“Life is less social here. Not because Spanish people are more social by character but because of how we live in big cities. Here we all have our own separate houses. In Spain, if you live on the fourth floor of an apartment building, and there are four apartments on each floor, you have to pass fifteen doors on your way down to work. You can’t avoid your neighbours.”
What is a typical day like for you?
Well, I wake up at 8.00am and have breakfast. If my wife is not working I come straight to work. If she is working, then I walk with my son to his school. It’s about a 35-minute walk. Then I come here to work. As you know, I work as a Receptionist, taking calls and making appointments. I have lunch at 2pm. When that finishes at 3pm I have two more hours work and then I go home. I play with Rodri, read and do things around the house like repairs. I have dinner at around 8pm. By 10pm I go to bed, where I look at the iPad and some Youtube. That’s my typical day.
Have you always lived in Australia?
No, my country is Spain. I came here when I was 46.
What was life like in Spain?
Very similar to life here, economically, but more social. Not because Spanish people are more social by character but because of how we live in big cities. Here we all have our own separate houses. In Spain, if you live on the fourth floor of an apartment building, and there are four apartments on each floor, you have to pass fifteen doors on your way down to work. You can’t avoid your neighbours.
How did you come to live in Melbourne?
Not economic reasons. I was doing well in Spain and my wife had her studies there too. But to give our son an opportunity to learn another language and know a different culture too. We have been thinking that they are the main benefits.
How has life changed for you, living in Melbourne?
It is very similar to Spain – the roads and even the stalls at the market here. The big thing is having to speak English. I can’t always find the words to express myself. Also life is less social, and I live a long way from my family.
Is there something that someone seeing you in the street would be surprised to know?
That I’m a foreigner. Because I’m white people assume I’m from here. When they speak to me and hear my accent they assume I’m from somewhere in Europe like Switzerland or Germany.
Is there something else you would like people to know about you?
No. I’m quite ordinary. I’m glad I am. I pass as belonging. You find someone from Nepal or Sri Lanka and you are in a queue for paying your groceries and you come to the queue at same time, and usually they give way. They think I’m from the country, I’m white and they give way. They assume I’m from this country. I’ve found that it is a very good advantage to be white in terms of immigration. I think that people don’t tend to be suspicious of white people.
What do you think about that, noticing that?
It is a prejudice. It is not from people living here but people coming from abroad. This is my thought and perception. People who are not white feel they don’t have all the rights.
Okay, so some of it might be something people bring with them? They don’t put themselves forward, or think they can receive the same care or some opportunities that other people have?
Yes, I think so. Something like that. That they are less than you. You have the right of being the first in the queue.
Have you seen Australians treat people who have arrived as though they don’t have those rights?
No, I haven’t seen that. I think people here are very respectful of immigrants. I see this in immigrants. It is their own reaction. Perhaps they are frightened or scared. It is their own reaction. No, I haven’t experienced anything close to racism here, not on myself or on different people because they are dark or have darker skin. One of the things I’m most happy about with this country is the fact I don’t feel different. I’m an immigrant but I can be part of the community. I know I have to improve my language skills in terms of interacting with people, but apart from that I haven’t had any problems.
This interview is part of the This Is Us Australia project. If you are interested in taking part, and would like to find out what is involved, please use our Contact page or email us at thisisusaustralia at gmail.com.