Travel + Life Abroad, Travel: Australia, Travel: Germany
Ask an Australian
As an Australian living in Germany, I am relatively exotic, or at least worthy of intense questioning because my lifestyle and culture perhaps isn’t as known as my fellow English speakers, the Brits and the Americans. Despite our best (and sometimes questionable) efforts, Australia as a country and culture, retains an element of mystery when it comes to the global stage. That, or everyone just assumes we’re some sort of hybrid of Crocodile Dundee and Steve Irwin and that surfing runs in our blood.
It helps that, for many, I am the resident token Australian. There aren’t too many Australians around, particularly not in the places I’ve lived. I had an Aussie friend in Münster, and knew of a few Erasmus students floating around. I heard of one or two country-fellows in Kiel, but only ever met one (fate threw us together at a cafe. He had barely uttered the ‘worries’ part of the phrase, before I’d said, ‘Australian?’).
Down here in Weiden, I am not entirely sure if there’s an Australian out there. There may be. Hello?
The questions I get asked are generally borne of genuine curiosity. Some foray into more rigorous questioning for specific purposes, like one of the nurses I had when I was in hospital once. He kept slipping in to ostensibly check my IV drip, but really to lean forward and pepper me with whispered questions regarding his sister’s visa possibilities, now that she had broken up with her de-facto partner and was in Australia, visa-less. But for the most part, people simply want to know how we do things down under.
I thought I would compile some of the more common ones – along with a few of my more arbitrary favourites – for your enjoyment. A lot of them are about animals that can kill you. I have answered them to the best of my ability.
Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia?
We’ve been known to.
How can you celebrate Christmas when it’s warm?
Do you still have Aborigines?
Are they in the Outback.
Some Aborigines do live there, yes.
Are Aborigines still running around the streets of Sydney?
Not sure how to handle that one.
Have you ever seen a shark/crocodile/snake/large spider?
Yes. Although, not a shark … in the wild.
Have you ever been bitten by a snake/large spider?
Will you definitely die if you get bitten by a snake/large spider?
Not definitely. Perhaps. Depends how good you are with a tourniquet and how close you are to a hospital.
How many snakes and spiders can actually kill you?
Oh, loads. Here is some useful information on surviving life in Australia.
Can I survive a shark attack?
I believe so.
What if I lie very still in the water – will it still attack?
Not entirely sure. Probably. It isn’t a bear, I don’t think playing dead makes it go away – fundamentally, I think it wants to eat you.
Is it true about sharks smelling blood? If I get attacked, will another shark come?
I think so, and possibly, if there is one in the area.
How will I know if there is a shark in the water? Will someone tell me?
Theoretically, yes. The beach will be closed. Do not swim in Australian beaches that are unpatrolled and/or closed. End of.
And for God’s sake, if you are in the northern half of the country, and there is a body of water – a dam, a river, an estuary – probably best not to swim in it. It may contain a crocodile.
Is it possible to meet a shark and a crocodile in the ocean?
Apparently, theoretically, yes it is (I have googled extensively, because originally I said ‘no’.) But you would have to be the single most luckless soul on the planet. Here’s a wonderful Youtube video explaining who would win in a shark vs croc battle.
Do you have doner kebabs in Australia?
Yes. In fact, we have a large Middle Eastern population, and that part of the world is where the kebab originally comes from. Yes, even the kebab here in Germany, which is apparently Turkish (but not). But we don’t put pickled cabbage on ours.
What kind of food do Australians eat?
Do you eat Strauss in Australia?
A Strauss is an ostrich. We don’t have ostriches. Do you mean emu?
I believe you can eat emu meat if you really want to, but your average Australian doesn’t.
Sure. I don’t think I ever have, but you absolutely can. In fact, we should eat more of it, but we don’t.
What is it like, driving in Australia?
Do you even have snow in Australia? Do you have a mountain?
Yes and yes. We are quite a big country (and a small continent) so it’s a relatively safe bet there’ll be a mountain in there somewhere. This article may be of interest to you.
