Almost everyone I meet in Canada is curious about where I come from – this far, far, away, land they have heard of – Australia.
Canadians and other nationalities pose a range of questions about this ‘mysterious’ place, which is really, really, far down south. To my surprise, my homeland is almost perceived to be the ‘last frontier’ or a ‘wild outpost.’ I’ve raised eyebrows, had some good belly-laughs and held a sense of bewilderment, amusement, and almost, fondness, about the naivety and misconceptions held about “Down Under.”
Here are some examples of the Silly Things Said to Australians in Canada:
I’ve heard, it’s easy to be killed there?
This has got to be the most common concern or comment. The “Fear Factor” about Australia comes up, a lot. In fact, in almost every conversation! People freak out about insects, spiders, sharks and snakes – all those things that can kill you. I ask Canadians, “But what about your Grizzly Bears?” Their response, “You’re not going to have a Grizzly Bear in your bed.” Many people are convinced that all over Australia, you are dodging dangerous wildlife at each turn, even in your bedroom. Australia is really NOT THAT DANGEROUS guys, well at least in metropolitan areas! Just don’t swim too far offshore, and you should be right!
Do people live in Tasmania, or are there only animals there?
A hipster New Yorker in his 20’s asked me this question. I had to laugh. I’m sure the Tasmanians would be thrilled to hear such a query about their ‘big island’ off the ‘huge island!’ Yes today, just over half a million people live in Tasmania and indigenous people lived there for thousands of years before that. However, during a brutal colonisation process over several decades, almost all of the 7000 native people were killed. British colonisation commenced in 1803 but by the end of ‘this process’ in 1830, maybe only two families of Aborigines were left living on the island. By 1835, only one Aboriginal family remained on the island (Wikipedia). A sad chapter in Australian history!
Say “G’Day Mate”?
Whilst out in a popular late-night spot on Avenue Mont-Royal, I met a group of Quebecois guys in their mid-twenties. When they discovered I was Australian, I suddenly became the star attraction. They had never met a “real-life” Aussie (Australian) before. Say “G’day Mate!” one guy yelled. In good humour I obliged with an overly exaggerated twang, “GEEEDDDAAAAYYY MAAAATTTE.” They thought it was hilarious. I thought they were hilarious, because they actually thought that I spoke that way. NOT.
What money do you use in Australia – British or American?
Actually, Australia has its own currency. Yes we are THAT advanced and independent. We’ve been using our own coins since 1910 and in 1966 the Australian pound was replaced with the Australian dollar. In fact, Australia is so progressive with its currency it was the FIRST country in 1988 to develop plastic (or polymer) banknotes. And the USA is still using paper notes – go figure! So all those Canadians who use their plastic money have the Reserve Bank of Australia to thank for developing this advancement in money.
Do you live in the bush? – No.
So you live in Sydney then?
Sydney is not the ONLY city in Australia. To be fair – I am quite impressed with most people’s knowledge of Australian cities. Melbourne is the city after Sydney, which is mentioned, and sometimes Brisbane and Perth “get a guernsey.” Most seem to know of “Adelaide.” Occasionally I’ll get a question like the above, from people who think all Australians live in the outback and it’s possible to see Kangaroos in the city suburbs. The stereotyped Australia, cultivated by Crocodile Dundee, still inspires perception that it’s a rather primitive place. Australia is civilised and has cities and towns, spread all over the country, just like Canada.
A dingo ate your baby!
I was chatting to a friend on the street in Le Plateau, Mont-Royal. A guy walking past, yelled to me: “A dingo ate your baby!” I was flabbergasted. Firstly, I was surprised that he picked up my Australian accent but also how strange that he would refer to Lindy Chamberlain’s story. A few nights later, I went to a dinner and a Montrealer said the same thing! What the!? I told him about the true story of the woman who was jailed for almost ten years after being incorrectly convicted of killing her baby, when later, DNA evidence proved a dingo (a wild dog) took her newborn. He didn’t know about the true story. After some research, I found that “A dingo ate your baby” is delivered by “Elaine,” in a thick Australian accent, in the Seinfeld episode Stranded. Hence it has become a popular culture saying. Random!
What’s happening with the Australian economy? I hear now people buy things with beer?
No actually our economy is fine. Well better than some, worse than others but we have not needed to resort to a barter system. Perhaps this guy had heard about the quirky website, SWAP 4 BEER, which allows people to barter items by exchanging with beer. Personally I don’t see the difference between exchanging or buying things with money, or exchanging with beer. Maybe it just helps the seller as they don’t have to physically go and get their beer, after they sell something? Wow I can see ‘beeraholics’ all over, selling their wares for a slab. Classy!
Say “Let’s Go To The Beach?”
I took the plunge and went on an online date. Finally I decided to put myself out there. After meeting the guy on the street, we proceed to make the customary two kisses on the cheeks…but his kiss lands full on my lips. Ok, that could just be an accident!? I brushed it off. Then all of a sudden he launches, “Say – ‘Let’s Go To The Beach!’” – Um OK!?? After the “Say G’Day Mate” request earlier in the month, a request to say something was wearing a bit thin. I was on a date, no less. How can I take someone seriously who asks me to act like a parrot? This time, I don’t even attempt to exaggerate my twang but smooth it out more. Yet inevitably it ends up sounding like, “Leet’s go to the beeaachh.” He laughs with delight. I’m a little confounded and become more so when he continues asking question after question about Australia. It was an interrogation…and we were still standing on the street. I reply, “Can we please sit down?”
The attention on my accent is flattering, and dispelling myths about Australia is entertaining, and being a novelty is, well, a novelty. I have been equally impressed by what people do know of Australia, as much as they don’t know. But my response in the end is always the same. “Don’t worry about what can kill you, don’t worry about how long it takes to get there. It’s a beautiful, diverse, interesting, well-developed place. JUST GO! Discover this mysterious, far, far away land. You will never be the same again!”