Arriving in Australia

When Jacqui and I first arrived in Australia, one of the first things that struck us was how much like
Opinion

When Jacqui and I first arrived in Australia, one of the first things that struck us was how much like English people the average Aussie was, while in a funny way also being very different. The similarities included a rather freaky sense of humour, something a lot of people from other countries just wouldn’t be able to understand, like the way we’ll joke about death, unloved spouses and the effects of drink. City dwelling Australians also wear clothes virtually indistinguishable from their counterparts in the UK, except that here in Australia there is a tendency to wear much lighter garments, a man will wear the trousers of a smart suit, but no jacket, though both here and in England, a tie is usually evident. And it’s the same for the ladies too; lighter clothing is much more used, while still maintaining all of the smartness of their fashionable European counterparts.

You really have to go to the outback to see a marked difference in dress sense. A bloke there will wear a (usually VERY worn) wide brimmed hat, complete with generous sweat stains all round the crown, a dark blue vest, or at least one that began its life as dark blue, but it’s much more likely to be a sort of pale bluish grey now. He’ll also be wearing either a pair of jeans, or a pair of shorts made from cut-down jeans, and a dirty pair of Blundstone elastic-sided boots, the leather tops torn to shreds from wear. Girls tend to dress very similarly to men, even down to the boots, but somehow they manage to look a lot better than the blokes do. (It’s the way they wear ‘em!).

Although we both, supposedly, speak the same language, that isn’t strictly speaking true. On the one side you have a range of accents and dialects that can differ almost from street to street, though this is dying out to a certain extent as the English population gets more homogenised, whereas in Australia people are so skilled at making up new and very appropriate sounding words that some English people would think another language was being used. Take for instance the Australian ‘dunny’ – that’s an outdoor toilet in England, or how about the doona – which is a duvet on the other side of the world, or snow peas – in Bristol or Bath or Sheffield you’d be asking for mange tout (pronounced monge-too). Then Australians are great experts at the funny turn of phrase, to describe some action or event, like “It was so hot I just lay down like a lizard flat out drinking”. How expressive is that, and they have plenty of them! They also have nice, single words to very adequately describe things – ‘drongo’ or ‘gallah’, for someone who isn’t too bright, or ‘chunder’ for the unfortunate act of vomiting and ‘garbo’ for the men who come each week and empty the rubbish bins.

Australians, both male and female have little respect for anyone, until it has been earned! In the UK your boss is always spoken to as ‘Mr’ even if you’ve worked for him for 20 years and know he’s an idiot, never by his first name. Here a chap talking to the Queen could just as likely call her ‘Liz’ to her face as ‘your majesty’, and that wouldn’t be meant as an insult to her either, it’s simply the friendly way Australians have of dealing with virtually anyone. But on top of this respect, or sometimes lack of it, we’ve always found Australians to be very trustworthy and helpful, especially once they get to know you personally and they’re always ready to offer help in moments of need, even financial, so I’ve been told though thank goodness I’ve never had to test this trait, (yet!).

So, all in all, Jacqui and I think Australians are a weird lot, but the best people in the world as well, which is why we became naturalised as soon as we had been here for two years, the shortest time this can be accomplished in. We now consider ourselves to be ‘true blue’, something we are very proud to claim, but something few Englishmen would be able to translate!

Have you come from another country to Australia? What has been your experience?

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