So you’re one of those who’ve found that living in France hasn’t brought the happiness you hoped for, so where can you move to? Well, if you’re relatively young – it’s more difficult for oldies, unless they’ve got significant fluids – think about Australia, a country I would have happily settled in had I discovered it earlier in life. What’s it got going for it? Above all, leaving aside the tourist brochure stuff, it’s the people. As Spectator columnist James Delingpole wrote after a recent visit, “I’ve never before been so welcomed, so well loved, so generously entertained and felt so instantly at home. And no – this isn’t like the ready smiles with little meaning that often greets a visitor in the US. There’s a genuine friendliness to newcomers in Australia that’s an integral part of the culture.” Not long after he operated on my broken shoulder my surgeon Dr Jean-Christian Balestro of Archet 2 in Nice upped sticks and moved to Sydney where he’s now wielding his scalpel at the city’s North Shore Hospital. He’s got no regrets and hopes to stay. He quickly learned the truth of my distinction between French attitudes (“étranger, danger”) and those prevalent in Australia (“you’re a mate until you prove otherwise”). My advice to him (which he would have had no difficulty in following) was simple: “Don’t be pompous and show you’ve got a sense of humour.”
Dr Balestro, as a highly-skilled professional, was very welcome in Australia but the country has a need of people with a wide range of competences – from engineers and agronomists to hairdressers and bakers. Of particular interest to the under-thirties is the Holiday Working Visa programme which allows young people from other countries to work in Australia for a significant period with a strong likelihood of gaining residency or later citizenship. Quite a lot of young French have taken advantage of this possibility. But is there a downside to the Lucky Country? Well nowhere is perfect and you’ve got poisonous spiders, crocs and sharks but they’re not part of most people’s daily life. And it can get very hot in summer. A certain number of Brits – “ping-pong Poms” – give up and leave. A basic reason often seems to be it’s not – for example – like Surrey. They’d likely say the same here. In sum, it’s a great place and a comforting PS: the country has a low level of gun crime following measures brought in by John Howard in 1996 after a madman shot 35 people in Tasmania with semi-automatic weapons.