USA Travel: What an Aussie Should Expect
I was seated with a predominantly Australian tour group around a rare table in the Savannah Smiles Duelling Pianos. This warehouse-turned-piano bar in Georgia, USA wrote messages up from their patrons on the two mirrors placed behind their pianos. Asserting our patriotic duty, we wrote up “Aussies in the house. Have you been Down Under?”
And then, a rare phenomenon occurred. The whole bar seemed to flock to our table. Awestruck men sporting camo and trucker caps clambered over each other for the chance to speak to the elusive Aussies. Their eyes lit up at the twang of our accent; a slight and faintly confused grin appeared on their lips when we used some slang. They were full of questions about our pet kangaroos or shrimps on the barbie. And we were all too happy to oblige and satisfy their curiosity. Personally, I had never felt more interesting.
Such is the plight of an Aussie in the United States. It was easy to begin talking to locals. Oftentimes they were more interested in how we said things than what we actually said. Or, they were too enamoured and credulous to question our ‘very genuine’ warnings about drop bears and giant spiders. We simultaneously felt like a zoo animals and celebrities.
Oftentimes they were more interested in how we said things than what we actually said.
As time went on, I felt my Aussie-isms grow; my accent became more ochre, my stories of Aussie life even felt dubious to me. I can safely say that I left the US having spread plenty of entertaining ‘facts’ about the Australian lifestyle and fauna to ensure that we crocodile-wielding, outback-living citizens continue to be well represented overseas.
It never failed to baffle me, though the outrageous curiosity about our land down under across the US. The people I met were always full of questions, each so different from another. I started to lose track of the stories I’d been spinning – was my kangaroo’s name Joey or Skippy? Does he think I live on Ramsay St or Summer Bay?
Despite our oversaturation of American popular culture, I too have a solid and yet still unproved grasp of the stereotypical American. And thus remain three key questions I never got to ask them.
USA Travel: What an Aussie Should Expect
1. Do you know where Australia is?
I loved exchanging stories with my fellow Aussies about the crazy things Americans would ask us about our backwards, upside-down, inside-out country. They ranged from the basic toilet flush direction questions, to incredulous ones about the apparent “war zone” in Australia. I admit that we indulged the exoticism; once, spending a good five minutes speaking jibberish to each other, pretending it was our native Australian language. But no, Australia isn’t still mourning Steve Irwin’s death. Although it’s still fresh in Americans’ memories, it has been almost ten years and we, as a nation, have recovered.
USA Travel: What an Aussie Should Expect.
2. Do those lines really work?
If my over-saturation of American popular culture was anything to go by, I expected men with smooth pickup lines and forward moves. And yet I was still unprepared when once, a ‘friend’ bluntly asked me, “Are we going to make out now?” I almost gave him a slow clap for his courage and, laughing in disbelief I had to ask if it was distinctively American and successful approach. He seamlessly replied, “Why don’t we find out?”
The audacity of these lines was incredible and yet so enjoyable, and yet, not successful.
3. Can we be friends?
Despite their incredible forwardness in chatting girls up, they also could take denial with a shrug and still be willing to chat amicably. Perhaps I was particularly spoiled by my time in the Midwest, but guys generally exuded the inexplicable chivalry; cars always giving way to passengers and even apologising when you were at fault for crossing the road blindly. All across the States, we were greeted with inextricable hospitality; from the odd guy in a bar to families who hosted us lost souls for the holidays.
Quick, unexpected note I feel I should acknowledge: Americans prefer to exchange phone numbers and the occasional email address over the mutual Facebook add. Perhaps it’s to rightly avoid the Facebook stalking in which people like me would most definitely indulge.
An Aussie out of her natural habitat is a rare and exciting breed. While I became exceedingly more comfortable approaching people and making conversation, it helped that Americans were always willing to indulge. I left with a host of good friends and fun memories; and I only hope I left a fair shake of the Aussie sauce bottle…mayte.
USA Travel: What an Aussie Should Expect photo by Tiff Ng.