Naturally, growing up in Australia meant that for me meeting another Aussie was not a big deal. After 6 months in Europe however, I have come to realise that we are in fact fascinating, exotic human beings. And while I love to share the Australian culture with foreigners, I have come to notice a pattern. As an Aussie tourist/traveller, I have found that there are a few things that will probably come up in conversation with a foreigner once they have established that you’re from Down Under. These things are normally presented in the form of questions and as tempting as it is, I resist the urge to tell grandiose lies. Most of the time.
This line of questioning can be varied. It can be something as simple as ‘have you ever seen/touched/hugged a kangaroo?’ or the slightly more awkward ‘do you really eat them?’ My personal favourite however was ‘do you really have kangaroos?’ I cannot describe how badly I wanted to answer with ‘No, they went extinct 3 years ago. The dropbears wiped them out.’
I should admit though, that being in Europe has made me rather patriotic when it comes to kangaroos. This probably has something to do with the Austrians’ adamant rejection of them. The ‘no kangaroos in Austria’ line of souvenirs still amuses me. I think I’ll buy a shirt before I leave.
2. Deadly Animals
European spiders have nothing on ours. To be honest, Europeans who are afraid of spiders don’t know what they’re on about. When you’ve had your cat chase a spider the size of a hand up your leg, it’s another matter entirely. Although to be honest, that didn’t happen to me. It was my little brother, and he was wearing shorts. In the sadistically Aussie way, it still makes me laugh to think about it. And seriously, don’t worry, it wasn’t a poisonous spider.
Unlike the snake my parents saw in the backyard. The one my dad spayed with the hose. Now that fella was poisonous. Luckily, he was also scared off by the water, and my dad was unharmed. But here’s a survival hint; don’t mess with snakes. If you do happen to see one, leave it alone. Don’t try to kill it, catch it, scare it away or do something stupid, because it’s things like that that get you hurt.
And the same thing goes for most of our deadly animals, they’re more scared of you than you are of them. The ones that I have encountered the most are two small species of spider, that are easily identified (and killed). Sharks, snakes, blue ringed octopi, jellyfish; running into them is only really possible if you’re in their natural habitat. When people start talking about our deadlier animals my reply is normally pretty simple, (for a tourist) it’s pretty uncommon to actually encounter one accidentally and as long as you don’t do something stupid, you’ll be right mate. In all seriousness though, if you are a tourist in Australia and you get bitten/stung etc by a snake/spider/jellyfish etc, you should go to a hospital. If you’re attacked by a shark/crocodile/dropbear etc, definitely go to hospital.
3. Steve Irwin
Foreigners (especially Americans) love him. Lots of Aussies do too. I, however, don’t. Which makes this particular topic slightly awkward. He did amazing work for sure, but crikey I’m just not a fan. But that doesn’t stop me from smiling and nodding when foreigners decide to tell me just how much they love him. Good for you, mate, good for you.
4. The movie
You know the one. Australia. ‘I just love that movie!’ someone said to me once, my response was slightly less enthusiastic, ‘…Actually, I’ve never seen it…’ Insert gasp of horror. I don’t know why, but I’ve never had a desire to watch the movie. Oh wait, maybe it’s because of the Hollywood feeling it has to it. Throw the names 20th Century Fox, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman together and I think Hollywood, not Australia. But that’s a completely different matter.
If you’d really like to see a true blue Aussie movie, watch The Castle (1997), The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (1994), Bran Nue Dae (2009) or even Stone Bros (2009). Now those are Aussie films. And if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, tell ’em they’re dreaming.
And what is the point in me telling you all this, you might ask? Well, for Aussies it’s to help you mentally prepare yourself for the potential barrage of well meaning and occasionally stupid questions you might encounter when travelling in the wider world. For everyone else, it’s for your own general knowledge, so that when you do meet an Aussie you can have more meaningful questions to ask. Like how do I avoid being attacked by a dropbear?
Oh, I forgot to mention the large number of people who will tell you how much they would love to visit Australia. Do it. We have a beautiful country with so much to offer.
PS. Don’t forget that the Big Blog Exchange is still going, click the pretty colourful button and vote for Cheshire Abroad.