Before moving to the Netherlands on exchange, I think the longest I’d spent without speaking face-to-face with a fellow Australian was around 2 weeks. However, at this point in time, it’s been approximately 5 months. And it’s bloody bizarre.
A bad thing? No, not at all. It’s actually somewhat refreshing to be immersed in other cultures and nationalities, whilst rather lacking in my own. I have absolutely no complaints about being the token Aussie on campus; however, it has really made me think: what does it mean to be Australian? Funny accent aside, we have a number of qualities that make us stand out from the international crowd as coming from the Land Down Under. Here’s what being an Aussie abroad has made me realise about our ochre nation:
To be Australian is to be friendly to absolutely everybody. Love someone or hate them we’ll always greet them with a smile, ask them how they’re doing, and probably even buy them a beer. This results in a lot of feigned friendships, but hey, at least we’re keeping people happy.
To be Australian is to say yes. Yes to new mates, yes to Vegemite chocolate, yes to working hard (but playing harder). Sometimes I wonder if we’re simply too lazy to say no. Yes to spontaneous holidays, yes to helping strangers in the street, and yes to spending our last $10 at happy hour. Which leads me to my next realisation…
To be Australian is to drink. A lot. It’s an integral part of our culture to not only drink at every given opportunity, but to drink in excess. If your weekend doesn’t involve a beer bong, it’s hardly a weekend at all. This isn’t so much of a problem when you’re actually in Australia; however, when surrounded by conservative foreigners you quickly realise that the fact you just downed 5 beers in 5 minutes is kinda bloody ridiculous.
To be Australian is to be a sports nut. Watch it, play it, use it as an excuse to drink, whatever – you love it. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie? Oi Oi Oi!
To be Australian is to live for the moment. This isn’t necessarily a good thing; we act without thinking of consequence, and are often self-destructive in the process. But on the flipside, we seize the day. Australians aren’t afraid to ditch work to spend an afternoon in the sunshine, or skip studying to hang out with an old friend. We live to find pleasure in the small things.
To be Australian is to be open-minded. You wanna swim in shark infested territory? Sure! You’re feeding me a poached rabbit’s a-hole? I’ll eat it! You’re from New Zealand? Let’s party. Carpe-freaking-diem.
To be Australian is to be proud. Really, really proud. We adore the land we come from, and aren’t ashamed to tell anybody who’ll listen. We often bitch and moan about wanting to leave the lucky country, yet once we step foot off Australian soil we can only sing its praises. Our eyes light up when we describe our sunburnt country, our land of sweeping plains; we think of ice-cold beers in the blazing sun, Triple J on lazy summer days and giant schnitties at our local pub. We remember our favourite café and its cute barista, smiling at strangers in the street and knowing you’ll bump into at least one person you know whenever you pop down to the shops. We remember the absolute beauty of our great land, and we remember that there’s no place in the world we’d rather call home.
It’s been an odd few months without that quirky Aussie twang in my ear, and I’ll be perfectly honest – I can’t wait to hear it again. Being the only Australian for all these months has been a blast, but there’s abso-bloody-lutely no doubt about it: I still call Australia home.
Words by Madeleine Dunne