I’ve spent a lot of time – one might argue a disproportionately large amount – thinking about Australians.
I have actively worked on my relationship with us, a relationship which soured, somewhat, throughout my travels and as a result of my dislike of Sydney’s sizeable ego, and postcode obsession. The latter is, admittedly, an irrelevant personal gripe I won’t assault you all with. What matters is I really tried to rekindle our flame, going out of my way to concentrate on the things I love about us, the things I like seeing the rest of the world associate with us as people. The truth is, I really wouldn’t want to dislike us … but all too often I found myself snarling ‘bloody Australians’ in, it’s quite possible, a similar accent to the one I was snarling at.
For me, and I feel I may speak for a significant amount of people, encountering Australians overseas often resulted in mixed emotions. Encountering one once in the German city in which I regularly resided brought pangs of nostalgia; tears even, in the case of a woman who reminded me of my mother. This nostalgic pang was because, in Muenster, there aren’t many Australians. Coming across the handful that there are, was a comfort – I practically delighted in the accent.
But in my time living on the Greek island of Santorini, Australians abounded. Daily, ferries pulled into the port and disgorged seemingly thousands, clad in those annoying Thailand backpacker singlets, mid-way through their obligatory European jaunts. Planes landed and turfed out the living-in-London throng, who were either in desperate need of sunshine or were meeting their European-jaunt mates for a week of beer bongs and general offensiveness. And so, crossing paths with an Australian in Santorini (aka opening my front door) tended to result in a pang, nay a wave, of irritation.
The souring of my relationship with my people when abroad all started, I think, when I was in the Louvre a few years earlier. I had wandered off from a half hour spent admiring Venus de Milo when, penetrating the general hush that presides over art galleries, came the nasal twang of an Australian. He had suspended himself in some bizarre twist (a pose, to his credit, he maintained for quite some time) by a window, so he was appropriately bathed in light, and called out to his friends, ‘Look, I’m Simon de Milo!’ Not particularly funny, not particularly clever but highly visible and inappropriately loud. A sentiment, I am mortified to consider, that may just sum up Australian travellers in general.
There was a time, and it lasted quite a while, when being an Australian traveller held a magical appeal. Australians hail from a land far, far away and this lent us a certain charm; a mystique, if you will. People loved us. What wasn’t to love? We were funny and easy going, as if the sunshine we are constantly beneath ran through our very veins. AND, we have kangaroos (gets them every time). I suspect we got a touch too comfortable being so loved. We began to gad about with the assumption that we would automatically be loved by virtue of our passport; an assumption that continues to underlie our travels.
The thing is, we are friendly. We will, for the most part, talk to anyone about anything, whether or not we’ve ever seen them before or will ever see them again. And we are – as the stereotype goes – largely easy going. We’re generally very pleasant to deal with and don’t make a big fuss if something doesn’t work properly or is late or mildly inconvenient. I always much prefer explaining a deficiency in accommodation or cuisine to an Aussie than I do to a Pom, for example. Poms will whinge or attempt a pithy quip, whereas Australians will generally take the no worries route. This is what makes us really rather affable people.
But, for some reason, when we’re let loose on a European destination, we become this caricature of ourselves. Our accent rankles. We’re loud. We say really stupid things. We can be seriously heinous drunks (although, to be fair, that blanket covers Poms and Americans). Watching troupes of Australians storm Santorini (just go to Queensland guys, relive Schoolies) set my teeth on edge, listening to flocks of girls bang on about trivialities sent shivers down my spine.
I was listening to just such a couple of Aussie girls once. Having taken over a generous part of the hotel pool with their diet coke cans and vacuous eyes, they spent a good while earnestly discussing Mark’s recent romantic choices as displayed on Facebook whilst plaiting each other’s hair and stroking each other’s feet (no I am not making this up). I was watching, narrow eyed, from my perch at the bar, when an Australian guy strolled in and executed a terrific bomb, as a way of entrance into the water. The girls immediately adopted the customary ‘um, excuse me’ pose and were forced to hold it until it became apparent he wasn‘t going to apologise. In fact, I don’t think he even noticed. He just paddled to the side, hauled himself out and ordered a beer.
Not going to lie … he restored a fair bit of faith.
Liv is an Aussie writer who is now back living in Germany again. Check out more of Liv’s musings at LivHambrett.com and follow her at Twitter.com/livwrites