Category Archives: Australia (General)

The Unofficial Australian National Anthem

During one of my first weeks in Australia we were at an orientation party held by our residential college when a song came on that had everyone on their feet singing along.  Megan and I stood there surprised and confused for a second.  I thought that it was maybe a new song that I had somehow missed but she said she had never heard of it before.  It seemed that everyone else in the room not only knew the song but knew every single word in it.  In the chorus of the song there is a very catchy repeated “oh oh ohhhhhoh.”  By the end of the song Megan and I had at least gotten that part down.  We asked for the name of the song and was met with an astonished stare before getting our answer: You’re the Voice.  Apparently everyone in Australia knows and loves the song so much so that there was a movement to make it the official national anthem of Australia.  It didn’t pass but it goes to show just how much Australians love it.  I still haven’t learned all the lyrics but at least I recognize it now and smile because it reminds me of the country I miss so much.


Weeding Out The Tourists Even More

Melbournians might know how to pick out a tourist from the way they say their beloved city’s name but it seems that everyone in Australia knows one sure fire way to pinpoint a tourist.

I have recently been in formed by my local Australian friends that I as much as I would like to consider myself a local I cannot earn that title until I say “Australia” correctly.  I did not even know I was saying it wrong until I payed attention to how they said it.  True to typical Australian speak they manage to drop as many consonants as possible.  When Australian says the word “Australia” it sounds like they are actually saying “Strayia.”  I will have to work on my pronunciation!


The Sound of Australia

The famous instrument of Australia is called a didgeridoo.  If you have seen any movie about Australia or based in Australia there is a usually a distinct sound in the background music but probably one that you cannot exactly place; that would be a didgeridoo.  The actual instrument is a bit bizarre looking.  Its just one long wooden tube usually decorated with aboriginal dot paintings.  Here is what it looks and sounds like:

Weeding out the Tourists

The quickest way to label yourself a tourist is to mispronounce the name of the city in which you live.  Melbourne above all is a good example of this.  An American would read the name and pronounce it the way it is spelled “Mel-born.”  In Australia though the name is pronounced “Mel-bin.”

When I first arrived I was constantly saying “Mel-born” and a knowing smile would appear on the mouth of whomever I was talking to.  Now, four months later I am the one with the knowing smile when I talk to some one who pronounces it “Mel-born.”  I am officially a local.

Howdy Partner

In America when one is speaking of their significant other they usually use the terms “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” “fiancee,” “husband,” etc.  The only time I have ever heard of people talking about their “partners” is a in a same-sex relationship.  This is just one of those things my mind automatically processes and stored in the back of my mind.  I have recently learned that in Australia the word “significant other” and “partner” are used interchangeably in any kind of relationship; I learned this the hard way.

At the beginning of the year the tutor for my Sexual Politics class introduced herself and told us a few stories to help us get to know her better.  In one of these stories she mentioned her “partner” and I automatically made an assumption about her sexuality.  I did not judge her in anyway or see her any differently it was just a piece of information stored in my head along with information like what her favorite book to read would have been.  Throughout the year when she told us stories and mentioned her “partner” I was picturing a woman.  It was during this time that I was meeting more local Australians who also used the word “partner.”  I remember thinking that I was impressed by the size of the gay community in Melbourne.

It was not until two weeks ago that our lecturer who is a lesbian made a controversial comment during class that had the students in an uproar.  During our next tutorial the tutor wanted to speak to us about it and made a comment that even though she wasn’t a lesbian she could understand where our lecturer was coming from and so forth.  I remember blinking dumbly at her when she said that.  Her sexual orientation made no difference to me but considering it was a class focused upon human sexuality I had been thinking that her knowledge came from a certain kind of life experience.  Then the other puzzle piece fit into place: Melbourne, in fact, has probably an averaged sized gay community and all the people who I spoke to who mentioned their “partners” could very well have been talking about their opposite sexed partner.  Yeesh!  You think by now I would have gotten this all right!

Childhood Connections

As silly as it sounds to admit it, I think part of my interest in Africa and Australia had to do with the Disney movies I watched as a kid.  The landscapes and animals in the films looked so fascinating I think they subconsciously printed a curiosity deep in my mind.

I have just recently learned something of little educational value but a fun fact none the less.  The Rescuers Down Under, a film I watched repeatedly as child, features an evil little lizard side kick named Joanna.  While on Phillip Island I saw a lizard and recognized the features of the reptile and name the tour guide provided.  Turns out the evil Joanna is a Goanna lizard!  I do not know why I found this so fascinating but I did and I thought I would share.  Another of those little fun facts that run under the surface of Disney movies.

A Peanut Butter and WHAT Sandwich

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a staple in American culture and whether you are 8 or 80 everyone is familiar with the American favorite lunchtime snack.

