Australia is seen by the British as a cancerous paradise. But as long as you remember your zinc, every “sun, sea, sand” stereotype is yours for the taking – or so I was told. There is, however, an even trickier cultural kink to navigate: Australia’s fitness fetish. Having hopped off a plane hoping for a laidback lifestyle, only to be greeted by an army of fitness influencers and gym bros (such is Bondi), this is something I can personally vouch for.
It’s not all bad though. In fact, in my year and a half here, I’ve noticed a lot of positives about the Australian attitude to health and fitness, which many Britons can learn from. For instance: I always thought I looked after myself well, especially considering the vast quantities of fast-food, microwave dinners and belly-busting beers on offer in my hometown of Essex. But after moving to Australia, I soon realised my “one more slice won’t hurt” mentality just won’t cut it in the land of Crossfit and Athleisure.
Visit any beachside suburb in Australia, and you’ll see perfectly sculpted bodies in every direction. This may be intimidating (and many of them will be accompanied by dodgy haircuts, god-awful tattoos or skinny legs), but it’s also inspiring. Compare this to Essex, where you’re more likely to see the pubs full and long lines outside the chip shop. Pursuing a healthy lifestyle isn’t a priority for so many (and we’re hardly immune to dodgy haircuts and tattoos, either).
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Us Brits love our snacks and treats, so much so, that the NHS says around two-thirds of the adult UK population (40 million), are classified as overweight or obese. Interestingly, the Australian Bureau of Statistics says around 12.5 million Aussies (also about two-thirds of their population), are similarly overweight or obese. Maybe the grass isn’t always greener; I’ve just happened to find myself in a more health-conscious suburb in Cronulla.
Almost 10K run at gym at Sydney after swimming at Bondi Icebergs POOL this morning 🏊🏼♂️🏊🏼♂️🏊🏼♂️. For managing my weight it might be necessary to do hard workout🤣🤣#sydney #bondi #bondibeach #icebergs… https://t.co/LaENUTgJCL
— AKKi.TOMMY (@hihichi) November 3, 2019
And there lies the real difference between Australia and England’s attitudes to exercise: Australians feel vindicated to be seen doing it, whereas the English (and many other expats) would sooner admit to spending the weekend at the pub.
That said, the UK is seeing a boom in its health and fitness industry, and it’s no surprise that much of its marketing draws from the Australian conception of health. Around 10.4 million British citizens (5% of the population) are members of a gym and the industry as a whole is worth £5.1 billion, according to a report from Leisure DB.
By contrast, in Australia, it seems virtually impossible to not be a member of some sort of club. In my first few months of being here, I lost count of the number of people who asked me, “Do you train?”. “No, I’ve got a car” was a reply often met with a dumbfounded stare.
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What I can say, is being in Australia has made me want to better myself, much more so than living in the UK. I’m out and about an awful lot more than I was back home, so naturally, I want to be more aesthetically pleasing to the opposite sex, especially with so much competition around. Maybe a good haircut will do me just fine.