07.02.2011 The British Club vs The Australian Club
So last weekend we went to the British Club on Friday night and the Australian Club on Sunday night. We would have attempted the hat trick of including the American Club but unfortunately they also have their socials on a Sunday and the thought of barbecue and beers won out over, well, hamburgers and cokes I guess. Though last week they had a luau party so we missed out on the cocktails that time.
For the uninitiated, the above mentioned clubs exist anywhere where expats may live work and party and can be an oasis of familiarity when the culture shock is just too much. They are usually attached to the embassies and offer home comforts, at least booze you would recognise if not actual ‘home cooked’ food. As member’s clubs they used to be a bit more exclusive, with new members having to be nominated by old ones and such other archaic nonsense. They held frequent functions and events which all expats, no matter what nationality, would want to attend. Any excuse for a party in fact, including Valentine’s Dinners and St Patrick’s Day Balls and Harvest Festivals and so on and so forth.
These days they need all the business they can get, though the British Club only opens its doors to all comers on the first Friday of the month, whereas the Aussies and Americans have an open door policy every week. And, in keeping with the modern world, the Brit Club only has an evening do which is a tad disappointing when you note that the others are much more family friendly; inviting anyone with kids to use their facilities, both including a pool and a playground.
So that the BC only comes alive about 10pm when all the young NGO workers have had dinner and remember that the doors close at 11pm (though the party continues until 1am or something. How would I know? I’m a mum!). To compare the BC premises with the AC premises is a little unfair… but I will anyway. The BC sits in an unprepossessing building, reminiscent of a 1970’s motel reception complete with an original formica bar and the smallest gin and tonics in the universe (shame on you!). There is some weird payment system whereby you purchase a card for $15 which has units marked up on it which only the barman understands, and the then duly marks a few off when you order a drink. Who knows how much they cost? I moved fairly swiftly on to beers which I haven’t drunk for about a gazillion years so you can see how disappointed I was. Still, I’m sure it was Gordon’s or Beefeater in that little eggcup.
So we sit on the patio outside, surrounding a pool no bigger than ours with quite a formidable fence. To stop the little ones falling in no doubt, once they’ve tired of the tiny wendy house and climbing frame affair nestled in a dark corner. Not that Friday nights are in any way family orientated, oh now. Vast groups of heavily smoking loudly chatting young folk arrive in great swathes and take up space around us. Everybody but EVERYBODY complains about how empty it is and that there is literally NO-ONE there tonight and apparently there is something going on up at the Brewery and you should have seen it in the old days (the Brit Club that is, not the Brewery. I assume anyway).
And do you know, despite how it may sound, I had lots of fun. There is something to be said for squeezing all your fun into 2 hours (obviously we arrived unfashionably early and left in the same manner, this being the first time we had arranged for a babysitter. Besides, we have to get up at 6.30am whether we want to or not.) And I met loads of people, not one of them British either. Plenty of French, a lovely Norwegian/Danish couple who kept us entertained for ages, the Israeli ambassador, some Myanmar ladies (in the toilet. Not with the ambassador though!). We compared bodies i.e. how many nationals of each country supposedly live in Yangon. I’ve heard 140 German, including all the children, and about 300 French who are second only to the Americans in numbers. Someone asserted that there are 10 Swedes. Great! I know of 5 including me, so 5 more to meet! Unless they’re counting the children of course…
All in all it was a good night. I may even go again. I will not, however, bother joining the club as a member. I’m sure any events will come to our notice in any case.
Now the Aussie club is a different proposition entirely, as you might expect. The compound is gorgeous, big and green and manicured with a huge pool and a baby pool besides and a lovely climbing frame, slides and swings in a big sandpit. From 4pm on a Sunday anyone is welcome and though they also operate the weird card/unit system you can at least get a cold one and some decent white wine for your dollars. They have a massive barbecue patio where you can grill your meat yourself! Woo hoo, what a great way to meet people. At 6pm everyone rushes to the grills while a vast amount of salads and accompaniments are laid out on a central table. We had the most delicious steaks and Alfie had English sausages, such a treat. And you sit on big round tables so you have to talk to the people around you which is a brilliant idea.
I was a little disappointed at the lack of Australians but once again it seemed there was something going on elsewhere and it was unusually empty, as people kept telling us. (Does this happen everywhere you go I wonder?) I did however meet some great people including the Ambassadress (as in female Ambassador???) who was delightful and of course has Betty as her nanny, sister to our nanny, Amber. So you know, practically related and all that. She said she was thinking of starting a playgroup to which I said Yayy! Or something equally enthusiastic (and I wasn’t even drunk or anything). Soon there will be more playgroups than days of the week which is fantastic.
But almost the best thing about the Aussie club is that it is very close to our house and we could cycle there in a jiffy. In fact we saw a bicycle with a child seat on it just like ours, leaning against the railings, so clearly we are not the only mad ones. It may even be worth taking out membership at this one…
To be entirely fair we will of course be checking out the American Club too. They have a couple of things going for them, not least a softball team and other sporting events, plus an endless supply of Canada Dry Tonic apparently. Let’s hope the burgers are up to scratch!
07.02.2011 The British Club vs The Australian Club