Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Still Calling Australia Home

Photo - me on the phone to Kat whilst feeding some locals. They like the peanuts.

New Grumpy column attached. Wonder if it will ruffle any feathers.


It's a bit of a shock, this coming home thing. Not that I have a home to come back to, but I guess because of various bureaucratic rules I still call Australia home. And I'm not very comfortable with this for a number of reasons.

Firstly, that damned Australian accent. I hate it. I've spent the past six months hearing nothing but proper accents. My ears became completely accustomed to hearing Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, German, Mexican, French, Czeck and even English and American accents. In America I heard black people talk to each other just like movie black people and they weren't even trying to be funny, and soon I just got used to it. I started thinking in whatever accent I was surrounded by... although one American guy, upon hearing that I was Australian, wanted to hear everything I knew about crocodiles, marsupials and The Great Barrier Reef because “he could listen to my accent all day long” – and I don't have a Goddamned accent. (Although once at a party in Turkey I did, due to a random bit of liquid a friend of a friend gave to me, develop a kind of generic euro accent. Amusing at first, it became tedious after the second day but I just couldn't stop it).

But the Australian accent. It disappeared from my ears. A few times I was mistaken for being British, but this has always happened. Perhaps because of my travels I became even less Australian- sounding. Whatever the case, as soon as I stepped on board my QANTAS flight home, I was shocked to actually hear the Australian accent the way foreigners must hear it. Far from having that slightly lisping, delicate way of talking that most flight attendants have, the QANTAS guys spoke like rool bloody blokes mate. Just like when I first heard a black guy call his friend a mofo, I thought these guy must be joking. Surely no one really talks in such a broad, nasally, avuncular drawl. But as the plane slipped at a blinding speed over the Pacific, I realised that I wasn't Over There any more, and that sadly, yes, we really do sound like that. Crikey.

My ears have by now acclimatised, but there are some things it is taking longer to get used to. Keen to postpone reality for as long as possible, I spent some time on the Southern Victorian coast, and I felt really sorry for International travellers almost as much as I felt sorry for myself. On other coasts the seafood was fresh and plentiful, plucked straight from the sea and served as nature intended or lovingly shaped into the most aromatic bouillabaisse or rich chowder, but here in Oz? Burger joints, cafes, local Chinese - AND everything closes so early. I am now part Spaniard, Goddamn it, and dinner happens alfresco some time after 10pm!

And don't get me started on the clothing... too late – I've already started me on the clothing. Why do none of you Australians – males especially – make the slightest effort in the dress department? Just as I was hearing the Australian accent with foreign ears, here I was seeing the Australian fashion aesthetic with foreign eyes. Guys – thongs, shorts and an O'Neil T shirt is just wrong to go out to dinner in, even if it is the local Chinese. Hairy legs and bare feet do not belong in a restaurant.

Don't get me wrong – I have been to the opposite end of the spectrum to the coast of Victoria with a mercifully brief visit to St Tropez (travel tip re St Tropez: don't bother unless it's a port-side shopping centre for the mega wealthy you're looking for), and things can go too far. But for Goddsake and the mercy of my international sensibilities, make an effort!

So here I am, back in a country I reluctantly call home. It's been a good round the world trip. It's opened my eyes and ears and allowed me to see and hear what we're really like. Either that or it's turned me into a stuck-up wanker. Beauty.

Grumpy is Lee Bemrose, International Man Of Wankery and freelance writer. Tell him he's a wanker at leebemrose@hotmail.com


Pure Gin! said...

I see no one's hating on you yet, Lee.

Lee said...

(That's because hardly anyone reads this blog).

Margarita Milonguita said...

I know exactly what you mean. After living in the States and Canada for year, the accent was nails down a chalkboard. The male Aussie uniform of Ed Hardy tshirt,jeans/shorts and thongs is just wrong. Or that cabana boy look-WTF is THAT all about? Pedal pushers and slip on shoes with elastic sides? If that makes me a stuck up wanker then slap that badge on me now...

Guyana-Gyal said...

As an outsider looking on, I have to say, I like the laid-back, easy style of the Aussies. I like the edgy style of Londoners. I like the way Caribbean women get all dolled up just to go out on the road. I like each different style of each place.