How to tell if you're Australian
by Chris O'Regan
Here's the latest response to my E-Z home test for detecting Americans. Chris is a linguistics student at the University of Queensland, which is in Australia somewhere, and hails from Brisbane, which is in Australia somewhere. He says he enjoys ruminating on the Australian psyche and is interested in its speech characteristics. He was learning Verdurian for awhile, but otherwise seems sane.
If you're Australian...
Life in the Lucky Country
- You know hardly anything about the Constitution and what it actually contains. Before the whole republic thing, you may not have even known it existed.
- You're familiar with Neighbours, Home and Away, Playschool, A Country Practice, Norman Gunston, Barry Humphries, Blue Heelers, Ray Martin, Bert Newton, Lisa McCune, Jon Burgess, Number 96, Molly Meldrum, Kerry O'Brien, and of course, Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch.
- You can't remember past the second line of your national anthem, let alone the second verse . . .
- Whether you're male or female, you watch a lot of sport. You watch the cricket, and support your footy team... which code is best is a matter of controversy and depends on your upbringing. You can be sure that the contest is between League, AFL, and maybe Union-- none of these fancy Northern Hemisphere games, like soccer or gridiron. If you're male, you can argue intricate points about their rules. You don't know so much about basketball, netball, hockey, baseball, etc.-- even if the national team are the world champions.
- You're lucky to get four weeks of vacation a year.
- Snow is always a memorable and freakish occurrence.
Politics-- a lousy spectator sport
- You probably believe in God in a not-very-committed way. If you do, you're most likely to be Catholic, Anglican or Other Christian (in that order, though the three have almost equal numbers). Religion is not something you talk or think about much.
- You think of McDonalds, Burger King/Hungry Jacks, KFC, fish and chips, etc. as cheap food.
- You probably own a telephone and a TV. If it needs it, your place is heated in the winter, or maybe air-conditioned in the summer, with its own bathroom. You do your washing in a machine. You don't have a dirt floor. You eat at a table, sitting on chairs.
- You don't consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys or guinea pigs to be food-- though you may have eaten kangaroo or emu.
- A bathroom, strangely enough, always has a bath in it. Toilets are usually in a separate room, and they're also usually indoors these days. There's no point in being indirect about it-- if you are going to the dunny, that's what you'll say.
- It seems natural to you that Qantas, Australia Post, the phone companies, the power companies, and the Commonwealth Bank are privately run-- but you can remember to the days of it working differently. Telstra you're not so sure about. The railways are run by the states, and that's not likely to change.
- You expect as a matter of course that the phone will work-- unless you live in the Bush, where the aforementioned sell-off of Telstra is causing problems.
- The trains, trams and buses are pretty good in some cities-- but places like Sydney have desperately overloaded public transport systems (disapointingly, however, promised Olympic chaos did not eventuate).
The Rine in Spine faws minely on the Pline
- Voting in Federal and State elections is compulsory. You don't really understand how the preferential system works, but you don't particularly care-- you can just vote along party lines.
- You find a two-party system (or at least, an ALP vs. Coalition system) natural-- although parties such as the Democrats and some independents are important in the Senate. As for Hanson- well, she's not gone yet . . .
- You are deeply cynical towards politicians and the political process in general. No one seems to be able to "keep the bastards honest".
- Labor is supposed to stand up for the workers, the Liberals (i.e. the conservatives) for business, and the National Party for farmers-- but you know this doesn't happen in practice. God alone knows what One Nation stands for.
- Socialism and unionism have gone out of fashion, and you don't expect to hear them seriously defended any more. All the same, you're uneasy with economic rationalism . . .
- Multiculturalism is a wonderful thing-- at least, when it comes to restaurants. You may be less comfortable with the idea if you live in regional areas like Ipswich-- why are all those foreigners getting the jobs while you're still unemployed?
- You think most problems could be solved if everyone else put aside their prejudices and came to see it from your point of view.
- You take a strong court system for granted, even if you don't use it. You know that if you went into business and had problems with a customer, partner, or supplier, you could take them to court.
