Lost in translation
1. As a whole, Australians are nice people; however, they think Americans are ridiculous in certain respects. There is a general feeling that we are all morbidly obese, money hungry, uber-patriotic gun-totting Bush supporters. All of this I knew ahead of time, but a surprise was that they think our lexicon is particularly funny. I have been made fun of on several occasions for my speech pattern and my (in their sophomoric opinion) egregious use of superlatives. For instance, in response to a normal question, such as "How was dinner", I might respond "The service was alright but the food was super good". It is the use of "super", "wicked", "really" etc that puts a smile on their face. A smile that in fact tells me that they are laughing at me, not with me (I know because I wear this expression often). I had no idea what was so funny about speaking this way, but my friend Linda broke it down for me: Americans tend to put things in extremes. It won't just be hot, it would be wicked hot (if your from Southern New England) or scorching (if you aren't blessed to be from Southern New England). I'm not just hungry, I'm starving. I'm not tired, I'm about to die. The movie wasn't just good, it changed my life (shout out to Lisa Comrie). I'm not sure hanging out with me will change their opinion of us Yankees.
2. So they think my speech pattern is a bit bizarre. Hey pot how is the kettle? At least I use phrases that, in general and depending upon how many cocktails I've had, make sense based on the dictionary definitions of the words I employ. This is not necessarily the case with Aussies. There is a subtle but distinct trend to use phrases with food in them to imply something completely unrelated to the digestable being cited. Statements like "It's all gone to custard" mean things have gotten all fucked up, and "Up to his elbows in spaghetti" might mean someone is really busy. Trying to tease out the meaning of these phrases is truly an exercise in thinking outside of the box. Trying to use these colloqialisms as an American is an exercise in futility.
3. There is an uncanny role reversal in body consciousness from the US to the land of Oz. I'm not saying that all girls are incredibly body conscious back home and guys just let themself go, but I would say that women tend to be a little more keen on their bodies in the US, while guys seem to care a bit more carefree. It would not be uncommon to see a relatively attractive "ex-athlete" (aka "I used to play football in high school and am now 20 pounds over weight") type of guy with a hot girl. Maybe, she is a gold-digging whore, but she is hot nonetheless. Here you often see a ridiculously ripped guy with a pudgy chick. Pudgy might not be the best word to describe a majority of the girls over here. They just tend to be "soft" or "skinny fat" if you will. You all know what i'm talking about, not sloppy and spilling out of there clothes but just sort of soft all around. All in all, it just seems like there is a bit of role reversal here. Its also funny because they still use the word "metrosexual". It feels like I hadn't heard it in about 4 years but people still find it avant garde down under. So cute, right?
4. Have any of you seen "Closer"?
Well in the opening scene Natalie Portman gets plowed by a car and totally f-s herself up (then, in a hollywood dramatization that prevented me from suspending disbelief, she says "hello stranger" to Jude "I leave E on the table for my toddler to chow down on and cheat on Sienna Miller" Law). Well every time i cross the street that image of poor little Ms. Portman flashes into my head. With cars driving on the opposite side of the street it is really hard to remember to look the right way when you want to cross the street. I generally feel like a bobble head doll standing at the cross walk doing a quick left-right-left-right headturn in an effort to cover all bases. Passerbys must think I am about to have a seizure. Its embarassing.
5. Everyone drinks instant coffee. I think that this entry speaks for itself but in case you've never had instant coffee I've got one thing to say about it: SICK. I brought it up to someone at work and they said, "well if you don't drink instant coffee in the US, what do you drink". Ummmmmm.....WHAT? Regular coffee you moron (said more cordially of course). The response was "how do you make it?"......this started to get really tough on me. IN A COFFEE MAKER! Now this is where the conversation took a completely unexpected turn (a turn that leads to number 6) "Well then if you need a coffee maker what do the poor black people in the ghetto drink?" (note: this was said straight faced without any sort of idea that it is just not OK to say that).
6. People here are racist. Maybe that is being a little bit harsh (like calling a lot of the girls pudgy). I'm not sure if they are racist or that they literally just don't have much exposure to other races. It is a very insular country, full of white people, with a spattering of asian nationalities and of course aboriginals (who are not particularly well liked and are considered rowdy boozehounds.....oh my god, am I an aboriginal?). Why don't they do what we did with native americans and let them build casinos....they're so fun. Anyway, its shocking what comes out of peoples mouths sometimes, but you can't really get all that offended because they don't even know that what they are saying is in poor taste. Its true that Americans are super-sensitized to political correctness and its interesting to be in an area that has yet to go through even an introduction to sensitivity training. In fact, up until 1973 there was a national "White Australia" policy that restricted non-white immigration and promoted white/European immigration for approximately 140 years. Ummmmm, what? Mind you this went on for about 25 years after another group, who shall remain nameless, was undertaking an all white policy (hint: rhymes with Pot-zies and its leader rhymes with Mitler). Ergo, I can't agree with their racism but I can understand where it stems from. The last dicscriminatory immigration policy was not removed until 1982. What is most strange is that although there is a pretty serious problem with racism, the country as a whole (or at least Sydney) is very pro-gay. Mobile phone commercials will show people staying connected with family, friends, a straight couple and a gay couple (with words at the bottom of the screen saying "helping you stay connected with your partner"). Its very strange to see such an embracement of gay and lesbian culture while still perpetuating racial stereotypes. One would think that sexual tolerance and racial tolerance would be like two peas in a pod (a homosexual bi-racial pod)......and one would be wrong.
I'm not sure I've quite figured out this place yet, but its been fun to get my feet wet. Looking forward to learning more in the weeks to come.