Saturday, October 11, 2008


Travel is supposed confer an enriched understanding of cultures different to one's own, through a constant exposure to foreign peoples and their strange ways, which one greets at first with surprise or even dismay, and at last with acceptance, resignation or appreciation.

But it is the foreign-ness of Australians abroad (Australia being the place where I've spent most of my adult life) that makes me suffer the most from culture shock. Who are these strange-cultured people and why do they seem to think I'm their new best friend?

The Australians I meet outside of Australia make me wonder if I have ever actually lived in that country at all. They are very much unlike the sorts of people I have spent the last ten years associating with in the cafes and share-houses of Melbourne's inner city suburbs.

And the confronting thing for me is that being an Australian abroad (or in my case, simply having a mild Australian accent) seems to trigger an extraordinary sense of fellowship (“let's go for a drink!”) and trust (“could you mind my passport for me?” “let’s go for a drink!” “can I borrow your toothbrush” etc.) based simply on the commonality, presumably, of having lived in the same country. Fellowship between any humans is nice, I suppose, but this nationalism-tinged variety strikes me as rather false. Back in individualist Australia – a very large country, where strangers on public transport resolutely avoid eye-contact with eachother and social cliques rarely mix - there is rarely such a bond, but cross the border into foreign territory and it's Australians shoulder to shoulder together against the Hun.

2 Comments:

At 12:31 am, Blogger The Rantolotl said...

I'm actually beginning to wonder if this is an Australia-only phenomenon. when I've directed travelling brits towards other travelling brits, they've just looked at me like I'm a bit strange - but if you were to do that with Australians, there'd be a round of lagers on the table faster than you could possibly even shake hands.

That said, there's something a little bit fun about it that I think completes the Australian travelling experience.

Incidently, Victorians seem to do the same thing when in other states. "Oh god, you're Victorian? From Frankston? Ah. Well, at least you can appreciate a good coffee."

 
At 1:22 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the disjuncture is that you didn't live in "Australia" you lived in Melbourne. They are not the same thing...

 

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