I’m sure that most of you have heard about kangaroos, rugby, shrimp on the barbie, and vegemite: all the classic staples of Australian culture. That’s what the media portrays at least – a burly man, riding a kangaroo through a desert, accompanied by his pet dingo, and a vegemite sandwich in hand. Surely that must be a typical day for your average Australian?
Perhaps that isn’t the exact image that pops into your mind when you think of the “land down under,” but odds are that you’ve got some preconception of what this place really is. And unless you’ve been here or happen to know some Aussies, that preconception is going to be heavily influenced by the media you’ve consumed and the stereotypes it incorporates. While I didn’t think a koala would offer me some fresh-grilled shrimp as soon as I got off the plane, I also didn’t completely discount that possibility. However, after spending 6 whole weeks here without being offered vegemite even once, I began to wonder how valid these stereotypes really are. To get to the core of the matter, I sat down with some actual, born-and-raised Australians: my friends Chloe and Andrew. The following conversation ensued:
“How do you feel about the way that Australians are portrayed in foreign media?”
Chloe: “I’d say it’s actually pretty humorous. I really like the typical Crocodile Dundee sort of image. It’s pretty far from the truth, it’s pretty funny to watch… Crocodile Dundee is a movie from the 80’s where you’ve got this guy called Paul Hogan – your typical Australian white male, blonde hair, who goes around hunting crocodiles.”
Andrew: “I actually don’t have much of a problem with the way we are portrayed in the world media. From what I’ve seen we’ve got a pretty good deal, aside from maybe the idea that everything wants to kill you.”
“What do you think some Australian stereotypes are for foreigners?”
Chloe: “I guess, we’re good at sports, very into rugby, NFL, that sort of stuff. The accent comes to mind – I think they all focus on that. I guess we’re pretty loud… pretty dumb. Appearance wise, we’re very fit, blonde, tall, that sort of aesthetic.”
“Are there any stereotypes that are actually true, more often than not?”
Chloe: “Well, the accent, that’s pretty true. Quite a few people are sporty, especially those who aren’t from immigrant backgrounds. I guess some people get a bit dumb, especially when they drink.”
Andrew: “We definitely tend to be pretty relaxed and laid back, that’s a common one that I know which definitely has some merit.”
“If you could teach the world about some part of Australian culture that they might not know about, what would you teach them?”
Chloe: “I’d say fusion food. It’s kind of a big thing here. Like for example you’ve got the classic Halal snack pack, do you know what that is?”
“No, I’ve never heard of that.”
“So Australians made a thing called the Halal snack pack, where you’ve got a wrap with chips (fries) underneath, and then all the kebab stuff on top. It’s really good.”
Andrew: “I think our way of thinking tends to lend itself to a more relaxed worldview, depending on the person that could be a good ideology to adopt. We are definitely fond of a high quality of life.”
“What’s your favorite thing about living in Australia?”
Chloe: “Well, obviously all the cultural diversity here. Sydney’s a big city, so you’ve got lots of like, Asian food every where, if I go out west, the Middle Eastern food is really great, so that’s what I like.”
Andrew: “The landscape and the people are probably what do it for me, at least in Sydney we have a nice diversity of cultures and people as well as a natural landscape that is still very much beautiful.”
“What are some American stereotypes in Australia?”
Chloe: “I guess they’re pretty loud. We also think of like the [southern] accent. Nowadays we’d think of like the typical guns, bacon… the eagle.”
Andrew: “As for American stereotypes we definitely adopt a lot American lingo and culture, I’d say culturally we are probably a mix of mostly English and American society so we definitely adopt a lot of that.”
So, as I’ve learned, Australia is not all about kangaroos and BBQ. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had quite a bit of barbeque since I got here, and there are certainly kangaroos just outside the Sydney city limits, but there’s more to them than that. Australia (and especially Sydney) is an amazing, culturally diverse place just like the United States. Much like we don’t all love to shoot .22s and eat pounds of bacon, they don’t all wear hats with folded sides and corks hanging down. Aside from its cultural variety, it also has an abundance of gorgeous natural landscapes – from rainforests to swamps, to scorching deserts and great mountains. I hope that these interviews can help you to learn a bit more about what it’s really like “down under” (which they don’t really say, by the way); and should you ever decide to come visit, don’t expect it to be just like Crocodile Dundee – instead, prepare for a beautiful intersection of hundreds of distinct cultures, all blended together in one of the most isolated countries on Earth.
Cheers, and g’day.