Australia…..Are you sure you know it?
This is a humorous look at Australia and Australians by an outsider.
The following gem is by Douglas Adams of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the
Galaxy” fame. It is an amazing insight into Australia – prepare yourself!
Australia is a very confusing place, taking up a large amount of the bottom
half of the planet. It is recognizable from orbit because of many unusual
features, including what at first looks like an enormous bite taken out of
its southern edge; a wall of sheer cliffs which plunge deep into the
girting sea. Geologists assure us that this is simply an accident of geomorphology
and plate tectonics, but they still call it the “Great Australian Bight”
proving that not only are they covering up a more frightening theory but
they can’t spell either!
The first of the confusing things about Australia is the status of the
place. Where other landmasses and sovereign lands are classified as either
continent, island, or country, Australia is considered all three. So
it is unique in this.
The second confusing thing about Australia is the animals. They can be
divided into three categories: Poisonous, Odd, and Sheep. It is true that
of the 10 most poisonous arachnids on the planet, Australia has 9 of them.
Actually, it would be more accurate to say that of the 9 most poisonous
arachnids, Australia has all of them. However there are curiously few
snakes, possible because the spiders have killed them all.
But even the spiders won’t go near the sea. Any visitors should be careful
to check inside boots (before putting them on), under toilet seats (before
sitting down) and generally everywhere else. A stick is very useful for this
At this point, we would like to mention the Platypus – estranged relative
of the mammal, which has a duck-bill, otter’s tail, webbed feet, lays eggs,
detects its aquatic prey in the same way as the electric eel and has
venomous barbs attached to its hind legs, thus combining all ‘typical’
Australian attributes into a single improbable creature.
The last confusing thing about Australia is the inhabitants.
First, a short history:
Sometime around 40,000 years ago, some people arrived in boats from the
north. They ate all the available food, and a lot of them died. The ones
who survived learned respect for the balance of nature, man’s proper place in
the scheme of things and spiders. They settled in and spent a lot of the
intervening time making up strange stories.
Then, around 200 years ago, Europeans arrived in boats from the north. More
accurately, European convicts were sent, with a few deranged and stupid
people in charge. They tried to plant their crops in Autumn (failing to
take account of the reversal of the seasons when moving from the top half of the
planet to the bottom), ate all their food, and a lot of them died.
About then the sheep arrived, and have been treasured ever since. It is
interesting to note here that the Europeans always consider themselves
vastly superior to any other race they encounter, since they can lie,
cheat, steal, and litigate (marks of a civilised culture they say) – whereas all
the Aboriginals can do is happily survive being left in the middle of a
vast red-hot desert, equipped with a stick.
Eventually, the new lot of people stopped being Europeans on Extended
Holiday and became Australians. The changes are subtle, but deep, caused by
the mind-stretching expanses of nothingness and eerie quiet, where a person
can sit perfectly still and look deep inside themselves to the core of
their essence, their reasons for being, and the necessity of checking inside your
boots every morning for fatal surprises. They also picked up the most finely
tuned sense of irony in the world, and the Aboriginal gift for making up
stories. Be warned.
There is also the matter of the beaches. Australian beaches are simply the
nicest and best in the entire world. Although anyone actually venturing
into the sea will have to contend with sharks, stinging jellyfish, stonefish (a
fish which sits on the bottom of the sea, pretends to be a rock and has
venomous barbs sticking out of its back that will kill just from the pain)
However, watching a beach sunset is worth the risk. As a result of all this
hardship, dirt, thirst and wombats, you would expect Australians to be a
dour lot. Instead, they are genial, jolly, cheerful and always willing to
share a kind word with a stranger.
Faced with insurmountable odds and impossible problems, they smile
disarmingly and look for a stick. Major engineering feats have been
performed with sheets of corrugated iron, string, and mud. Alone of all the
races on earth, they seem to be free from the ‘Grass is Greener on the
other side of the fence’ syndrome, and roundly proclaim that Australia is, in
fact, the other side of that fence. They call the land “Oz”, “Godzone” (a
verbal contraction of “God’s Own Country”) and “Best bloody place on earth,
bar none, strewth.” The irritating thing about this is they may be right.
There are some traps for the unsuspecting traveler, though. Do not, under
any circumstances, suggest that the beer is imperfect, unless you are
comparing it to another kind of Australian beer. Do not wear a Hawaiian
shirt. Religion and Politics are fairly safe topics of conversation,
(Australians don’t care too much about either) but Sport is a minefield.
The only correct answer to “So, howdya’ like our country, eh?” is “Best
(insert your own regional swear word here) country in the world!”. It is
very likely that, on arriving, some cheerful Australians will ‘adopt’ you
on your first night, and take you to a pub where Australian Beer is served.
Despite the obvious danger, do not refuse. It is a form of initiation rite.
You will wake up late the next day with an astonishing hangover, a foul
taste in your mouth, and wearing strange clothes.
Your hosts will usually make sure you get home, and waive off any legal
difficulties with “It’s his first time in Australia, so we took him to the
pub”, to which the policeman will sagely nod and close his notebook. Be
sure to tell the story of these events to every other Australian you encounter,
adding new embellishments at every stage and noting how strong the beer
was. Thus you will be accepted into this unique culture.
Most Australians are now urban dwellers, having discovered the primary use
of electricity, which is air-conditioning and refrigerators.
Typical Australian sayings:-
* “It’s better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick!”
* “She’ll be right mate.”
Tips to Surviving Australia:
* Don’t ever put your hand down a hole for any reason WHATSOEVER.
* The beer is stronger than you think, regardless of how strong you think
* Always carry a stick.
* Air-conditioning is imperative.
* Do not attempt to use Australian slang, unless you are a trained linguist
and extremely good in a fist fight.
* Wear thick socks.
* Take good maps. Stopping to ask directions only works when there are
* If you leave the urban areas, carry several litres of water with you at
all times, or you will die.
* Even in the most embellished stories told by Australians, there is always
a core of truth that it is unwise to ignore.