- You think Australia should be a republic, probably with a popularly elected president.
- You think a tax level over 40% is scandalously high.
His Excellency Sir What's-His-Name
- "Australian" is pronounced with one syllable.
- You'd respect someone who speaks Japanese, Chinese or Indonesian-- but you'd consider it their job to learn English, rather than vice versa. You are a bit ambivalent about schools teaching Asian or Aboriginal languages-- kids should learn good English first.
- You can't understand why overseas people who supposedly speak the same language have great difficulty comprehending you.
- You'd be shocked by the idea of anyone wearing "thongs" on something other than their feet.
- "Stubbies" are either short shorts or small beer bottles, a small car accident is a "bingle", a "drongo" or a "mug" is an idiot, someone in trouble is in "strife" and you're liable to burst out laughing whenever you hear of Americans "rooting" for something. . .
- For some reason, -o is a popular ending for words: arvo, combo, garbo, kero, lezzo, metho, milko, muso, rego, Salvos, servo, smoko, speedo, etc.
- Although you do say "g'day" and "mate", rarely would you ever say things such as "sheila", "cobber" or "dry as a dead dingo's donger". For detailed discussion on Strine, many good books such as The Lonely Planet Australian Phrasebook are available; this one in particular has material on indigenous languages and creoles.
- School is free through high school (at least it's an option, even if you went to private school), but you have to pay HECS to get into tertiary education.
- University is (normally, and excluding graduate or part-time study and double degrees) three years long.
Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!
- Mustard and vegemite come in jars. Shaving cream comes in cans. Milk comes in bottles or in cardboard boxes.
- The month comes second: 26/1/88. (And you know what happened on that date).
- The decimal point is a dot. Certainly not a comma.
- A billion, ever since American economists started running the world, is a thousand times a million.
- World War II was a fairly important time in history: the age-old Australian nightmare of invasion from Asia nearly came true. Granted, the US did save the day, but Churchill and Roosevelt could have been much faster and more concerned about us. There were three things wrong with the Americans in WWII: they were "overpaid, oversexed and over here".
- World War I was fairly important too; after all, we suffered the highest per capita death toll of any Allied nation. You think the Anzac spirit is still important, so long as the Kiwis don't win the sporting tests.
- You expect marriages to be made for love, not arranged by third parties. Getting married by a registrar is an option, but not a requirement; most marriages happen in church. For some reason, the Japanese like getting married here. You have a best man and a maid of honour at the wedding-- a friend or a sibling. And naturally, a man gets only one wife at a time.
- If a man has sex with another man, he's a homosexual, and, until recently, a criminal in Tasmania.
- Once you're introduced to anyone (perhaps besides the Governor-General, but who is likely to meet him anyway?) you can call them by their first name.
- You know who the first American President was, but not the first Australian Prime Minister. You don't really know what happened in Federation.
- If you're a woman, you might go to a secluded beach topless.
- You don't watch foreign (non-English language, that is . . .) films.
- You seriously expect to be able to transact business with the government, without paying bribes.
- If a politician cheats on his wife (e.g. Bob Hawke), it has no bearing whatsoever on his ability to govern. After all, your nation was founded by criminals rather than Puritans.
- You've never come across crisp bacon-- you prefer the old staples such as barbequed sausages.
- Labour Day is the first Monday in May-- that's in autumn.
- You resent people who succeed over others- everyone should do the same thing, so we all get a "fair go". This is what's known as the "tall poppy syndrome", a kind of American Dream in reverse.
Out past Woop-Woop
- You are proud of exports such as Geoffrey Rush, Peter Weir, Barry Humphries (a.k.a. Dame Edna Everage); Paul Hogan, Nicole Kidman (her marriage break-up is still front page news), Cate Blanchett, Baz Luhrman, Olivia Newton-John, Midnight Oil, ACDC, John Farnham, Dragon, Yothu Yindi, Elle Macpherson, etc. etc. Even so, you still are suspicious of terms like "Australian culture".
