How to be an Australian overseas…

“No, sorry. P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way does not actually exist.”

That was my most popular reply to everyones questions about Australia.

I was surprised with that one. Well done Dory!
(Although if any dentist wants to make money, they should create the street and invest in a dental clinic and cafe (for the tourists) right at this address with the Sydney view from the movie. They’ll make some good dosh.)

I never realised how defining my nationality was until I moved overseas. Seriously, it haunts you like a shadow, never leaving your side and clouding your image with the constructed stereotype someone has about your country. But more positively, it’s a halo around your head, a mark of honour. And that’s how it should be seen! Because mate, I’m proud. You learn to wear it like a gold medal and boast its defining characteristics.

But what is Australian? My perspective and lifestyle of Australia, as a girl living out in Sydney’s west between Cabramatta, Fairfield and Liverpool, is vastly different to that of my Aussie roommate from Newcastle. But surprisingly there are so many commonalities and whenever you meet someone new they blurt out the first thing they know about your country. And fair dinkum the things people seem to know about Australia are just ripper.

You have the things like sport, music, food, beaches, iconic buildings, animals etc. But let me start with the most random fact I’ve heard so far – Speaking with a fellow traveller from Greece, he brings up this fact: Did you know Australia had an emu war?! And this is serious stuff… it’s made a whole page on wikipedia! If you’re not intrigued enough to click the link, here’s a quote from the wikipedia page: “As the birds were out of range of the guns, the local settlers attempted to herd the emus into an ambush, but the birds split into small groups and ran so that they were difficult to target.” Even though emus can’t fly, sounds like they’re pretty smart.

Now to the more expected responses you’re going to get once you proclaim your identity: When I was in India, 90% of the time people said: “Ooh. Cricket. Ricky Ponting.”
Here in Chile (after I’ve been ask about Wallaby Way) it seems to be: “Oh yeah, they have lots of dangerous animals there right?” Or maybe you might get a kangaroo comment or a reference to the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. But surprisingly the dangerous animal comment is up there as one of the most popular. Definitely not something I think of when I think of home.

After you hear the main fact they have on the tip of their tongue about Australia, you get the questions. Food. Always on everyones mind. So what’s a typical a meal in Australia? Even for me this is a tough one. There is some sort of typical list with tucker including meat pie, vegemite, tim tams, fairy bread etc. But what’s an Australian meal? Honestly I don’t even know. (Comment if you have any suggestions.) Although, I do need to reply somehow, so I end up saying a piece of steak, mash, peas and salad. I think Australians are pretty big on salad in comparison to a lot of other countries I’ve been to.
But I have to give credit to Australian oriental food. I’ve been out of Australia for over three months now and I’m really craving a pad thai. Specifically, one cooked by a thai lady in some takeaway restaurant in Australia. Out of all the countries I’ve visited away from Asia, Australia has definitely done asian food the best.

Next you get the questions on music or perhaps they’ll simply tell you about their favourite Australian band. Now in this category I’m clueless. But living here in Concepcion, Chile (a hip place filled with students with diverse music appreciation) my Australian music awareness has grown a lot. So you’ve got the obvious ACDC [Acca Dacca], Silverchair, Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel (although I’m going to admit I don’t know much about any of them). Then the ones I’ve had my classmates tell me about include Tame Impala and Sticky Fingers. One classmate even said: “When I listen to Sticky Fingers, it reminds me of you.” Prior to living abroad I had never heard of them yet now in someone’s mind there’s a link between me and Sticky Fingers.

I think I could go forever and I guess I might just be adding to this post all the time. But there’s one final thing I think an Australian should learn if they’re travelling with other Australians overseas. Get the hang of Aussie lingo! It’s a nifty trick to make you dead set sound like a dinky-di skip. And sometimes you’re gonna wanna have a yarn without Joe Blow and his mates hanging on to your every word. Almost everyone knows some words in English so learning some strine could be some good oil. There’s actually heaps out there. Here’s the link to Aussie Slang, so give it a burl.


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