G’day mate! ‘Owyagoinmateawright? (Translation: Hello! How are you going, mate, all right?”)
For a long time, Aussies like me have been complaining about how our country and people are portrayed and perceived by people in other countries. The kinds of questions I get asked about Australia whenever I travel abroad never cease to amaze me – sometimes they make me laugh, while other times, they just make me shake my head and wonder what kind of education people are getting about us.
Let’s start with some basics: we don’t all have kangaroos hopping around in our backyards or cuddly koalas perched in our trees chewing on eucalyptus leaves. Thankfully, I have not had these questions in a very long time. Maybe if I lived in the bush or in the Outback, I might find them, but out here in the ‘burbs in metropolitan Sydney, the only place where I would see said natives is at the zoo or wildlife park.
On my first visit to the US in 1995, I was constantly asked “Do you have a lot of flies in Australia?” The first time I was asked this question, I replied “yeah, that’s why this [waving hand in front of my face as if swatting away flies] is called the Australian salute”. Now this is actually true. But when I was asked this a couple more times as I met different groups of Americans, it suddenly occurred to me I might have been missing something. When I asked why everyone was asking me this (as opposed to the typical “do kangaroos really know how to box?”) I became curious. It turned out the Discovery Channel had just aired a program about flies and apparently Australian flies were heavily featured. Mystery solved!