- Not to mention Greg Norman, Cathy Freeman, Dawn Fraser, Herb Elliot, John Eales, Kieran Perkins, Susie O'Neil, Pat Rafter, Ian Thorpe, the Oarsome Foursome, Karrie Webb, Mark Waugh, the late great Sir Donald Bradman and many many others . . .
- You are slightly less proud of the Minogue sisters, Kevin Gosper, Robert Hughes, Jelena Dokic, Shane Warne, Christopher Skase and Skippy.
- Mel Gibson, by the way, is Australian. And so's Russell Crowe!
- You've seen Picnic at Hanging Rock, Mad Max, Gallipoli, Crocodile Dundee, Young Einstein, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Muriel's Wedding, The Castle, Strictly Ballroom and maybe even 40,000 Horsemen.
- You count on excellent private health treatment, but you're brave if you throw your lot in with the public healthcare system. You know that you are not going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases (remote Aboriginal communities are a different matter). You think dying at 65 would be a tragedy.
- You expect the military to fight wars, not get involved in politics. In fact, you may not count on them for the former.
- Your country has never been conquered by a foreign nation (you don't count 1788).
- You measure things in metres, kilograms and litres, unless you are over about 50.
- You are not a farmer.
- Aside from Ginger Meggs and the American exports, you know nothing about comics.
- You only see American-style talk shows from America; Australian talk shows are basically hour-long infomercials or interviews with actors doing touring shows.
- You drive on the left-hand side of the road. You stop at red lights even if nobody's around. If you're a pedestrian and cars are stopped at a red light, you will fearlessly cross the street in front of them.
- You think of Australia as being somewhat out of place within the Asia-Pacific region; surrounded by unstable ex-colonial nations who regard you as racist, imperialist, and unfairly wealthy. Extreme anti-Australians such as Mahatir Mohammed are very irritating.
- New Zealanders are basically our naive country cousins, who talk funny and for some bizzare reason, think that they invented pavlova. They are to be pitied and laughed at. They have no hope of gaining the upper hand in the endless sporting rivalry between our two nations.
- Americans are loud and supremely ignorant of Australia (all they know about us they gained from Mick Dundee); British and Europeans in general are more quiet but pretentious and cowardly.
- If a woman is plumper than average, it doesn't improve her looks.
- The nationality people joke most about is the Kiwis (New Zealanders), particularly their fush-and-chups accents and their sheep.
- There's parts of the city you probably want to avoid at night.
Space and Time: This is similar enough to the American version to avoid having to repeat it here.
- You feel that your kind of people aren't being listened to enough in Canberra.
- You wouldn't expect inflation and unemployment to be very high (say, over 15%) at the same time.
- You don't care very much what family someone comes from.
- The normal thing, when somebody dies, is for their estate to be divided equally between their children.
- You think as opera and ballet as rather elite entertainments. It's likely you don't see many plays, either.
- Christmas is right on the summer solstice and is quite often the hottest day of the year. You spend it with your family, give presents, and put up a tree. Your decorations still feature sleighs and snowflakes. You send people cards with pictures of White Christmases. There is nothing unusual in having Christmas dinner outdoors.
- You might think the state is too powerful. You have no concept of what a state church would be like.
- You'd be hard pressed to name all the capitals or all the leaders of the Asia-Pacific region. Probably even all the countries.
- You've left a message after the beep.
- Taxis are operated generally either by foreigners, as in America; or, as in Britain, drivers who'll tell you that Pauline is a saint and Port Arthur was a government conspiracy.
- You are suspicious of the dole and "dole bludgers." You think mutual obligation is the way to go. You wouldn't be in favour of eliminating Medicare.
- If you want to be a doctor, you need to get a master's first.
- Lawyers wear wigs and gowns. They're nowhere near as ubiquitous as in the U.S.
- Sydney 2000 was a wonderful opportunity to show the world (a) that we are the greatest sporting nation on Earth, à la the swimmers of Melbourne '56; and (b) that we do have flushing toilets. But everyone will forget about it within months.