When I lived in Australia, I found it tough trying to figure out what it meant to be Australian. After spending a few months in Spain (2 last year and 1 this year so far), I’ve discovered a few things pretty quickly.
Why do Australians do what they do? In particular, how on earth are we so easy going with everything? I think I’ve worked out at least one reason why… it’s pretty obvious. It’s a young country, culturally and socially.
Just to be clear… I’m talking about Australian’s that have arrived in 1788, not its true owners. That’s a topic I’m too unfamiliar with to give a meaningful sentence about, other than that when you do look into the way they lived before white-man, it is truly interesting. Allow me to digress…
Obviously, traditions and customs take a long time to develop. It takes many generations of families creating, sharing and refining their day to day lives until their grandchildren can live with the imprint of their “culture” into their veins. But when I thought about culture, I realised that it is primarily made up of learned habits – habits that are acted out without too much question, because well, that’s just how it’s been done. Why do the Spanish do what they do? Cook the foods they do? Have that nice little siesta after lunch? I am definitely no anthropologist, and there are certainly a lot more aspects to culture, but hear me out…
I think that because Australia is relatively young and has grown to become a developed country at such a fast pace, it has only really had time for 6 or 7 generations of families to establish their Australian identity and with it, their culture – or learned habits. For the 235 years we’ve been around though, we can’t say that we’ve started building our own culture from scratch on day one. For the first few decades of early European settlement the only cultures in existence were those of a conglomeration of European countries and Americans, most likely set in their ways. Our cultural pioneers were not just these men and women, but more-so the prisoners and slaves sent here for crimes they had committed. These people really did start from scratch and I would bet that at least a few of our idiosyncrasies originated from these people. Couple these factors with the rapid inception of multiculturalism and the numerous social movements, it’s no surprise we don’t have as much cultural history as other countries. Of course I’m not saying that we don’t have any, we actually have a lot of history, good and bad. But compared with other countries, our cultural depth, or the origins of why we do things is not as pronounced. So, is there a problem with that?
No! I don’t think so. Although we might not have the number of cultural festivities, town-unique annual parties, myths and legends and traditional clothes/recipes that other countries might have, but we definitely still do have them. And it’s nice to think that, instead of being tied to a particular identity, we’re actually free to be who we want to be, go where we want to go, believe in what we want to believe, and wear and cook what we want wear a cook. I don’t think this is a bad thing at all. There are two sides to the coin, and on one side, I believe that we’re blessed.
“Australians will never acquire a national identity until individual Australians acquire identities of their own.” Patrick White – author
We might have been stereotyped by the outside world as a singlet and thong wearing, beer drinking, barbequing, surfing, kangaroo riding, bush dwelling rough and dirty group of people, but we know that not the majority of us, and at any moment we can break the expectations that people have of us. We can choose to be easy-going because we don’t have a society pressing us to do and be things that we might not want to be.
So to all Australians abroad (and those living at home), remember that your homeland is one of the most unique places of all. It’s the freest and most beautiful and dynamic place in the world. We have one of the biggest backyards in the world, there for all of us to enjoy. We have beautiful cities that aren’t laden with clouds of fog and congestion. We should all enjoy it while we can because nobody knows what might happen to it in 50 – 100 years.
My fellow Aussies back home, throw a shrimp on the barby for me!
“We are not so much as disillusioned but illusion free” – Miranda Devine – journalist
- Why Australians need to have cultural awareness lessons about Australia (redearthbluesky.wordpress.com)