1. Australia is now the most obese country in the world, just pipping the US at the post with a 26% obesity rate to their 25%. Despite Australia being a sport loving nation there’s obviously a whole lot of armchair sport loving going on, with beer, soft drink or greasy takeaway in hand!
If falafels, shisha pipes, rosewater drinks and Lebanese pastries don’t scream ‘Sydney’ to you then you may be spending too much time in the city’s swankier, leafier, beachier addresses. Sydney visitors, and indeed residents, can experience a taste of the Middle East on their own doorstep just a short train ride away.
Sydney, in case you haven’t discovered, can be a tribal kind of place. There is the glamourous, beach dotted east, the leafy and prosperous north shore, the bohemian inner west, the parochial south and the sprawling expanses of working class suburbia and culturally diverse suburbs to the west. Sydney residents often stick to their own tribe, to the extent that crossing the harbour bridge can evoke accusations of ‘crossing over to the dark side’ – the dark side being the opposite direction to where you dwell.
More open minded and adventurous Sydney-siders are branching out and discovering neighbourhoods beyond their backyards, whether influenced by a local food show on TV or a passionate food blog, or even by joining a food tour to a particular part of the city with interesting eats.
One suburb well worth exploring is Lakemba, found 15 kilometres south west of the city. Home to a large Muslim population, Lakemba’s residents have origins from the Middle East to Africa, to the subcontinent and South East Asia. Arabic is the suburb’s most spoken language according to Australian census data, followed by English and then Chinese.
By taking a stroll along bustling Haldon Street, Lakemba’s main drag, it soon becomes apparent this is a great place to eat, particularly for lovers of all things Middle Eastern. There are Lebanese sweet shops laden with sweet and sticky baklava, halal barbeque chicken shops, delis purveying nuts, dates, and spices, and there’s even an Egyptian gift shop featuring drums and toy mosques.
Some of Sydney’s most revered (and cheap, and generously portioned) Lebanese food can be found at the legendary Jasmin’s, with similarly delicious fare at Al Aseel. There’s even a café devoted solely to falooda’s, a rosewater based milk drink of Persian origins which is popular in the subcontinent. Among the mix is a Hyderabadi biryani restaurant, an Indonesian ‘warung’ and possibly one of the city’s most unique eateries, Island Dreams Café featuring cuisine from Christmas and Cocos Islands (think Malaysian style food, with a tropical twist).
The people watching in Lakemba can be just as fascinating as the eating and food shopping; with residents hailing from all over the planet found lounging at a streetside café or stocking up on fruit at one of the market-style fresh produce shops with amazingly cheap prices. Some are getting their hair braided at the African hairdressers, while others are trawling the fabric stores for headscarves or flowing robes.
Lakemba offers a window into the world of multi-cultural Australia, and through the universal language of food (and its close cousin, shopping) offers the opportunity for some fascinating cross-cultural insights and exchanges. The beach can wait for another day.
Happy New Year! Our roundup of 2011 begins with a reminder that 1st January is not the beginning of a new year throughout the world. Carla wrote that Brazilians consider the year to start after February’s carnival, and Anu wrote about new year celebrations which take place at different times in different parts of India. Of course many parts of the world do celebrate the start of the New Year on January 1st, and Sandra’s post explained all about new year celebrations in Portugal.
Bolo Rei – part of the New Year celebrations in Portugal. Credit.
In this People of the World post, we have the pleasure to get to know Natalie Anderson. Natalie was raised in Australia, but now lives in Vietnam with her husband and three year old daughter. In this Q&A, we talk with Natalie about living in Vietnam, her studies on second generation Australians with immigrant family backgrounds, raising a multicultural 3-year old in Vietnam and how important it is to fill in the missing “links” to your own story through your family heritage.
First off, please tell us a little about yourself
I was born in Singapore to an Australian father and Vietnamese mother. We lived all over Australia when I was growing up and we frequently travelled overseas. When I graduated from university I spent several years travelling around the world, and was based in London for about 4 years, returning to Melbourne to complete my Masters in Language and Cultural Studies – case studies on second-generation Australians from immigrant family backgrounds (from Greece, Italy, China, Vietnam, Turkey and Lebanon) about their cultural heritage and the impact of this on their concept of self-identity. I also worked as a researcher at a social welfare organisation dealing with young people and families from CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) backgrounds.
“Deprived of their wallets, phones and passports, they board a leaky refugee boat, are rescued mid-ocean, experience immigration raids in Malaysia, live in a Kenyan refugee camp and visit slums in Jordan before ultimately making it to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq, protected by UN Peacekeepers and the US military. For some of them it’s their first time abroad. For all of them, it’s an epic journey and the most challenging experience of their lives…”
This is the story of six Australians who volunteered to retrace in reverse the journey that refugees have taken to reach Australia. The 3-part SBS series, Go Back To Where You Came From, aims to challenge the participants’ preconceived notions about refugees and asylum seekers.
Australian blog Culture Matters is a space for students and staff at Macquarie University, Sydney to share and highlight trends in anthropology. The blog explores both Australian and international issues affecting asylum seekers, refugees and indigenous people.
One of the site’s top posts, On being ‘black’ in Australia and the U.S, discusses ways in which we imagine identity and attribute race. There is also a great discussion in the comments section on identity and labels.
Join the conversation here and visit this site to learn more about practical applcations for anthropology in day to day life.