Not really a question, but a statement alleged as fact – ‘In Australia, they don’t really speak English.’
No, we speak an unknown, unstudied, mystery language that no one has ever been able to understand. We have no official language, particularly not in schools, where we just let loose with whatever language we feel suits the occasion.
Did Australia fight in WW1 and WW2?
Yes and yes.
Well, us. And England.
Oh okay. Are you really all from British criminals?
No. Some of us are. I am, on one side. A quarter of our population were actually born overseas.
So the British really put criminals on boats and sent them to Australia?
They did indeed. Not all were criminals, though, and some barely (you know, just petty bread thieves).
So you’re all criminals.
Are you more like Americans or the British?
Excellent question. I’m going to say we’re quite like Australians with a few things in common with those guys.
nickiletts13 January, 2014 at 9:31 am
This is spot on! When we first arrived here (in Mainz), we were hit with all the questions about wildlife and dangerous animals. They can’t seem to fathom that in Melbourne we don’t see crocodiles and kangaroos wandering around the streets. And they were disgusted when we explained how good kangaroo steak is!
Liv13 January, 2014 at 10:14 am
The disappointment that I have never encountered a shark, is often palpable. And it is so dangerous to ask an Aussie about poisonous animals, we LOVE answering those questions. Also, explaining the outback always gets confusing – where it is, how big it is, how we use the term ‘the outback’. It’s the outback most of them are the most interested in!
Tatiana Barry13 January, 2014 at 9:32 am
Thank you so much! I can’t stop laughing after your post:)) I have dual nationality (Russian/British) and use to live in UK and Germany, now in Cyprus. You could only imagine what sort of questions I had to answer during all these years living abroad:)) Brilliant writing; I really enjoyed it!
Liv13 January, 2014 at 9:48 am
Oh God, you have four or five countries worth of mad questions, love it!
Lutz Mowinski13 January, 2014 at 9:56 am
This is a truly fun read, and I can imagine what it’s like getting bombarded with questions, I had a lot of that when I made contact with people from around the world, albeit only digitally 😀
Though I imagine I will get the same sort of questions should I ever leave Europe to travel 😉
Liv13 January, 2014 at 10:15 am
Oh definitely – lots of questions about sausages and beer and Oktoberfest and lederhosen, trust me!
Frau Dietz13 January, 2014 at 10:46 am
I’m English, so most of the questions I get asked are about the Royal Bloody Family, apart from when I got pregnant at the beginning of last year, when suddenly the most frequently asked question I got – and I’m not even joking – was, “Was it planned?”
Liv13 January, 2014 at 11:33 am
Hahahaha, nothing like the old direct question that cuts through all your social conditioning. Eg: ‘how much do you earn?’
Isa13 January, 2014 at 5:42 pm
Spot on! I was brought up to not talk about money. Sitting in a training course several years ago, my neighbour asked me if he could look at my slip. I was quite shocked! Ok, I said, thinking, OMG what the hell. So, he snatches it off me. “You’re earning more than I am” and off he marches, together with my wage slip, to complain to HR! I was earning three euros more than him per month! hahahaha
Isa13 January, 2014 at 5:43 pm
Whoops, I meant wage slip, of course, not slip! ha. I don’t wear slips.
Liv13 January, 2014 at 7:09 pm
I always want to die/go bright red when people ask me how much I earn, or start discussing their income. Just today in a class, I overheard a student asking another student, and blushed on his behalf.
I thought you were going to show him your slip and thought, ‘what a quaint word that should be brought back into fashion!’
Hemborgwife13 January, 2014 at 12:33 pm
It is quite funny the things people think of to say and ask! I often get asked about surfing and sharks as well since I am from California and receive the dirtiest looks when I say I have never been surfing which I never understand!
Liv13 January, 2014 at 4:22 pm
I can imagine you’d also get loads of questions about celebrities and Hollywood and any movies or TV shows set in California, we all consume so voraciously.
