Myths are strange things. They can live in and among a culture for generations without ever being questioned. They can also be quite powerful, generating tourism and interest in a nation, a society, or even a community that may not otherwise have existed. Australia has its own set of myths that have received a fair bit off press over the years. Here’s five that have gained attention, not to mention a fair share of comment among the people who live here.
Shrimp on the BBQ
A very large advertising campaign in the mid 1980’s by a certain Australian personality promoting the country led to this activity being seen as a favorite Aussie pastime. In fact, back then there were very few people who even knew what a shrimp was. To be quite honest I had seen a lot of things on a BBQ but a shrimp was rarely one of them.
“I think the power of suggestion of the advertising was ultimately responsible for Australian even considering putting shrimp on the BBQ,” says one self-proclaimed griller extraordinaire.
Nowadays, it may be more common to grill prawns (what we actually call the little critters), but
I think it’s more likely that a typical Australian would throw just about anything on the BBQ.
Kangaroos Jump Down the Streets
We tend to build housing on their turf, so to see a bush kangaroo roaming around could be considered plausible, but this is one of those things that, again, slowly grew from tourism. More likely, to be seen in rural areas rather than metropolitan or suburbia, no one would be more surprised than me to see a kangaroo hopping past the local 7 Eleven.
If this is a deal breaker for your planned visit to Oz, take a trip to a rural area such as the Hunter Valley in New South Wales or the Northern Territory — you will see plenty of them. Actually, kangaroos are considered to be a pest here, with many rural communities deeming them vermin. Maybe toss them on the BBQ, their meat is actually quite good.
Koalas Are Cute and Cuddly
Keeping with the native Australian marsupial theme, I think koalas are possibly the most photographed animal in this country. Elusive in the wild, they are more fondly known as the amicable little fur balls that many people seek to cuddle. Tame and well fed in wildlife parks, they are clearly a beautiful creature. Though I would strongly advise not attempting to have such contact if seen in their native bushland home, however. Extremely territorial, koalas have powerful large and sharp claws along with equally sharp teeth that will efficiently relocate a section of your face, if given the chance.
They, of course, won’t seek to attack randomly, but they are a wild animal, after all. Don’t let the fluffy fur fool you.
We all Say G’day Mate
The Australian vernacular is unique to say the least. There are a few colloquialisms that are exclusively our own, many of which I am certain were created to confuse and baffle. One in particular is the G’day mate. Contrary to popular belief, not all Aussie extend this greeting. If fact, I might hear it once or twice a year, at best.
“G’day is more of a male greeting,” says one observer. “It is rare for a female to say G’day, and G’day mate uttered by a female would be almost unheard of.”
“Mate” on its own is more commonly used as a greeting and a general descriptor, and seldom prefaced with G’day. In fact, Australians have taken to using the American “Hi” as an everyday greeting.
These original Australian greetings are also strongly based on demographics, and are sometimes more common in rural or country areas of the nation.
If You Swim in Our Oceans, You Will be Attacked By A Shark
“Sharks get a lot of bad press,” says a typical beach-goer. “After all, when we are in the ocean we are in their environment,” he adds. “They deserve a healthy respect.”
There is, of course, a large difference in statistics of fatal attacks and those of minor encounters. Not that I’m downplaying the seriousness of any kind of attack, but generally sharks don’t have an intention to kill. They are territorial, and the innocent swimmer can be often mistaken for a food source. The best you can do is hope that you don’t look like a seal.
But if it is comfort you’re wanting, I’m not sure I can provide that. The summer months bring warmer waters, very attractive to sharks. Attacks do happen; it’s a part of our ocean and beach lifestyle. Personally, I’d be more concerned about the Northern Territory and north Queensland crocodile. They are land and water based!
You can run but you can’t hide.
So there you have it. A few things you may not have known (or not wanted to know) about Australia. Whether true, false, or exaggerated, myths can create a certain imagery imprinted on people’s minds and cause a concept of a country’s history and customs to be artificially created. Sometimes, however, the reality is quite different.