Monday, December 15, 2008

Impressions of Australia

Over the last year or so my husband has lived in rural Australia. Here are some of his impressions of Australia (he listed them to me).

Firstly, always be prepared with beer in the fridge- or if you are visiting someone, even if it seems unlikely, bring a six-pack just in case (conclusion: Australians are always happy if you arrive with beer or can offer them one).

Secondly, drink tea. He has taken a liking to Lady Grey, however we have been through Earl Grey, Orange Pekoe and 'normal' black tea. Also one must know how to make tea ( i.e. you must stir the milk and usually remove the teabag).

When you visit someone, it is rarely for an hour or a cup of tea, more usually you will have driven for three hours and you will be spending the night, or perhaps days with them (especially family). When people say they will come and visit they often mean they will stay for a few days (because it is so far to travel in the first place). This is a good thing, and means people are used to welcoming visitors into their home for extended periods.

Buy a pair if blundstones, or some shoes that you can work in, walk through mud and wet ground in and you can easily take off when you get to the door.

There maybe at any time a green tree frog in the toilet or the letterbox or some other disconcerting place.

When people say it is 'a bit cold' or a 'bit of a worry' or they feel a 'bit unwell'- they are understating the fact. Understatement is the name of the game.

Australians don't say NO very often (unlike Israelis!), they don't like to be flatly contradicted.

Australians don't mind stopping to help other people, or taking responsibility for a problem if it arises in a public place (e.g. taking trees off the road etc.).

There is a reason to have a four-wheel drive car.

Learn about spiders and snakes (don't touch them).

Four channels is enough.

Everything closes early (especially restaurants).

That is all for the moment!


Blogger Catalin said...

Cool observations! Thanks Eyal and Sophie. I love to see outsiders' views of things, and it's especially interesting when someone is an outsider with an insider angle.

2:55 pm  
Blogger bulanjdjan said...

So true! And, especially true of regional, not so much urban, Australia. I reckon. Especially the bit about 'not minding stopping to help others'!

Would you add anything to this Catalin? ;)

4:06 pm  
Blogger Catalin said...

I'm not sure what I would add. It now seems like so long ago that I was really living there, and I think Katherine is perhaps its own special place (I mean that it may be more different and less generalizable than some other parts of rural Oz).

How about...every workplace has a kitchen, or at least a place for making tea and a supply of tea-spoons (something that doesn't necessarily exist here).

I was curious about Eyal's observation that the Aussies don't like to be flatly contradicted because I thought they were much more confrontational or willing to disagree than Americans usually are, but that might have been again the Katherine environment.

The expression "good onya" represents something very Australian. The American "good for you" or "congratulations" doesn't carry the same spirit or feeling at all. I don't know how to describe it, but "good onya" shows a certain, I don't know, maybe solidarity that is very heartening and very Ozzie to me. What do you think, Eyal? Do you know what I'm talking about with this?

5:53 am  
Blogger אייל said...

Well, with regard to saying 'No' -
I think it is true that Australians can be seen as more confrontational than Americans. But they've got nothing on Israelis.
In Israel, if you disagree with something someone says, the first word out of your mouth is 'No'. Harsh, hard, immovable 'No', usually in rapid succession - no no no no no!
Then you can start explaining why you disagree, and it is customary to do this in a way that makes the other guy look stupid too. It's part of the fun.
In fact disagreeing is so much a part of conversational culture, it is often said, if you've got two Israelis in a room they will have at least three conflicting opinions on any given subject.

I think part of the charm of 'good onya' is that it can only be said with a smile. Even when used ironically. The American 'good for you' can be, and sometimes is, said with as much venom as 'I hope you die a painful death'.

In Israel every workplace has a coffee corner... Here it's tea. Many people drink tea in Israel, but it is still called a coffee corner.

BTW, I love our mailbox green tree-frog!

10:38 am  
Blogger Catalin said...

I love your description of the "No no no no no" start to expressing disagreement. I think that is part of American Jewish culture too, especially on the East Coast. It seems like there's more of an understanding that you can argue vehemently and not have it be personal or even necessarily a lasting opinion, much more than in, say, WASP culture or the kind of new-age-hippy-California culture that I grew up in, where all opinions are supposed to be so valid that it's seen as a bit narrow-minded to try to convince someone of your own opinion. Of course, I'm exaggerating a bit here.

Another thing about "good onya" is that it is very often sincere, though Australians are often ironic about so much else, so it kind of stands out as very authentic. When it is used to poke fun, it does seem a gentle non-bitter kind of teasing (unlike a sarcastic "good for you" here, as you point out).

Green frogs everywhere rock!

6:35 am  
Blogger bulanjdjan said...

Eyal and Catalin, I've loved reading your comments!

And Soph, I detect a bit of NSM-ish in your listing of Eyal's observations too! ;-)

8:09 am  

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