1. You live in a glory of culinary delights. You eat like a Roman every day. You’ve tried all foods known to man.
When you travel overseas and the locals tell you to try their amazing gozleme, asado, sushi, pho, chorizo, cevapcici, gaeng daeng, you politely suppress a smile. Fact is you were eating that food — all of that food, at the same time, on the same plate — at the Westfield Fountain Gate food court yesterday.
2. You’re not sure how to touch or be around people.
You think perhaps a hug is ok. Or a handshake — but then again hands are pretty dirty. You have friends who lived in Naples and like to give cheek kisses, but it’s always felt pretentious, and the kisses are generally ill-placed and wet, like a leaking roof. In fact, you’re not even sure you should get too close to people. Standing a meter from them and giving a half-wave and a grimace seems more appropriate.
3. You don’t know how to say goodbye.
As for leaving a party or saying goodbye — that’s done stealthily and suddenly, like a magician with his smoke. Here one minute, gone the next. This way you avoid the harrowing pain of that final human interaction, of letting the other person down.
4. You live in a giant desert where trees reproduce via fire and fire is literally used to fight fire.
Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth. It’s also the lowest and flattest. Like a giant Sakata floating in the southern waters of the globe. Fire is a part of life. The seeds of our iconic eucalyptus, for example, are encased in a woody capsule that cracks open under intense heat. And our first people, the Australian aborigines, didn’t use hoes and harrows to farm like those wimps in Europe: instead, they used fire. Meanwhile, if there’s one thing that stops fire down here it’s fire — seasonal burning off of bedraggled, flammable vegetation prevents big monstrous bushfires from occurring.
5. When asked to name a famous person from your country that people have actually heard of, you furrow your brow, ponder for a long time, and settle upon “Nicole Kidman.”
There will be no Che Guevaras, Abraham Lincolns, Einsteins, Jesuses, Marco Polos, Copernicuses, Mother Teresas or Genghis Khans. There will be Kylie Minogue and Eric Bana. Australia is really good at producing actors who are subsequently exported to Hollywood. But beyond thespians, our fame on the world stage centers mainly on sharks, that episode of the Simpsons, and Flat Whites.
6. You don’t smoke.
Unless it’s Sat’day night on Chapel street and you’re really pissed.
In Australia, smoking is forbidden basically everywhere. Cigarettes cost as much as rhino horn and smoking them is a moral outrage akin to incest or terrorism. You can’t even smoke in your own car with your own kid with your own windows rolled down — damn fascist nanny state!
And so cigarette smoking is steadily declining. Currently, 14.5% of adult people smoke, down from 22% in 2001.
7. But you do like your illicit drugs.
Like many people of the developed world, you have a taste for cocaine and methamphetamines and other drugs that make you feel god-like and euphoric in a god-free, post-capitalist world.
8. You pay $4 every morning and afternoon for a coffee and you are generally holding a coffee or talking about drinking a coffee.
Somehow, at some point in human history, Australia became the world’s coffee capital. There is no filthy drip coffee here, as in Europe and America. Nor is there Starbucks. Rather there are handsome young baristas with master’s level qualifications in chemistry and hospitality serving espressos, caffe lattes, macchiatos, piccolos, beards, and tattoos to a discerning public. Some people have even linked our national obsession with buying coffee to the fact that many young people cannot enter the housing market.
9. You know this aesthetic really well.
You’ve spent most of your adult life in a place like this, making business plans for startups that never start or writing short comedy sketches on your Macbook.
10. You live in one of the richest, safest, most equal countries on earth.
Australia is safe and prosperous, with high wages (ninth per capita in the world), high wage equality, low levels of government corruption, clean drinking water, a high standard of education, and fabulous beaches!
11. …but you’re a drunk and a gambler with an anxiety problem.
Almost half of all Australians experience mental health issues, anxiety being the biggest affliction (2 million Australians each year). Perhaps this is why you drink so much. Of all the OECD countries, Australia is the second biggest consumer of alcohol (second only to the Czech Republic, but they went through Soviet-style Communism and “Normalization”, so you know, serious 20th-century trauma).
