What "No Worries" Really Means And Nine Other Lessons from my 4 Years in living Australia

Four years ago when I arrived in Australia from a hot Thailand and Canberra desperately cold. Now when I am leaving Australia for Finland, Helsinki is experiencing a heatwave and Canberra is still freezing.

Lesson 1: No one outside Canberra believes how cold it can be during the winter – especially inside the houses.

Besides insight into Australian construction standards, I also gained much during my years in Australia – friends, knowledge and 10 kgs.

Lesson 2: Australia has great food and wine, and too much driving around.

After over 10 years in Asian megacities, Australia was a paradise. No traffic jams (except between 5:05–5:10 pm) and no pollution in Canberra! In that sense, it felt like home in Helsinki. Although there are traffic jams in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, they are not worthy comparisons to the hecticities of Seoul or Bangkok.

Lesson 3: Australians do not always grasp fully, how good the life in Down Under really is.

Therefore, I have loved Canberra. Its greenery, calmness, openness, and easy living. The wineries here are not bad either.

Lesson 4: Canberrans should encourage other Australians to continue their dislike of Canberra because that way it will remain a best-kept secret without traffic jams.

Work has taken me to many places in Australia. I have had the pleasure to meet with tremendous people both at the Embassy and outside. I truly feel that we have achieved much together, and maybe Finland and Australia are a tiny bit closer now than before.

Lesson 5: Australians – both old and new – make Australia a great country.

I have also had the opportunity to work with other countries in the region and enjoy holidays in places I only dreamed of seeing. I have seen many challenges, but also countless opportunities.

Lesson 6: New Zealand is the most Finnish country outside the Nordics.

Lesson 7: Time is relative, especially in the Pacific Islands.

I have learnt to tell potential interns in their job interview that they should expect everything. There will be surprises. We have made interns to perform air-guitar on stage (and in sauna), and to become free wives for wife-carrying competition (apparently there are more men than women willing to try this adventure sport from Finland). Interns have danced ballet on video and given TV-interviews about Nordic walking. Obviously, they have also hosted events in sauna and been photographed for social media purposes in a way they might not want to list in their CV's.

Lesson 8: Diplomats must do many things: over 300,000 people have seen a video of me doing hobbyhorse riding with other Nordic Ambassadors wearing suits.

It is worthwhile to do crazy things in Australia, as I have learnt to see Australia is a land of opportunity for further Australia–Finland cooperation. We could combine so many more crazy ideas to make life better on the planet.

Lesson 9: Australians and Finns must – and will – do more together. We share similar positive craziness.

As mentioned, my time in Australia has been tremendous, and I will miss the people and the country (not the construction standards) greatly. Nevertheless, there was one thing I lost (besides quite a few hairs): I lost my trust in the meaning of “no worries”.

Lesson 10: Except when used instead of “goodbye”, expression “no worries” really interprets “time to start worrying”.

PS. Platypus is my favourite animal since primary school. Thanks to Tidbinbilla for the opportunity to see one in wild.

Author Information: Antti Niemelä is the outgoing Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Finland in Canberra.


  1. Antti we never did get to christen the robot ! Your interpretation of "no worries" is 100% accurate, having lived here since 2000 we have also experienced cool homes in winter! and little or no traffic - wish you safe return to Finland and maybe we can catch up in Helsinki sometime.

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  3. Thanks and all the best, Antti! It's been a pleasure knowing you and reading your well-written articles here.


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