Australia has a unique culture derived mainly from the fact that it is an island and because it’s a melting pot of cultures and peoples.
Here are a few habits we should adopt from the nation.
1. Pretend to be wild and free but in fact, have rules for everything.
Australians have a reputation for being beer-swilling rebels with cracked lips and khaki shorts. Easygoing and egalitarian, we do as we please. However, this is far from reality. Consider the following examples:
In Australia, smoking is illegal in most places (sometimes even outdoors) and cigarettes cost more than anywhere else in the world (excise is set to hit 70 cents per stick).
- Helmets are mandatory for cyclists of all ages.
- Alcohol is illegal on public land and those who serve it cannot do so without a certificate.
- Vacuum cleaners and air conditions are not to be used after 10 pm (could wake the neighbors!).
- Inflatable pools with a depth of more than 30 cm (the size of an actual school ruler) must be surrounded by self-latching “safety barriers”.
- Drinks in NSW cannot be served past 3:30 am.
- Nuts are banned at all primary schools.
It’s a good system, really. In the mirror, you see a half-naked Marlboro-red smoking cowboy who writes his own destiny. In reality, however, you’re as soft and translucent as a newborn baby, your neck and tiny body cradled from behind by a tender, loving mama state. Life is easy but you feel tough.
2. Shorten everything.
Ya name — David is Dave. Ya words — afternoon is arvo, Australia is ‘Straya. Ya pants — wear shorts instead. Ya shoes — wear thongs. Ya national anthem — don’t bother with the second verse.
Australians love to shorten things. It’s not that we’re time poor or obsessed with efficiency. Rather we’re just scared of seeming “pretentious” by doing things “properly’” like using all the phonemes in a given word. This makes us intensely loveable because we seem as wide-eyed and clueless as baby koalas (though secretly we’re a highly urbanized and developed country that performs enviably well on most favorable world rankings.)
3. Avoid Trump and take the piss.
Australians are allergic to pretension and self-importance (or even the smallest drop of self-esteem.) Being too proud of your own achievements makes you a wanker or one who blows their own horn, and there are few things more abhorrent to an Aussie than this kind of metaphorical masturbation.
Even if one is very, very famous, rich and successful, it is important not to appear proud or arrogant. The refusal to self-aggrandize keeps us sober and prevents the flourishing of personality cults. An Australian Donald Trump or Hugo Chavez is an impossible phenomenon. Anyone who takes themselves that seriously would be instantly mocked; their dreams cut down to an appropriate size.
4. Figure out how to remember everything.
If you want to remember truly copious amounts of information, look no further than Australia’s first people, the Australian Aborigines. For 50,000 years they flourished on the world’s flattest, driest continent this side of Antarctica. Their success partly owes to their prodigious memories. Aboriginals could recall extraordinary amounts of information — everything from thousands of animal and plant species to specific landscape features — yet they did so without the aid of a written culture.
The secret? A unique “memory code” called “Songlines” or “Footprints of the Ancestors.” In this structured system, memories or information were embedded in geographical features, dances, and songs. A particular bird species, for example, might have a whole song dedicated to it, encoding its name, behavior, sounds, and habitat.
According to Lynne Kelly, you too can learn this mnemonic code. Try going for a walk around the block and associating each physical feature with a piece of information. Then try “walking through” this physical space in your mind. You’ll be surprised by how much you remember.
5. Get good at swimming.
Throw an Australian in the churning waters of a tsunami and we will somehow swim right through it, collecting along the way a small army of drowning non-Australians who foolishly chose not to swim between the flags.
Life on an island-continent with a huge interior desert means swimming and going to the beach is a part of life. Participation rates are high with 1 in 2 kids and 1 in 10 adults regularly “doing laps.” And we have some of the highest rates of paid lifeguards in the world, as well as a small army of voluntary “surf-lifesavers” who patrol our golden shores with the authority of red and yellow demigods.
6. Taking it easy, mate.
Keep it simple. Skip violent revolution. Don’t bother becoming a republic. Stick with the Queen and a Constitutional Monarchy. Adopt a measured approach to most things (except alcohol consumption). Australia’s worst political crisis involved a kerfuffle over supply bills and convention-breaking (The 1975 “Dismissal”) and was neatly resolved at the next election. Don’t get too dramatic or passionate or you could have a revolution on your hands. In other words “take it easy”(notwithstanding point #1).
7. Being a bit mediocre.
Australia has been really good at embracing the right level of mediocrity. Some people might complain and say this makes us dull or stodgy but it’s surely tied to our prosperity and stability. If someone’s already created a good system then why change it? If the risk is too high then why take it? A life of violent passion is no substitute for one of stability and sausages in white bread.
And, no matter what our detractors may say, surely all of mankind is secretly striving for this — not deprivation and hustle and bustle and grand ideologies and brutish nastiness but the bland beauty and comfort of a house in the burbs, two cars, and weekends spent at the local food court?
8. Getting serious about sport.
Australians have no God, no tango or salsa, no community hall or village market, but we do have sport. We consume it (60 million hours per week), play it, and love it. We’re also really good at it. We’ve won 10 Rugby league world cups; 5 Cricket World Cups; and 10 Netball World Championships. We’ve placed first at 12 of the 19 Commonwealth Games. And, for a nation of 24 million people, we’ve performed obscenely well at the Olympics, regularly placing in the top 10.
9. Hating yourself just a bit.
Complain that Australia is boring, selfish, and mediocre. Have big public debates about the worth of your national day “Australia Day”. Fight other countries’ wars. Live overseas. Travel endlessly and avoid contact with other Australians overseas. Dream of being Italian, Brazilian, Thai. Study the French Revolution and Cuban Missile Crisis at high school as opposed to your own history.
In other words, cultivate an inferiority complex and mild feelings of self-loathing. While this attitude does lead to high levels of anxiety (which one in four Australians reports to suffer) it means we’re pretty clear-eyed about our importance on the world stage and don’t entertain delusions about being the greatest people on earth. We’re also funny and ironic and interested in your culture, which is probably better than ours.
10. Being a bit cheeky.
In Australia, we call this being a larrikin.
A larrikin is defiant, cheeky, and fiercely egalitarian. While it is arguable whether Australia is actually a nation of larrikins (see again point #1), the idea of this piss-taking prankster is at least encoded in our national ethos so we think we value equality and freedom.
A good example of larrikin behavior is the Flat White. It’s just a latte, but some Aussie larrikin managed to convince the rest of the world that it’s a unique product.
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