When I was in the kitchenette at my college the other day I was talking to my roommate while she made a PB&J.  At one point an Australian girl came into the kitchenette to prepare her own snack, a Vegemite sandwich.  When she came over to counter where we were and she crinkled her nose, “What are you putting on that?”  She sounded like she was trying to not sound disgusted.  My roommate was confused, she thought she had used a peanut butter jar that had gone bad.  My roommate responded cautiously, “Its peanut butter and jelly.”  The Australian girl’s eyes lit up in understanding, “Oh, that is what a Peanut butter and Jelly sandwich is?!  I have always heard about them from American movies and TV shows but… where is the jelly?”  Again my roommate was confused but pointed to the jar of strawberry jelly in front of her, “right here?”  And once again the Australian girl seemed to be connecting the dots in her head.  “Oh we call that Jam in Australia.  Jelly is the gelatin desert.  Do you know what that is?”  I asked, “Like Jell-o?”  The girl had never heard of Jell-o but she seemed more interested in something else, “When ever I watched American movies and TV I was always confused!   I thought they used Jelly, as in our gelatin dessert, and put it in the sandwich.  It sounded so gross.  I thought Americans were so weird!  But then again that is really strange that you put jam and peanut butter together on bread.”  My roommate and I exchanged a look and looked at her own Vegemite creation.  Ever since then I have noticed that any time I make a PB&J sandwich people are always curiously looking over my shoulder and then scrunching their noses in confusion as if to say “what are you doing to that poor sandwich?”

It is bizarre to think that something Americans have all grown up with could be seen as weird and gross in another country.  What American decided to slap the two ingredients together in between two pieces of bread?  How come something as simple as that never spread across over seas?  How come Vegemite has never become a hit in American homes?  It’s little differences like this that make me smile to myself and make me grateful to be here.  Had I never left I would have never known that something as slight as an American sandwich would be seen as completely bizarre in another country.  It reminds me to look for more of these differences that run under the surface of the Australian culture.

Australia- The Gimpie Gimpie

I really shouldn’t be surprised that along with the world’s most dangerous sea creatures and land animals that Australia is also home to one of the most deadly plants in the world: The Gimpie Gimpie.  Do not let the pansy-sounding name fool you, this innocent looking plant seems like it would be something out of a sick horror film.

The plant is completely covered in small looking hairs.  Turns out they are silica-tipped thorn like tubes.  Brush up against it, even slightly, and you will endure the most excruciating pain that lasts… not for a couple of minutes or hours, not for a couple of days or weeks but a couple of months.  Three to six months to be exact, if you’re on the younger side of life.  Our rain forest tour guide mentioned that he once met an elderly gentleman who had accidentally brushed up against it and dealt with The Gimpie Gimpie pain for ten years.

So of course, I was morbidly fascinated and needed to know what exactly this plant did.  I was informed that in coming into contact with it releases the silica-tipped thorns into your skin. And there is no way to get them out. People have attempted to use depilation wax to remove the thorns, and although it can sometimes work, there is no cure for the pain and no way to thoroughly remove all the needles.  So this means you have to wait until the thorns slowly and very painfully break down into your skin while your body fights it out of your system.

Turns out that American soldiers are well acquainted with the plant.  Apparently in the past, Australian soldiers had a distinct disliking for American soldiers as they charmed away all the Australian women.  In retaliation, Australian soldiers would sneak into the American soldier’s camp and switch the plain plant leaves (used as toilet paper at the time) with Gimpie Gimpie leaves.  Needless to say, after this happened verbally charming women was as far as those soldiers could get with the Australian women.

I thought this was the worst of the plant.  Turns out that is just the beginning.  If you’re unfortunate enough to be around the plant when it is shaken roughly, you will be dead with in a few moments by suffocation.  What do you suffocate from?  Your  own blood.  Apparently the plant releases some kind of chemical into the air which, if inhaled by humans, will cause the lungs to start violently bleeding.

The only way to completely handle this plant is with full bio-hazard suits.  And in fact that is actually what is used when attempting to clear patches out of the rain forest or to check rain forests after fires.

How to look out for it?  The deliciously-tasting completely harmless bright red little berries that hang from it.  Of course.  What is pleasure without a little pain?


Australia- Sticky Date Pudding

If you want a taste of Australia this little desert has it all.  The name may not sound appetizing and from afar it might not look all that special but if you a venture a taste I guarantee you will end up licking the bowl clean.  I am not entirely sure why its called “pudding” as there is nothing pudding-y about it.  But whether a fan of dates or not the mouth-watering cake is a sure treat for the pallet.  And if you’re really keen for something super sweet, add hot butterscotch syrup and scoop of vanilla ice cream (the real Aussie way to eat it).  Any night the kitchen makes sticky date pudding it is wiped clean from the pans, crumbs and all.  Needless to say, it is most definitely worth a try!

If you want to tease your taste buds here is what it looks like and how it is made:

Australia- Postal Services

This post will serve merely as a warning to those who are thinking of sending packages to loved ones in Australia.  I have been waiting for weeks for a very thoughtful Easter package from my aunt and when I finally received it I could not have been more disappointed.  Not only did the package arrive more than a week after she had intended for it to arrive but it also arrived empty.  In fact, what I received was an envelope from the Australian postal service which held the empty packaging from aunt’s gift and a letter.  The letter only said that package had arrived from overseas “damaged and torn and with the contents removed.”  I hesitate to a point a finger at the American postal system though, from where the package was sent, because I have now spoken with a few other exchange students who have had the same problem with empty packages arriving to them in Australia.

What I do not even understand is there was nothing valuable in the package or at least it only contained something of value to me- a package sent with love from my family whom I miss.  It was only some American candy and an Easter card.  How very soul-less of some one to eat some one else’s Easter candy!  For all they knew I could have been a hopeful seven-year old girl waiting endlessly for my little Easter package to arrive.

So just a fair warning- be mindful of what you are mailing and use a lot of packing tape all over the package if you do decide to mail something; it will make it infinitely harder for some one to subtly slit it open.