Since I’m in Australia, calling mates cunts is finally acceptable – and they’re always keen for drinks in the arvo. Aussies have their own slang. One of my favourite expressions is good on ya. When I tell my Ozzie mates I found 20 bucks in my pocket, they’ll say "good on ya". It’s how you respond to great stuff. Deadline for an essay was extended? Good on ya mate. Got nominated for an exchange to France? Good on ya!
Even complete strangers will be genuinely happy for you. I was talking to a girl on the street the other day because she loved my hair. She asked how my day was, I said it had been great. I had lunch with a friend and my presentation went well. “Good on ya girl, you really aced that!” She meant it. "Good on ya" means sincere joy and heartfelt happiness.
In Dutch we have a similar saying. It literally means “nice for you”, but roughly translates to “I couldn’t care less”. Leuk voor je is always used sarcastically, if not enviously. While it isn’t often said out loud, it is on people’s minds. “Leuk voor je” means something good happened to someone and you can’t allow yourself to be happy for them. While “good on ya” in Australian culture means being happy for someone, “nice for you” in Dutch means the opposite.
We begrudge each other’s success. It’s a Calvinist habit, deeply rooted in our culture. A common Dutch phrase is “just be normal, that’s crazy enough”. We have another saying: “whoever grows taller than the rest of the field will have their head mowed off”. If you try to rise above the others, you’ll be punished for it. We don’t appreciate standing out from the crowd. Even the way our language is shaped disallows us to be happy for others' growth.
I noticed it in my own behaviour. When I told my Dutch friends how I was doing, I would always downgrade. “I’m great, loving life in Melbs! Uni is tough tho, I have heaps of deadlines coming up.” Or: “Awesome! I just got back from New Zealand, it was unreal. Back to real life now, it’s getting wintery here.”
“Life’s amazing, enjoying every single second. But I wish I was in Europe with you!”
I would not say these things because they were true. I wasn’t stressed about my deadlines or struggling with the cold. They aren’t lies – university is tough, Melbourne does get cold, and I do sometimes miss my friends and Malta. But I love studying here. I’m learning a lot because the expectations are higher than at home. The cold only makes the city cosier. And even though I miss Europe at times, I would have never used teleportation if it existed.
The reason I added these things to my answer was because it is expected. I did it to ensure the home front that even in Australia nothing is perfect. Because you’re not allowed to live an above-average life.
After talking to my Swiss friend who did the same thing, I realised it’s bullshit. Because frankly life is incredible, and I’m loving it here. I'm having a blast on this side of the world. So I stopped coming up with bad stuff to make up for the great experiences. I no longer downgrade my life.
And people weren’t happy for me. Not just anyone – people I consider good friends. While it upset me for a while, I realised I can’t even blame them. Because if you don’t rise above it, you will forever be stuck in our culture that doesn’t allow us to thrive and be happy for our friends.
To me it is only natural to be excited for others. My heart gets happy when I see people thrive, when I see them finding their passions and achieving their personal goals. I love seeing people grow and work hard. Even if their goals are completely different from mine. Even if I don’t know them well. I can’t help but enjoy others' success. Especially if they’re my best friends. What’s better than seeing the people you love do well?
But I realised it is not like that for everyone. While I am surrounded by amazing souls that support me and love seeing me thrive, I accepted that some friends are different. And that’s okay. Because we shouldn’t rely on others to be happy for us. I’m doing what I love, and I enjoy every single bit of it. Others not being happy for me isn’t going to stop me from living an incredible life.
So when you ask me how I’m doing, I’ll tell you life is awesome and I’m doing great. I’ll ask you how you are, because I genuinely want to know. I’ll be supportive, no matter what. Let’s share what we’re up to. Let’s say “good on ya” more often. It’s cool to flourish. Most importantly, let’s keep in mind that it doesn’t matter how happy others are for us. Happiness is always greater when shared, but you live life for yourself. You're the only one who has to enjoy it.