If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may have read my post last year about Australia Day. From it, you may have discerned that I’m not a fan of this particular day of “celebration”.
For any readers who are unfamiliar with the history of the occasion, Australia Day commemorates the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships on the shores of my country. So basically, it’s the day that Britain laid claim to the great southern land.
The day remains a point of contention with our Aboriginal population – a race of people who had their world turn upside down from that day onwards. They refer to it as “Invasion Day” and I can’t say I really blame them.
The overriding issue I have with Australia Day is that it is generally a celebration of the more vulgar aspects of our culture. It’s a day when people tend to embrace their “bogan” tendencies, drinking until they pass out/vomit – whichever happens to come first. People are crude. They’re often racist – and I know this having been on the receiving end of it. I was pretty confused a few years ago to be told to “go back to where (I) come from”, purely because I happen to have honey-brown skin (had these people not heard of the term ‘sun-bronzed Aussie?!)’.
Living on the other side of the world now, I spend a lot of time thinking about what it means to be Australia. And I can tell you – for me it goes a lot further than a love of BBQ’d meats, a fondness for rubber footwear, a heartfelt appreciation of ACDC and an inability to vote in a Prime Minister who will last a full term.
I feel more Australian now, after almost two years living as an expat, than I ever have before in my life.
Although I’m not in a hurry to move back to Australia, I do admire it from afar. So, I want to mark this Australia Day by waxing lyrical about my native country and telling you exactly why I am (finally) proud to consider myself Australian.
1. It’s the most geographically beautiful country in the world
Okay, okay – I’ll admit bias on this one. But, come on. Australia has one of the most diverse landscapes in the world and pretty much every inch of it is bloody gorgeous. From the outback, to the beaches, rain forests and reefs, the cities and the sticks – you’ll be hard pressed to find a prettier setting than that of the Land Down Under.
2. Travel is a priority
I don’t really know how or why, but travel is ingrained into Australians from a young age. My youth was punctuated by trips up north to Queensland and my home state of New South Wales. As an adult, I suffer from an insatiable case of “itchy knee syndrome”, a temporary ailment being to make regular trips abroad. All my friends travel overseas at least once a year, not to mention the jaunts they make around the country. Even my parents have deemed themselves to be “Grey(ish) Nomads” and have bought a caravan.
There’s something in the water in Oz, and to all appearances, the disease is happily incurable.
3. You can’t beat Aussie beach culture
I love everything about the beach, apart from perhaps the pressure to look good in a bikini!
There’s nothing like spreading a towel down across white sand, a good book in one hand, a block of sunscreen in the other (remember to slip, slop, slap!) and knowing you have endless hours of Vitamin D absorption in front of you.
Bonus points if you manage to fit ice cream in at some point in your afternoon.
4. We’re sooooooo laid back, it’s a little bit ridiculous
Although I think this aspect of our culture is slowly changing (thanks to the hustle and bustle of the modern world), the majority of Australians tend to be extremely laid back. “She’ll be right” remains our national catchphrase and I like our tendency to not sweat the small stuff (which unfortunately, is a trait that I lack. Oh well. No worries, mate).
5. The women are brazen – the men are generous
My female friends are strong, independent and gorgeous women, who on the whole, will not take crap from anyone.
Then men I know are both handsome and generous to a ‘T’ – chivalry is yet to completely die out in Oz.
I equally admire and am grateful for our strong work ethic. Australians (and New Zealanders) are known as being notoriously hard workers in the mother country across several industries, which is a pretty handy drawcard to have up your sleeve when you’re in desperate need of a job!
6. The government may not see the importance of the arts, but the people do
Although our government fail to recognise the importance of both the arts and science in the community, the public have thankfully refused to follow suit. What is life, without colour and logic? Fairly meaningless, I think.
Becoming an artist in Australia is no easy feat, but those who come out victorious are a talented lot indeed. Our music industry is a force to be reckoned with, we manage to continue to produce world class designers, theatre flourishes and many actors have managed to defeat the odds to become household names (although they have to sadly leave the country to do so).
7. We have world class and affordable education
I look at the Ivy League colleges in the US and Oxbridge in the UK and I feel so grateful for having got a top class education at my local university. I had a great time, learned a lot, met so many like-minded people and got my first industry job before I’d even graduated. The cost of doing so hardly broke the bank.
Everyone has a right to an education, something that has long been recognised in my home country. And goodness, I hope it stays that way.
8. Tall Poppy Syndrome
For those who don’t know, Tall Poppy Syndrome is Australian slang that refers to a tendency to cut down people who go on massive ego trips. Some people don’t like it, citing it as mere jealousy towards those who achieve success. Eh, I think it’s far more innocent than that.
Australian’s are largely self deprecating and will happily take the piss out of themselves, before they turn on anyone else. This is a case of keeping check of people who get a little bit too big for their britches.
9. We know how to rustle up some good grub
I miss the food in Australia more than anything else. Fresh fruit and vegetables. Homegrown meat. Fish caught off our shores. Not only that, but most restaurants know what they are doing when it comes to food and then some. If you know where to go, eating out in Sydney or Melbourne ends up being cheaper than cooking all your own meals.
10. We’re more accepting than the world thinks we are
“Are Australians really racist?” I get asked world over. Well, yeah. There’s a lot of racism and xenophobia in Australia, bred from a fear of the unknown. It’s a situation exacerbated by a government who have a closed borders policy – “Stop the Boats” was a catchphrase of our most recent election (2013).
We’re made of nicer stuff than our media would have the world believe. A large majority of Australians do not hold the same opinions of our government, which was demonstrated when the country came together last year for a candlelight vigil in support of Syrian asylum seekers.
There’s certainly a softer side to us. I hope one day the rest of the world gets to see it and appreciate it as much as I do.
Australia isn’t perfect – no country is. Yet, the pride I feel for my nation is the greatest present life as an expat has gifted me.
Regardless of the date, happy birthday Ozland and many happy returns.