Since I have come to Oswego State as an international exchange student from Australia, I have noticed some alarming trends in my interactions with American people. There’s the usual minute as they try to place my accent (some Americans have confusedly asked if I was English) and then the usual exclamation of "You’re from Australia?!" Don’t get me wrong, I love the enthusiasm American people have for Australia- universally I have received a positive reaction with students regaling me with stories of how their friend, neighbor, or second cousin went to Australia and how they really want to travel there. However, there are the odd few who seem to have some misconceptions about Australia and its way of life. I thought in this column I could clear up a few delusions about what happens "Down Under."
First and foremost, Australians do not own kangaroos as pets nor do we ride them to school like bicycles. If you tried to go near a kangaroo it would either hop away or punch you. Our animals are vicious in Australia; both the wallaby and koala-bear look cute but they’ll scratch your arms to shreds if you try to pet one. While it is funny to pretend to American people that I have a pet kangaroo called Skippy, I thought that this myth should be exposed.
Another myth seems to be that just because we are situated in the Southern Hemisphere and thousands of miles away from any other country (apart from New Zealand, but that doesn’t count) that Australia is this backward nation that is just celebrating the exciting invention of the television. One student asked me if we had YouTube in Australia. One of the New Zealand exchange students convinced an American student that New Zealand didn’t have the Internet because it hadn’t been invented yet in New Zealand. Another student asked me if I knew what Facebook was. Everyone in the English-speaking world knows what Facebook is! Including some in the non-English speaking world! Let me just clarify that Australians know about and have access to: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Myspace, Twitter (unfortunately) and a various assortment of other Internet treats.
I’m sorry to ruin this particular gem of Australian lore but nobody really says "G’day mate." There are always the occasional few who say that stereotypical piece of slang while spitting on the side of the road and adjusting their flannelette shirt, but they are rare creatures. I know a French exchange student who says "mate" more than I have in my whole life and sounds more genuine than I do when I sporadically utter those words. Those sporadic times are normally as a result of an American person asking me to say "G’day mate."
For those of you who have had the privilege of trying the distinctly Australian spread called Vegemite will know of its wondrous qualities. For those who do not appreciate the taste of Vegemite, let me educate you on proper Vegemite etiquette. Unlike Nutella, you are not supposed to try Vegemite by dipping your finger in the jar. Not only is this the road to an exciting assortment of diseases, but Vegemite tastes disgusting by itself. The perfect way to try Vegemite is on a recently buttered piece of toast to which you lightly apply the smallest amount of Vegemite possible. For those connoisseurs who appreciate a spread that is a by-product of beer, this delectable spread is for you.
Staying on the topic of food, Australians don’t say "put another shrimp on the barbie." However, we do cook prawns [shrimp] on our barbeques- along with anything else that can possibly be barbequed. The traditional Australian setting would be a bunch of blokes hanging around watching meat cook on a barbeque while drinking beer. This is a sacred male ritual for Australian men and female Australians are usually shunned from these strange rites of passage.
However, the most heinous of Australian myths was revealed to me on TV a few weeks ago. Foster’s is not an Australian beer! Nobody drinks Foster’s beer in Australia. I didn’t even know there was a brand called Foster’s until I came overseas and saw these disgusting advertisements. If you want a truly Australian experience, put on a pair of flip-flops, start up a barbeque, put on some AC/DC or Cold Chisel and drink some real beer like Heineken or Tooheys New. Foster’s is a beer imposter and I urge every Oswego State student to drink anything but Foster’s. Even Bud Light would be better than that pseudo-Australian sewage water.