Hemborgwife14 January, 2014 at 11:39 am
haha yes when the show The OC was popular I always got asked why I would leave a place like that and I was like well believe me if my parents had a huge house right on the beach I would be there but they do not!
flythesevenseas13 January, 2014 at 2:44 pm
Somehow having christmas in the summer is unfathomable – I always get that one.
After a conference call last week (held in German) I was asked to speak in english – just to hear if I had one of those ‘funny Australian accents’. That was a new one.
Sadly for me, a few friends back home said I have picked up a german ‘twang’ to my accent – uh oh!
Liv13 January, 2014 at 4:22 pm
Süüüüß. I often get asked if I have a typical Australian accent. I don’t think I do, particularly, which is quite disappointing. I also get asked a lot of questions, or meet some doubt, over pronunciation etc, in the classroom. I am always the first to show how pronunciations will differ country to country, but the other week my students were CERTAIN that Americans pronounce ‘unleaded’ as ‘unleeded’. As an Australian, I had no authority.
Lutz Mowinski13 January, 2014 at 5:54 pm
Well, I can tell you that all the americans I know pronounce unleaded normally, no one has ever said unleeded 😀
Tim14 January, 2014 at 5:17 am
In the cities the Australien accent isn’t that special to be honest, easy to understand, but I’ve already talked to some farmers, impossible to understand sometimes! 😉
I think that’s what everyone is talking about when they ask you about your accent^^
Liv14 January, 2014 at 9:59 am
I agree. Our accent is either REALLY Australian, not quite neutral. And most people want to hear the REALLY Australian one!
Gaby13 January, 2014 at 3:11 pm
My favorite: when men from other countries ask if American college students really do have wild parties all the time like they’ve seen in American Pie and other movies. Their disappointment when they learn that I am in fact not a reckless sorority girl is always enjoyable.
Liv13 January, 2014 at 4:19 pm
How many people ask you about those red cups! We have all been raised on a steady diet of American teen films – we know what you’re like!
Julia W13 January, 2014 at 5:17 pm
Not to forget the occasional “Doesn’t the water drain the other way round in Australia?”. Excellent post! If you keep adding to it it might turn into a sequel to your book.
Liv13 January, 2014 at 7:09 pm
Yes! Could add in general things people say to Australians too, like ‘call that a knife? THIS is a knife.’
Nathalie14 January, 2014 at 12:48 am
That’s so funny and I can’t believe people actually say that out loud 🙂 I need to start writing them down cause I keep forgetting some of the ones I’ve been asked. Although… admittedly no one really knows much about Belgium except for the beer, chocolate and waffles 😉
Liv14 January, 2014 at 10:00 am
Isa14 January, 2014 at 11:51 pm
What’s your stance on this: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/14/speaking-like-an-aussie-insecure-australian-upward-inflection
Although, perhaps the ‘question’ doesn’t even warrant reflection?
Anna16 January, 2014 at 3:11 am
great post. We do have Ostrich farms – was quite a trend about 10 years ago. … probably not so many farms now. I think Deer farming for venison was more successful.
Kylie16 January, 2014 at 10:23 pm
Whenever I get asked about the poisonous animals I
tell the story about when my uncle was bitten by a tiger snake that was curled up in his garage. He felt a slight scratch, and didn’t notice the fang marks until he was back inside. Thankfully he was fine, but it makes a good story!
I also got asked once if we have electricity in Australia……??!
Liv17 January, 2014 at 10:34 am
Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa … no, we burn enormous amounts of candles.
Isa22 March, 2014 at 9:43 am
Read this article today and thought I’d ask your views, as an Australian: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/21/john-pilger-indigenous-australian-families
Hermes8 March, 2015 at 3:22 am
Do boomerangs really come back? I had one as a kid and it never worked. I think you Aussies are just pulling our leg, like your stories about drop bears.
Liv8 March, 2015 at 8:45 pm
Hahahahaha. Look, yes they do. Can I throw one? No.