Having been an Afropolitan in Australia for close to 6 years, 6 year anniversary on 31st June, I have had the privilege of experiencing two nations with two very different cultures up close and personal. Today I thought I would talk about 7 unique things I’ve picked up, observed and learned from the natives-well-not-really-but-rather-the-majority-population of this land called Australia.
Before I showed up “please” and “thank you” were myths from medieval times. You only held the door when someone had boxes of your stuff and giving people room to pass on the road was for suckers who didn’t want to get to work on time.
Australians, by default, are the most polite people I have ever met in my life. Now, I have basis for comparison: I have been to every continent except South America. So I can tell you, folks get way ruder than people from Australia.
Here folks are taught from very early how to say please and thank you. It’s not uncommon for them stop what they’re doing and help folks with directions or guidance. On many occasions, we have actually had people who were passing us on foot or by car, stop, double back and come help us because we looked so lost. I mean even the criminals and alleged “riff raff” of society are pretty courteous. In short, when I say Aussies are nice people, it’s not hyperbole or optimism, it’s my experience.
2) Hardcore binge drinking
Whoever says Africans are the heaviest drinkers is clearly drunk on something else. You see, when Africans drink, a lot of the time it’s to relieve stress or as part of something social ( I wrote an article on this one a while back if you are interested). But no no no no, a lot of Australians drink for entirely different reason.s
A huge chunk of Australians drink with two simple goals: get hammered and pass out.
Now, the fact that passing out could actually be a goal behind drinking was a shocker to me when I first learned about it. And to be clear, Australia is not a particularly church going nation (93% of folks are not regular) and so binge drinking is part of the culture from the ages of 10 – 100, from the “goody two shoes” all the way to “the bad boys”. These folks showed me that Africans are really very conservative in a lot of ways, including drinking.
3) Nerds and Jocks Stereotypes are Way Off
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Skip this section if you have outgrown caring about high school politics (Do we ever really do this?)
As a result of being about as popular as SNM at a church bakesale (if this reference passes over your head, don’t worry, I was in some zone when I wrote it) a lot of my high school career, together with moments of extreme popularity, I had the good pleasure of spending time with that the TV shows would call “the loveable nerds” as well as “the big dumb jocks”.
Let me tell you now ladies and gentlemen, if you see a jock on one side and a nerd on the other…..RUN to the jock, hug him and never let go.
But why, Mwangi, you might ask, would I ever want to abandon the nice, loveable nerd in favour of the big dumb brutish jock. First of all, I was in school with a lot of footy players and one of them even ended up on the national league and they are truly good people. Laid back, very open and welcoming. Sure they like being naked with each other waaaayyyy too much and a lot of their pranks and humour is weird, but they showed me love for the most part so I must reciprocate.
Understanding the Nerd
Now nerds are an entirely different kettle of fish. Now I want you to get a clear picture of a nerd in a Western country. This place is on information overload 24/7. Everyday through the Internet you have access to all sorts of quirky facts, figures, videos, beliefs and so on and so forth. Now take someone, completely isolate them from people and make them feel lousy and inadequate mix them up with this random information that bombards them 24/7 and you end up with a group of people with very weird beliefs and practices.
Now I know, y’all have heard of 2 girls and a cup. That’s a typical nerd’s dream. They love to watch things like Bum Fights, perform witchcraft, watch and obsess over movies that can give one an imagined sense of power such as Fight Club. In short, dudes are very scary. These folks need a hug. I now understand why stuff like Columbine happens……trust me, those were nerds. Anyway I don’t want to go on about this one for too long because it’s not that important really. Definitely came as a surprise though
4) Races I never knew existed
This place is MULTICULTURAL. I have hung out with Arabs, Indians fresh off the boat, Indians who grew up here (more on Indians later), Asians from all over the continent, Africans from Zimbabwe, Botswana (Lord women from Southern Africa are gorgeous, now I understand…now I understand). We have a plethora of mulatto and half black/half Asian kids. African Americans, Greeks and the list just goes on and on.
It’s opened my eyes man. It makes you realize, first of all that you are this thing called “an African” who is a seperate race with our own seperate struggle and shared culture ( yes, we have a shared culture, like it or not). It also makes you realize how similar we are as people in spite of racial differences.
I always found it easy to relate to minorities here and people from darker ethnic groups such Aboriginals, Maoris, Indians and well, Asians because we felt we had a lot in common being marginalized minorities and all.
Plus, the diversity of beautiful food, women, tastes, music, sights and sounds just makes me happy to be alive sometimes.
5) Blue collar wealth?
Now in Africa, this is an oxymoron. The more “industrial age” the job the worse of the job security, prestige and the pay. The more “knowledge economy” the better the pay,the job security and with each extra dollar you get to buy off a bit more of people’s respect.
One of the first things that amazes every African whenever they land here is the fact that a plumber can earn the same as a lawyer. That tends to send us laughing for hours and hours as we talk about how a man whose most famous for showing us a crack-that-certainly-isn’t-of-dawn earns the same as someone who sweats vocabulary in libraries for years to become a lawyer.
If someone here tells me they want to be a hair stylist, carpenter or electrician, I salute them. As long as you make sure you’re money is working for you via investments, it’s as secure as the job market gets: God speed!
6) Racism is a fluid concept
By and large, I don’t believe that Anglo-Saxons innately fear and hate African people. Now a lot of you won’t agree with that, but I base this opinion on two things:
i) My experience of only one or two racial slurs and remarks being thrown at me a year. I can’t even think of one incident that has taken place over the last 12 months that’s been motivated by racial hatred – then again I live in a suburb that looks like it’s part of Asia and don’t get out much, but even from my time in Sydney, can’t think of anything.
ii) If a 78 year old man is pooping into a nappy, has lost all forms of inhibition and some brain cells, and still treats me with love, then there was never any hate to begin with. I worked as an aged care nurse for 2 years and I have spoken with folks who’ve been doing it much longer, racism isn’t something that comes up very often. Scatological humour on the other hand……….
Now, Australians do seem to HATE the people they stole this land from: the Aboriginals. This pretty much came to my attention in my years of high school . On two occasions folks went on a roll spiting out joke after joke to insult the Aboriginal people and by and large people laughed at and enjoyed that. How deep this racism is? What its all about? I’m unclear on. But there’s definitely something there.
Native Australians are also pretty open and HATE anyone who refuses to learn English. You want to drive Australian people mad, walk around like you don’t know a word of English. Wait for the sneers to come.
7) Indians are everywhere
Indians are kinda like those “extra channels” you get when you sign up for Pay TV. You don’t really think about them or know they are there until you stop and think. That’s when you realize, Indians have always been a fixture in my life.
In Kenya, they were part of the ruling class and I lived close to one and a lot of the shops I used to go to were Indian run. Come to the land down under and they are still all over the place. My suburb literally looks like the Asian sub-continent.
For those of you who may not have heard my baby sisters’ opinions on Melbourne, most of the people they either know or hang around are Indian people. If you are Indian and you are reading this:
If you’re plan is global domination, good job! Y’all have positioned yourself well.
And by the way, Sri Lankan women…..mmm…mmmm…..mmmm