Locals take the hi road

Article: Locals take the hi road, Herald Sun, April 26, 2008, Neil Sinclair

AFTER years of watching Neighbours, Crocodile Dundee and Home and Away there were things I expected when I arrived in Australia.

I was surprised to get to Melbourne on a rainy afternoon.

There have been explosions, kidnappings and people returning from the dead, but never has a drop of water fallen on to Ramsay St.

If I wanted grey clouds and drizzle I could have stayed in England. On my first visit to St Kilda beach, I didn’t see any waves or surfers, just a mixture of the fashionably dressed and the horrifically drunk.

And as for my road trip into the Outback . . . well there were no crocodile hunters, not any more. I think the crocs must have won that one.

After figuring out that TV had, in fact, lied to me, I started to look into my new life with a more open mind. My first real culture shock was through my girlfriend, a born-and-bred Melburnian.

When we went out she would say hi to people who were out and about. I asked her if she knew these people. She said “No, I’m just saying hello.” That’s not done where I’m from.

You don’t just walk up to a stranger and start a conversation. They’d probably nick your wallet. The ads over here take the no-nonsense Aussie approach. “Here’s a telly, she’s a beaut, pay cash, pay less.”

In England it’s much more manipulative than that, “Have you tried new baby wipes? No? You don’t have to try it; we just thought you cared about your children.”

When I found out that Australia was the land of the three-day weekend, I really began to appreciate the way of life over here. Yesterday was Anzac Day.

I knew more about the biscuit than I did about the day, so I did a bit of research.

I found out that it’s not only a day to remember all the soldiers who fought on the beaches of Gallipoli, it’s also a day to celebrate the forging of the Australian spirit and its love of abbreviations.

In World War I, the British officers thought the Anzacs wouldn’t be able to fight. They didn’t call their seniors sir: this meant they had no discipline.

This was proved wrong very quickly. The Australians also showed a disdain for the cruel punishments of the British. When an English soldier was found drunk, he would be tied to a wheel and left out all night.

The Australians would wait until the guy was alone and then cut him down, probably to get him drunk. This shows the best part of the Australian way of life: they want to help people out.

On my trip to the Outback, smoke would pour out of my car’s engine.

I’d be hundreds of kilometres away from the nearest town, alone and a little bit worried that the whole thing was about to give up on me.

I’d stop the car to give it a rest, and then open the bonnet to get some air to it, then stand there and stare blankly at the engine. Every time I did this an Aussie voice would drawl next to me, “Oh yeah, what you need to do there is nurse it along the back roads. Bring it in at 80k’s and you’ll be good for two towns yet.”

In country Australia every guy knows what you need to do to get your vehicle to where it needs to go.

If Australia had been involved in the space race, Apollo 13’s message of “Houston, we have a problem,” would have been answered by an Aussie drawl, “What you need to do there is nurse it round the moon’s orbit. Bring it in at 80k’s and you’ll be right for two planets yet.”

Neil Sinclair is a Melbourne comedian

Herald Sun April 26, 2008

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