By Kritika Seksaria
Some stereotypes do exist. For instance, in Australia, most of us are platonic ‘mates’ to each other. The men here are definitely tall, beefy and brawny, thanks to their love for footy and AFL. Melbourne does have unpredictable weather, just as it has the best coffee.
In spite of that, there are some age-old perceptions that pop culture convinces people to believe about the Aussies and their land. Here’s a list of myths that have been exaggerated and blown largely out of proportion.
1) Kangaroos: Nobody rides to school on a Kangaroo. The kids don’t wait at the Kangaroo stop and people do not struggle to find a good spot to park their Kangaroos. Australians, walk (not hop) – they hop on to trams though, and they use trains and taxis as well. Some Aussies own a Swift or a Honda and some of them have Audis and Ferraris. However, nobody has a Kangaroo, in fact we never even get to see one in the city.
2) Barbecue: There is no denying the fact that Aussies relish a good BBQ. It’s a feature on housewarmings, birthdays, or sometimes just on a Sunday. However, no matter what Paul Hogan said in the 1980s, ‘shrimp is not the only thing that is put on the Barbie’. Sausages, steaks, fillets, burgers, you name it and I can assure you that it has been barbecued somewhere in Australia. But there is no particular fascination for shrimp or prawn above the others.
3) Fosters Beer: It is one of the least popular beers in Australia and god knows Aussies love their beer. Fosters has gained popularity largely through exports thus leading to the false notion that Australians survive on Fosters. After five years of living in Melbourne, I tried Fosters for the first time in India, not even knowing that it was an Australian brand.
4) Crocodile Wrestling: Steve Irwin was really brave to do it, Paul Hogan was really talented to show it, but most Australians don’t know squat about it. Yes, there have been some significant crocodile and alligator references to Australia on an international level; nevertheless, this is not a sport kids learn at age 4 or at any age as a matter of fact.
5) Fashion: People do not wear singlets, thongs, bikinis and hats with corks dangling from it. They might wear it to the beach, but no one wears it to work, parties or the mall (yes we have malls, but more on that later). Melbourne and Sydney have established themselves as fashion and shopping hotspots with various brands of clothes, handbags and shoes that are not just Quicksilver, Billabong or Rip Curl. The fashion standard is easily comparable to New York and London.
6) Desert: Yes, a large portion of the Australian land is a desert, however, those are not places where Aussies live or most travellers would visit. Australian cities and beaches are developed enough to be a highlight of the country besides the dry barren land.
7) Sparsely populated: Australia undoubtedly has a low population and yes the outback and suburban areas might be scanty. However, the developed cities and tourist spots are far from it. Try going to the Opera House on New Year’s Eve and you will know what I am talking about.
8) Vegemite: It is not the staple diet after barbecue. Vegemite is available everywhere and is probably in the pantry of every household, however, it is by far not the most popular spread. Jams, butter, cheese, dips are more commonly consumed by kids and adults.
9) Self-Absorbed: In spite of their unique history, Australians are not as self-absorbed as expressed by the media. The cities celebrate Indian, Chinese, Malaysian and American holidays. Halloween is increasingly popular and the Chinese New Year celebration in Melbourne is extravagant.
10) Life by the beach: All Australians don’t live by the beach and go surfing at 11 AM on a Monday morning. Going to the beach is indeed a luxury and an activity to be done on a holiday or a free weekend that people find difficult to arrange because of demanding work schedules.
Stereotypes certainly have some truth or history to it, but globalisation and development of cities have hazed these features over time. Nevertheless, they are often fun to use as cultural connotation and play around with.
Kritika is a Regional Representative for Asian Correspondent based in Melbourne, Australia. She can be followed on Twitter @kritsontweet