Culture shock

We came to Perth, from India, late in 1938. A 44-year-old Anglo-French teacher, of both languages, and her 11 and nine-year-old sons John and Peter. Like most ‘children of the Empires’ we had commuted between India and England to school. The approaching European war changed all that. Australia seemed a safer option.

The culture shock was huge! One could, and did, drink water straight from the tap in anyone’s front garden!

Families – children and parents – ate meals together two or three times a day and not just Saturday or Sunday lunch.

We each got a Malvern Star bicycle for Christmas in 1938. Mine was blue and brother Jack’s was red. The up-turned handlebars took a bit of getting used to at first, as did the puncture-making ‘three-cornered-jacks’. Riding a bicycle, to and from school every day was a rare new experience, as was riding down to the Como jetty on the Swan River for a swim after school.

We were, at first, surprised to learn that we knew more about the geography of Australia and even Western Australia, than most of our school mates. It took some time for us to realise how isolated and insular Australia was and, in some ways, still is …

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Written by Peter Leith

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