As I sit down with a pen and paper contemplating how to entertain my fellow Mustangs, I find myself both overwhelmed with ideas and yet experiencing writer’s block. Do I write of the first time I came face to face with a kangaroo? Or when the dingo stole my Rainbows while I was hanging out on the beach? As I am debating between both stories, an Aussie friend drops in and asks me if I want to go get “pissed” (aka drunk). This is when I realize that while there are many differences in Australian versus American cultures, there are actually many similarities between the life of a young 20-something Aussie scholar and a Cal Poly student. Let’s try to better understand some of these similarities and differences.
Located on two separate regions of the world, it’s no surprise that differences exist between the Sunshine State and the Land of Oz. Sharks and jellyfish spread the warm waters like broken bottles rest on Hathaway Avenue. Several of the beaches actually have designated swimming areas that are highly patrolled by lifeguards due to dangerous currents and marine life. Tastes and styles of food are similar to what America has to offer with the meal portions weighing close to a Margie’s Diner appetizer. Vegemite (commonly used as a spread for toast or a flavoring ingredient) is exactly what you’ve probably imagined – for a lack of a better word, foul. I am biased in saying that it tastes like a 21st birthday shot from Bull’s Tavern.
The girls here wear oversized waist belts, funky boots and enormous bug-eyed sunglasses. For a while, it felt as if I were at a sorority party with an Australian “gone ’80s” theme. The guys look as if they stepped off the beach, wearing a florescent tank top, and were rushed to the nearest barber shop to receive the most recent trend – the “fohawk.” The unique style of the girls and guys only helps highlight their fun and easy-going attitudes.
Even after a short stay, it’s hard not to regurgitate some traditional Aussie sayings every now and then. “Cheers” is a common phrase for thank you and has little to no correlation to the clinking of pint glasses. “Mate” is the most commonly heard word throughout the country. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to a 90-year-old woman or a 12-year-old boy, it’s standard etiquette to address them as “mate.” G’day is the common greeting for “hello.” However, some phrases are harder to interpret than others. When I first heard “that bloke cut my grass” while in a bar, I thought the conversation was referring to the weekend career of a fellow bar mate, when really, what the guy was saying was equivalent to our version of “that guy just stole that girl from me.”
Less than a week later, a group of girls were labeled “lovely birdies” in normal conversation. As an outsider, I mistakenly understood this as an insult referring to their stringy legs and “feather-like hair.” When the question was finally asked why many Aussies were continuing to refer to girls as “birdies,” another question was posed: “Why do so many Americans refer to them as chicks?”
With all the comparisons and contrasts put in perspective, having the opportunity to live in Australia has been an exciting adventure and an educational experience. With all the beautiful scenery, endless warm evenings and a laid-back, hospitable nature of all the locals, it is very easy to enjoy the many features this unique country has to offer, and appreciate all the similarities and differences between the place I call home. In fact, I couldn’t imagine a better way to “learn by doing.” Cheers.