It is slightly daunting to count 7 years on my fingers now. I have been in Adelaide 7 years, when I only ever meant for it to be a short stint abroad.

I’ve often written about my identity struggle and of big geographical decisions. But I’ve never talked about the ways in which Adelaide/Australia have changed me, the diverse range of people I’ve met, all the experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have, the ways of life that I love and have embraced into my being.

Of course, my perspective is biased and limited — framed by the subset of Adelaide I experienced (as a migrant), compared against the facets of home (Malaysia) I know, at different levels of maturity and life stages.

It’s by no means a true or perfect comparison, but perhaps one can still appreciate the things that I love & have learnt from living in Adelaide.

More than the Rat Race

Before Adelaide I lived in bustling cities (KL and Singapore) for 4 years. Most people were very career focused. What’s your next job move? When are you getting a pay rise? How many marks did your daughter get in her music exam? And does she do ballet too?

The suffocating race is probably real everywhere among a certain segment of society. I loved experiencing people in Adelaide who talked about more than things that stemmed from survival anxiety. It feels like more people here are relaxed enough to pursue interests and enjoyments. Life isn’t as pressing. More people care about creating quality of life, contributing to a vibrant city. For a lot of people I met, planning for their personal future security simply wasn’t a driving value. They lived more unhurriedly, with a certain spontaneity and carefreeness that held a lot of appeal to me, even though I could never completely embrace it.

Enjoying Nature

On the bright summer morning I arrived in Adelaide, I chatted with an Italian lady at the bus stop who told me to go to Glenelg. Off I went on my own, and boy did I fall in love with the beach with all its jetty jumpers! Here, life feels a lot more connected to nature (or so it seems to me). It is within the culture to celebrate nature. I love watching people sitting and lying on grass under the blue sky. I love that you can roll down grassy slopes, climb trees, explore hiking trails, swim, surf. It felt like life broadened out in front of me with possibilities when I discovered all this.

A Sense of Connectedness

Connecting with nature also means connecting with food sources. I take it for granted now that I have fresh South Australian milk and fruit and sausages…such a far cry from how I used to eat in KL and Singapore from the supermarket shelf. I remember how refreshing it was to meet farmers and talk to them – something that I felt was hard to do in Malaysia. Maybe it was a cultural and language barrier back there, maybe I lived an insular life(?), but the reality was that farmers seemed to be in a lower class of society back home, so far removed from our conscious minds. People are a lot more connected here to how their food is grown.

A Creative Culture

The street art, markets and op shops in Adelaide captured me and my heart. One year, pianos were scattered around the city as part of the Fringe, screaming “play me”. I loved doing that! I loved the experience of busking in Rundle Mall. And the very first time I saw yarn bombs, it blew my socks off. It’s worth saying that Malaysians bubble over with creativity too, but every place has its unique expressions that endears itself to you.

After 7 years, I am still being surprised by new learnings (eg I only found out this year there are laws against trading on ANZAC Day). But when I recently answered a survey question on which country I identified with the most, I surprised myself by ticking Australia.