Warning: Sweeping generalizations about Australian culture about to take place. For the Aussies out there, however, Crocodile Dundee and the Crocodile Hunter will not be involved in any way. Before we get started on one of the most important parts of Australian culture that any outsider needs to understand, I would like to address the pronunciation of the term Aussie. For anyone who might be under the impression that the double s’s actually stand for a phonetically “s” sound that is not true and will irritate everyone down under. It is a “z” sound, so think of it more like “Auzzie” ok? Great. Now that that little tidbit is out of the way, let’s move on to one of the most important aspects of Australian culture.In Australia, it is that time of year again. The time when it is winter here, and summer in most other places where international sport is played competitively. The time when you get the best up close look at the Australian obsession with sport in almost any form. This time of year Australians are rolling from one late night/early morning international sporting event to the next and paying for it with bloodshot eyes and barely functioning brains. How far you are willing to go to watch that sporting event live is a matter of pride that you can celebrate the next day at work. Our winter TV watching will go from the World Cup to Wimbledon, to the Tour de France and on and on and on. Heaven forbid the Ashes, (a mind bogglingly important series of Cricket games between England and Australia), or the Olympics be on TV, because there will not be one drop of sleep to be had. I recently rolled my eyes as my husband got out of bed at 4 in the morning to see a World Cup match and stayed up until 2 am just a day later to watch Wimbledon and the World Cup. Colleagues are sure to go to work the next day and eye each other with an odd mixture of pride and sympathy as they struggle to complete mundane tasks. Lest you think this might be viewed negatively by their bosses, let me share a few things to reassure you. This is a country where the prime minister, (see him in the photo to the right), once said, “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.” This was after an Australian yacht won the America’s Cup in 1983. Also, this is a country where an entire state gets a public holiday for the Melbourne Cup which is a horse race that lasts just a few minutes. So have no fear, the bosses will mostly show up half awake as well. Thank goodness “Gridiron” or as it is called in the States, “Football”, hasn’t really caught on here yet. Why would it? This is a nation where the game Aussie Rules Footy is played and it is not a game for the weak at heart. This is game where a player recently went off field, got his nose and half his face bandaged, and then returned to play the rest of the game through pain and blood. This is game where pads are for the wimps and the play doesn’t stop for 1st and 2nd downs, cheerleaders or running out of bounds. There is slight break for half time but if you blink you will miss it, so the sprint to the toilet is a national pastime as well. If Aussie Rules isn’t enough for you, this is a nation where they play Rugby and Rugby is a game that must be watched to be believed. Mums in Australia don’t ask other mums if a child plays sport – they ask which sports a child plays. For the answer, assume anything less than two sports is incorrect and will earn you a concerned look and a response something to this effect, “Oh well that’s ok. It’s good to take a break now and then.” Since I have just mentioned Mums lets address the gender divide. Lest you think that it is only the men staying up late to watch sport, let me tell you the women here are just as into sport as the men. One of my best friends can name off tennis players and their superstitions and will stay up late or wake up early to watch an important match. She will also sit and watch cricket all day for the right match. This is not an isolated case. Most of my female Aussie friends have at least one international sporting event that they will willingly sacrifice sleep for. I have another friend who stays up for the Tour De France.
So do you want to be a genuine Aussie? Pick a sport or two or three or all of them. Watch it with a degree of devotion that requires physical sacrifice on your part. You are sure to blend right in at work the next day with your blood shot eyes and triple shot of caffeine.
Part two is coming soon!