2 groups of people:

1) People with at least college degrees and who got “real jobs” (read: desk / executive level)

2) Everyone else who basically flips burgers at McDonalds.

In general, we were advised the second group wasn’t exactly an option.

In Australia, there is a third group that exists between those two: The Tradies – or people who have received specialist training and experience in a trade skill.

20110707B - from Linsey (18)From our time in the Aussie snow – Tradies are the people who make this thing work.

It’s difficult to explain and the basic idea is that over here plumbers get real respect.  Not as much as, say, a Doctor necessarily, and a heck of a lot more than some kid working a summer job at a burger joint.  Australians realize that out in the Outback plumbing is pretty darn important, as are the people who can fix said plumbing.  Also mechanics, cooks, carpenters and the like also get afforded a solid level of professional respect for what they bring to the table (sometimes they bring the table itself!).  Vocational schools and apprenticeships are not pinned with the stigma that many people in the United States have for such institutions.  In summary, one could go to an Australian technical school, get a job as a tradesman, spend their life in a trade and be seen as a functioning, competent professional member of society instead of someone who was “just too lazy to graduate from a real school.”

(The fact that these miners we are serving beer to happen to be making a lot more that most Doctors right now probably has something to do with the ascension of the respect of the skilled tradesman.)

This has had two notable effects on Australia and its peoples when compared to the United States.

1) The first is that Australia has tradesmen, which means that stuff gets done.  Not everything and not all the time however if something (or someone’s reproductive system) is really broken, there is usually someone nearby with the skills to at least remedy the situation.  This is quite a statement when you think about the size of this country and it’s comparatively small human population.

2) The second is that Australians have jobs.  No matter how much we all want to be the big shot, logic dictates that for every executive there has to be hundreds, if not thousands of workers…and that there is nothing wrong with being a skilled member of the team.  As a country, we think America may have forgotten this fact while pursuing the (arguably very noble) idea of “My children will have a better life than me.”

For example, we recently heard that the Boy Scouts of America launched a welding merit badge because there are 200,000+ welding jobs open in the United States right now, just no welders!  Compare that with the unemployment rate that our friends and family tells us is very high and you can see the conundrum.  America has jobs that need filling, we have people who want jobs, but the people who want jobs don’t know how to do the jobs we need doing!

And frankly, those people who want jobs have been raised from childhood to think such work is “not reaching their potential” and the social equivalent of “flipping burgers.”

Few people want their life’s profession to been seen in such a light and no one wants to disappoint mom and dad by not “making something of themselves.”

…and because of that social stigma people stay out of work, jobs remain undone, infrastructure crumbles while personal debt soars and social programs get stretched to the breaking point.

All because we’ve been taught, by a society that genuinely thought it was doing right by us, to get a “real job.”

As Greg has stated in the past, “challenging unknown assumptions” is the primary reason he travels.  Our time serving beers to miners has dramatically changed our view on “Tradies.”

For more on what Travel can teach you about your home country check out the view through the “Imperfect Mirror

About the authors

Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures.  If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out!

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