Heart Searching: Down Under comes out on top: Is it all Neighbours, tinnies and barbies? Adele Gautier weighs up the pros and cons of having a relationship with an Antipodean partner

Every year, seduced by the thought of having their inlaws 12,000 miles away and the possibility of a life in the sun, hundreds of Britons marry some of the 200,000-plus Australians and New Zealanders living in the UK.

Why do they do it? Is it the 'can-do' nature of Antipodean women, or the unbridled machismo of the men that is so appealing? Bob Symmons was introduced to his Australian wife Nicole by a colleague in a pub. He had never been out with an Antipodean before, but since then has become an expert on the subject.

'Australian women are more confident, happy to be the centre of attention and to show their enjoyment,' he asserts. 'And they drink more.' Bob felt that Nicole had a broader perspective on life than her English counterparts, and he thinks that Australians in general are more up front - more honest about saying what they think.

If the appeal of Australian women lies in their capacity for alcohol and their outgoing nature, the secret of the male may be harder to define.

'English men are just a bit boring,' says Judith Jamieson, married to Mark, a New Zealander. 'Australian men are a challenge,' says Melanie Budden, who met her Australian husband Greg in a Greek bar 10 years ago. 'They are manly rather than romantic, they have a 'don't give a damn' attitude. When we go out for a drink or a meal, we take it in turns to drive - he drives there and I drive home.'

Melanie's view is backed up by an old joke: What is the Australian idea of foreplay? 'Are you awake?' There is, she admits, some excitement to compensate. 'Australian men live for the day, not the past or the future. I think it's great.'

The desire for something different may be a key factor in these British/Antipodean rapprochements, but choosing a partner whose homing instincts are to the other side of the world can be risky.

From the debate over where the wedding is held to the decision about where the children will be brought up, partners in these 'mixed marriages' can find themselves heading for years of arguments and family squabbles.

Bob and Nicole were married in Sydney in 1989, but have lived in the UK since. 'Marrying an Australian meant that we both had to be more than willing to compromise, especially about where we live,' says Bob.

'We agreed that if necessary we would spend three years in England, then three years in Australia, and so on. We wanted to give the relationship the maximum chance of working out.'

This flexibility is perhaps an ideal few partnerships can live up to. Melanie and Greg still haven't decided where they will live ultimately. She says: 'We both said we were prepared to move, but so far I'm winning. But we really don't know where we belong, and we don't feel rooted in either country. That makes us in some ways dependent on each other. He can't walk out in a row because it's a long way to go home.'

Barbara and Peter Idoine have been trying to make up their minds for the last eight years. Barbara, who is English, met Peter in New Zealand. The wedding was in England but they planned to live in New Zealand for a while. Instead, they ended up in New York, followed by a move back to England. Five years and two children later, they have just moved back to New Zealand - for the time being.

Once the decision about country of residence is made, a couple can expect an influx of visitors from the other side of the world. Antipodeans, famed for their backpacking exploits, will jump at the chance of a free bed in London and, once there, can be very difficult to dislodge. 'If you don't like having house guests, don't marry an Australian,' cautions Bob. At least there are no arguments about which family Christmas is spent with.

If you are not put off by the difficulties, the next step is to find your Antipodean. To do this, you do not have to stand on a street corner in Earl's Court, London (although most Antipodeans do congregate in London generally and many in Earls Court in particular), or cheer for the All Blacks at a rugby match.

The pub may seem an unlikely spot to encounter true love, but it is in fact a proven venue. You will shorten the odds considerably - and not just be restricted to the bar staff - if you find one frequented by New Zealanders and Australians. The Southern Cross in New Kings Road and the Captain Cook in Acton, London, are good examples. If you are under 25 and a partygoer, you will find Saturday's all-night Antipodean revellers at the Church at King's Cross, open only on Sundays.

If you are hoping to meet a rather more cultivated specimen, the Australian Wine Centre is holding its annual tasting on 14 May. The 2,000 attendees are a mixture of British and Australians - and there is the bonus of drinking copious quantities of excellent New World wine for an entry fee of pounds 12. 'Our Australian customers tend to be of the higher disposable income variety,' says Phil Reedman at the Centre.

A sporting alternative is New Zealand Day at Newmarket racecourse, held on the first Saturday in August each year: a pounds 15 ticket to the members' stand could be a worthwhile investment. It is run under the auspices of the New Zealand Society, whose pounds 7.50 membership fee gives New Zealanders and New Zealand sympathisers the opportunity to attend wine tastings, cocktail parties and black-tie dinners.

To keep up to date with the Antipodean scene, pick up the Australian magazine TNT or New Zealand News UK, free at many London pubs and tube stations, and available on subscription. As well as more pub suggestions, you will find out what cultural and sporting events are planned.

Once you have made contact, it is important not to make fundamental errors that will kill your chances before you even get past 'G'day'. For example, when meeting an Antipodean, always ask first if he or she is a New Zealander.

You risk your relationship never getting off the ground if you mistake a New Zealander for an Australian, while Australians are sanguine about being thought New Zealanders. Don't tell a New Zealander that you think the All Blacks play dirty, or ask an Australian what's happening in Neighbours. These are deep insults to national pride.

Of course, the best place to meet Antipodeans is on the other side of the world, although they may lose their allure when seen in their millions. Holidays in Australia or New Zealand may give the required exposure, or alternatively, New Zealand is keen to encourage immigration. Economy air fares range from around pounds 700 to pounds 1,400 - a small investment to make in your future happiness, and if you don't meet anyone you will at least have a great holiday trying.

New Zealand Tourist and Publicity Office: 071-973 0360

Australian Tourist Commission: 081- 780 1424

Australian Wine Centre: 071-925 0751

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