WITHIN a week of starting my new job in London, I received an email from a colleague with the subject line titled “Urgent”. I was concerned. Had I done something wrong already? Was I behind on a deadline?
Opening the email with apprehension I read the following:
What do you call an Australian with a champagne bottle? A waiter.
And so it began. Being the only Australian in the office (an unusual scenario in London, admittedly), I was like the new play thing, expected to say things on demand such as, “strewth”, “daggy”, and “flamin’ galah”.
I was asked which Walkabout was my local, whether I preferred Neighbours or Home and Away, and why the Australian cricket team was playing so badly.
I was met with gobsmacked incredulity when I casually mentioned I knew very little about cricket, preferred the seminal Mad Men to any woeful attempt at drama by Australian soaps, and avoided the Walkabout like a New Zealander on Australia Day.
My arrival in England was not helped by the fact it coincided with the British press’ haughty delight at the seemingly sophisticated Liz Hurley blabbing all over Twitter about her relationship with larrikin ladies’ man Shane Warne.
I soon found myself wildly fluctuating between the urge to educate Britons about a new, educated breed of Australians and some atavistic, patriotic need to defend the brash, unsophisticated stereotype of Australians.
I needed to choose a position. I needed to step out from the shadow of Kylie and Jason (apparently, Australia’s very own ‘Royal Wedding’) but embrace the cultural cringe that was Hugh Jackman zip-lining (and crashing) into the Sydney Opera House.
But what would this new stereotype look like? How can you update a stereotype if you don’t have a replacement at the ready? Is there a need to stereotype at all? And worst of all, do we, as Australians, then lose the right to stereotype the Brits as pale-skinned whingers and terrible sportspeople?
In my experience, the light-hearted ribbing between Aussies and Brits usually ends in a drunken begrudging admission of mutual appreciation. So while the UK perhaps does need to acknowledge the diversity of modern Australia and the contribution of artists such as Tim Minchin, actors such as Geoffrey Rush and authors such as Patrick White, let’s not deny them their unadulterated joy in Peter Andre, Dame Edna and Alf Stewart.
By Pip Perry
|Wednesday 08 June 2011 10:46 Judgie|
|I like being the token aussie in my office, i give as good as i get and agree with tony you can bring your own style into play. with the sterotype i was in a restaurant the other day and a girl at the table next to me unaware i could hear bagged out my aussie accent.. thing was she was an aussie too! got to stick together at least|
|Wednesday 08 June 2011 09:05 JP|
|There are large numbers of Australians who have merged into communities all around this country and found a willing, open hearted acceptance. It is the focus on London which, as with all big cities, is a ruthless place that distorts the experience of living in this country.Look beyond the capital and there is a good lifestyle to be had here and a different sort of people. My 12 years in Hampshire have been very good and this is the experience of the other Australians settled around here.|
|Tuesday 07 June 2011 15:02 mark taha|
|All stereotypes are founded in reality.So leave the whinging to us Poms!|
|Tuesday 07 June 2011 14:28 Rhonda Hunt|
|Have been here over 4 years , and all I seem to get is ..ohh your a convict then so much so i blogged about it …the people here have been very rude and selfish to me, have been robbed so many times , cant even raise the money to go home anymore.forget trying to sell anything , unless you give it to them they wont buy…hence why i cant re raise the money i need..|
|Tuesday 07 June 2011 13:58 Tony|
|Lets be careful what we wish for here. I am also the only Aussie in my work place, but I find the stereotype very useful. I can speak my mind without getting in any trouble, because it is expected; and I do because, lets face it, most Poms couldn’t organise a handful of sand at the beach, including management here.|