Meanwhile, gambling is a terrible societal affliction that most sane countries recognise as highway robbery. Not in Australia! Australians spend more money gambling than anyone else in the world, according to H2 Gambling Capital (via the Economist). That’s double the average in other Western countries and 40% more than the next biggest betters, the Singaporeans, who actually do believe in such a thing as lucky numbers. Naturally, Australians also lose more money gambling than anyone else in the world.
12. You’re unsure of how much time you should spend with other humans.
Going around to someone’s house is generally a short, well-timed affair. There will be no lingering or accordion-playing or palm-reading or lengthy political debates that conclude in kisses or revolutions. There will be a cup of tea and then you will go home and sit in the dark and bet on the ponies with your betting app.
13. You’re used to being attacked by birds every year.
Each springtime, it happens: “A sudden blow: the great wings beating still”, and the magpie has struck again. Magpies are solid, meaty, cunning and — come springtime — super aggressive. They have a wedge-shaped bill as hard as graphite, surprisingly big brains, and the ability to recognize human faces. They will swoop at whoever dares to pass through their territory. I repeat, their territory, because they have a sense of property ownership as in advanced human civilizations.
Since 2013, over 2,000 Australians have been injured by magpies. And yes, they are attempting to gouge your eyeballs out.
Then there are the small, annoying magpie-like birds whose name you don’t know. They also swoop. No one knows the name of this bird but it is vicious. If you’re lucky enough to live outside the magpie’s habitat, then you face a different enemy: the warlike plover, whose scientific name — Vanellus miles — comes from the Latin for soldier.
They will stalk a man for miles.
14. You have really gorgeous, technologically advanced banknotes, the best in the world.
Like Gatsby’s ties, lusciously-colored, smooth and silky as full cream milk…Made from polymer and impossible to forge, you can put them in the wash or feed them to wild pigs and they’ll still come out totally unruffled, integrity intact.
15. You stop at a zebra crossing when driving a car.
It is your right to sprint, leap, roll, and then launch yourself out in front of the rapidly moving traffic and react with disgust when the cars don’t stop for you.
16. Activewear is considered semi-formal attire.
It’s fine to wear your Skins down the street, to a lecture, or at a funeral. You never know when you may need to do some burpees or a fartlek.
17. You never “declared” independence from your colonial overlord.
Yes, you heard it. Australia never took up arms and kicked the British out. Instead, true independence came slowly, peacefully, and almost imperceptibly in 1989. But don’t ask us about this date — no one really knows what happened, or how. Instead our national day, our 4th of July, 5 de mayo, or Nueve de Julio, our day of glory, fireworks and self-congratulation — celebrates the arrival of the British.
18. Your Head of State is a British Monarch and you’re fine with this.
The Australian “President” is Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning queen regnant and perhaps also oldest human on earth.
You’re ok with this. Not having a real President is actually pretty good. Politics is generally a sober affair. No personality cults or power coups. Instead, all that symbolic executive power rests in a poker-faced nonagenarian on an island far, far away…
Actually, you don’t know who your Head of State is — it could be the Governor General.
The constitution isn’t really clear on this. It isn’t clear on a lot of things, instead relying on convention, i.e. “the way things are done”, which isn’t always the most useful or authoritative guide for running a country.
There is one thing, however, that the Constitution is clear on…
19. You’re not eligible for your own parliament.
Parliamentarians are not permitted to hold dual citizenship. In a 200-year-old nation of immigrants, almost 30% of Australians were born overseas, and let’s not get started on their parents — this law touches scores of Aussies.
This was all fine until you really started applying the Constitution and it turned out a whole lot of politicians were dual citizens. This year even the deputy prime minister — a red-cheeked farmer type who, with his personal threats to Johnny Depp’s dog and bumbling, common-sense manner, seemed the very embodiment of Australia — was declared ineligible.
The only people who are truly eligible are indigenous Australians, but for a long time, their very existence was not recognized via a legal concept called Terra Nullius.
So maybe it’s not such a good system after all…