What It's Like To Be An Aussie Abroad

Oceania

To all the Australians out there, G’day. Mates. Honoured to count myself among you. Let’s share some fairy bread and take a shot for every time our prime minister has been replaced over the last five years (see u in hospital for alcohol poisoning!!)

To all the non-Australians out there, G’day. Mates. Honoured to meet you, travel the world among you and educate you about slang, snags and sangas (snags= sausages, sangas= sandwiches. Pop quiz to come.)

I have no authority to speak on behalf of all Australians and to be honest, they’d most likely collectively force me to watch Home and Away re-runs (an actual nightmare) if I did, so I won’t. I am however delighted to share with you some recurring experiences, lessons and patterns I’ve noticed from traipsing the globe as a girl from down under. Whack on an episode of Kath and Kim for background noise and let’s get to it.

Yes, We Are Everywhere

We’re invading the world like snakes, spiders and drop-bears invade our land. I’ve detected an Aussie accent in a market hall in Budapest in the dead of winter, by the sea in Italy, on the fifth floor of an electronics store in Japan, on a train in regional Czech Republic and in the same ride car on Splash Mountain at Disney World. I’d say this Australian invasion carries on partly because we’re so isolated and consequently perpetually curious about the big, wide ‘Overseas’, partly because most of us are lucky enough to experience a solid quality of life that makes travel an attainable privilege, partly because since we travel so far just to get somewhere else, we might as well stay for a while and roam widely, and perhaps also partly due to lingering “cultural cringe” (the internalised sentiment/inferiority complex that modern Australia is culturally… underdeveloped).

Don’t “Jet Lag” @ Me

Don’t get your knickers in a knot – I’m not here to invalidate your various experiences of jet lag.

… Well, maybe just a little.

It’s just that when I hear someone complain for an entire week about jet lag resulting from a direct 7-hour flight from New York to Paris, I cannot help but roll my eyes. A direct 7-hour flight is a dream for me. I’m looking at two separate flights – one 14 to 15 hours long and the other lasting 7 to 8 hours – anytime I want to go to Europe. And I’m from a major city. And that’s the shortest, fastest, most expensive option.

Australians are most likely not exaggerating when they tell you it took two days to get somewhere. So if you’ve flown from Sweden to Spain and feel like complaining about anything close to jet lag, tell the Aussies to leave the room before you start. You don’t want to invite the wrath of a people who have the word ‘girt’ in their national anthem – who knows what crazy thing we’ll do next!

Coastal Culture Shock

A couple years back, I spent some time in England with a friend and stayed with a British family member of hers. One day, this relative suggested we take a day trip to a nearby beach. Desperate for some sand and surf after our study abroad programs in landlocked Paris, we eagerly hopped on a train with our beach bags and cozzies (swimsuit/bathers), ready for some fun in the sun.

Once we got off, we began following signs to the beach and soon arrived at a sort of bay-like area next to a concrete wall. There was some seaweed-ridden sand with rocks scattered through it, some flat, grey-looking water and a few people scattered along the strip.

‘Where is the beach, then?’ I remember my friend asking, looking around for further signage, and I remember excitedly replying with ‘we must be close now!’

After five-or-so further minutes of aimless wandering, the realisation kicked in: the kiosk selling fish and chips was a beachfront one, the buildings behind us were a resort complex and the bay/lake we’d been staring out at had in fact been the beach all along.

I blame the disappointment mostly on my own ignorance. I’ve watched enough Location, Location, Location to know that the English ‘seaside’ is very different from the Australian coast. And I’m not saying that I think all English beaches are ugly or that Australia has the outright best in the world. I’m merely highlighting the fact that an Australian’s first experience of coastal culture shock can be real. Not getting immediately sunburnt or stung by a blue bottle is an adjustment.

The Hotline that Never Blings

We’ve already established that Lucky Ducks in the northern hemisphere are so close to so much of the world. Sometimes, it’s nice being an Aussie for this reason. French people, for example, are always more impressed that I’ve learnt their language, because Australia is so far away – I once had a professor tell me I was “exotic.”

The flip side of this, however, is that all the wonderful international friends I’ve made Never. Visit. Me. I mean, don’t get me wrong – Australia is crawling with backpackers and working-holiday-visa-carriers, but the vast majority of people I grow close to over here consider a trip to Australia as a far-off ‘dream.’ Their reasoning is that it’s just so far away, and they need time and money, and it’s just so far away.

I understand, especially when there’s already so much to see at a much more accessible distance. But how do you think I get anywhere any time I take a trip? By travelling so far away.

Come on, pals. Shut Up and Go 2 Oz. We’ll turn your world upside down 😉

Reputation

Taylor “Snake” Swift isn’t the only one with a big reputation. We all have them. Stereotypes shroud every country and there’s fun to be had in proving them wrong (or right.) The reputation of Australians abroad is an interesting one. On the one hand, we can be seen as dumb racist drunks – I suppose mostly thanks to dumb racist drunks who happen to be Australian travellers. (I apologise on my behalf of my country for anyone who’s ever met a Wild Australian in Bali.)

On the other hand, I get myself out of so much trouble – at least here in France – by waving my green and gold card. When I sense that someone senses that I am an English speaker – something they’re Not So Thrilled About, all I have to do to is flutter my eyelashes with a ‘je suis australienne,’ et voilà! They’re immediately relieved that I’m not American or British.

It ain’t right, but I’ll take it.

Vegemite Controversy

Vegemite is my lifeblood. The DNA of Australian children. The top of the food pyramid.

And if you’re anything like me, you enjoy taking some ~delicacies~ from home and offering them to friends you meet along your travels. One of my former favourite hobbies – especially during my first trips abroad – was to pack a jar of Vegemite in my suitcase and force everyone I met to eat some.

My favourite reaction so far has been when a classmate in Montpellier tasted some, screamed and then spat into a bin.

Well, this is getting to be as long as Australia’s coastline, so it’s about time I buggered off. As a parting gift, I’ve cleared up some common questions about us Koala folk. Let us know in the comments what you notice about travelling as an Australian, or what you notice about travelling Australians!

Rapid-fire myth-busters

  • 11

    Are Australians chill all the time?
    Not all the time. Here’s a fabulous video of our former prime minister being Not Chill.

  • 22

    Do you actually say ‘Put a shrimp on the barbie”?

    No, because we don’t call them ‘shrimp,’ we call them ‘prawns.’ A more common practice, however, is to put ‘snags’ on the barbie (were you paying attention in paragraph 1?).

  • 33

    Do people actually forget that Tasmania exists?

    Oh my god, thanks for reminding me. *Adds Tasmania to my hand-drawn map*

  • 44

    Do you hop on kangaroos and ride them to school?

    No! How very stupid of you to ask. We sit in their pouches and they carry us there.

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