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When legendary Australian cricketer Dennis Lillee met Queen Elizabeth in 1977, the moustachioed fast bowler greeted Her Majesty with a “G’day, how ya goin’?” That story pretty much sums up everything you need to know about Australia’s deeply entrenched sense of egalitarianism, shaking off the Motherland’s stuffy class system to build a society that promises to give everyone a ‘fair go’ no matter where they live or how fat their wallet is.
The Aussie sense of humour is — to use an ancient Australian proverb — as dry as a dead dingo’s donger. Laconic, irreverent and self-deprecating — or as Aussies so delicately put it, taking the piss, either out of yourself or each other. And nothing puts you at ease with your new mates like a good old piss-take.
There are a few cringeworthy stereotypes that Australians try to distance themselves from, but the ubiquitous use of the term “G’day, mate” cannot be denied. It’s acceptable to address everyone — from your boss to the bloke pouring your after-work schooner — by the term ‘mate’, which is probably that egalitarian streak coming out.
There’s another four-letter word — one that starts with the third letter of the alphabet and is far too profane for publication — that many Australians consider an even warmer term of endearment than ‘mate’. Australians’ love of an expletive reflects their deep-seated aversion to anything formal… remember the cricketer and the Queen?
Nowhere is this informal language more apparent than in the veritable dictionary of Australian slang words that pepper everyday speech. Grog, servo, snag, bogan, gibber, barbie… huh? Don’t worry, follow this helpful guide to introduce yourself to Australia’s colourful lexicon. Fair dinkum.
After months of unedifying debate, Australians enthusiastically and resoundingly voted in favour of same-sex marriage last year — a long-awaited decision that came embarrassingly late for a country that is generally very LGBTQI-friendly. That will be on full display on Saturday 3 March at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, one of the biggest pride parades on the planet and a particularly special celebration in 2018 for the 40th anniversary of the event.
Australia’s relationship with race is far from perfect, but Australians are at their most friendly when they’re extending a warm welcome to recent arrivals. A quarter of the population were born overseas and another quarter have at least one parent born abroad, and you only need to walk down the street in a major city to hear dozens of languages being spoken and just as many cuisines on offer.
In Australia, shouting has nothing to do with raising your voice — it refers to buying a round of drinks, one of the friendliest things you can do. And don’t even think about skipping out on your shout — to borrow a line from John O’Grady’s celebrated novel They’re a Weird Mob, “In this country, if you want to keep out of trouble, you always return a shout… Bloody oath, it’s the custom. Your turn.”
Perhaps the only thing more egregious than dodging your shout is failing to wave to a car that lets you merge. Serving as a quick ‘Thanks, mate!’, the courtesy wave is one of a number of unwritten Australian road rules, including the single finger salute off the wheel to say g’day when you pass someone in the bush and the headlight flash to warn oncoming cars of nearby police.
Australia’s friendly car etiquette doesn’t end there — Aussies pride themselves on riding in the front seat of a taxi making small talk with the cabbie, rather than slinking into the back like you think you’re better than the driver. Even former Prime Minister John Howard used to sit in the front seat of his limousine, saddling up next to the chauffeur.
Back-seat taxi rider? Wanker. Non-waving driver? Wanker. Shout dodger? Wanker. Australians have absolutely no time for someone who isn’t friendly, and that intolerance of unfriendliness is one of Australia’s friendliest qualities, mate.