An open letter to my American friends

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Dear friends in the USA, after a devastating week in which your fellow citizens (well, about a quarter of them) elected your first orange president, you may be considering a move to Australia. Before you cross the pond, there are a few things you should know.

Firstly, don’t come by boat. We have an unfortunate habit of locking up anyone who tries that.

Secondly, the seasons are back to front. So be prepared for Christmas suntan. If you’d like to experience all four seasons each day, come to Melbourne. But bring a raincoat, sunscreen, scarves and a towel. And remember to wear black.

You’ll soon discover that the beer is far better down under. Also you should know that nobody – no living Australian – drinks Fosters. Seriously.

It won’t take you long to realise that the coffee is infinitely better too. And the food. Of every kind. For that, we can thank the Italians, Greeks, Lebanese, Chinese, Indians, Vietnamese, Turks etc.

You may have trouble finding access to guns here. We don’t see the point.

Also race relations are relatively harmonious in Australia. We like to think we invented it. However, if the subject of aboriginal land rights comes up, just shuffle your feet and look embarrassed. You’ll get the idea.

As for politics, it’s as crazy as anywhere but we’ve mostly avoided the demagoguery habits you seem to have fallen into of late. There are oddities all the same. ‘Liberal’ means the opposite here; so does ‘republican’. And voting is compulsory, with elections held on a Saturday, usually to the sound of a sausage sizzle. This prevents riots when the winner is announced because everyone has already had a say and they have a full tummy. Also we don’t elect our head of state. In fact we don’t elect any of our leaders. Nothing ever gets done in our parliament because of factional politics but you’ll be familiar with that. We try not to take it seriously. After all, our national sport is changing prime ministers.

Speaking of actual sport, this is not a subject for joking. Australian Rules Football is a tribal doctrine with time-honoured ceremonies and ritual colours. We hold these truths to be self-evident. And our game in no way resembles what you amusingly call ‘football’.

The animal kingdom here is unique but you’ll discover that we do not have kangaroos hopping about in the yard. Most of us don’t see a kangaroo from one end of the year to another, unless we visit the zoo.

TV programmes are much the same as in your country, as you make most of them – one of the few things America does make anymore. We stopped making things in Australia a while ago, except for wine and beer. You will need to learn the phrase ‘couldn’t be arsed’.

Regarding language, you should be used to our accent by now, as half the actors in Hollywood come from here. But a few expressions may challenge you. Here’s a small sample:

Ace (excellent), Arvo (afternoon), Bloody (very), Bloody oath (indeed), Blue (a disagreement), Cactus (broken beyond repair), Carked it (died), Chocka (full up – also applies to our refugee intake policy), Cost ya big bickies (this item is expensive), Dry as a dead dingo’s donger (very dry, like our Chardonnay), Deadset (the absolute truth), Docko (a documentary, usually seen only on public television rather than commercial networks, unless it’s a diet infomercial in disguise), Fair Dinkum (genuine; almost never used in conversation except by politicians during election campaigns), Fair suck of the sauce bottle (an epithet of awe or disbelief at the affront to our belief in egalitarian principles), Going off (having a good time, usually with minor vandalism involved), Good onya (well done; best uttered in a slightly patronising tone), Heaps (a large amount), Iffy (of doubtful reliability), Kangaroo loose in the top paddock (lacking intellectual capacity, a phenomenon often found in our Senate), Mad as a cut snake (ditto), Mate (a universal term of endearment; useful when you can’t remember someone’s name), No worries (our psychological default position), Not within cooee (a long way away; applies to most places in this country), Piece of piss (piece of cake), Pig’s arse (I find that we disagree on that point), Rack off (might be a good time to leave), Rooted (ruined or broken; also the past participle for fornication. You must never use this word or any version of it in any show of sporting enthusiasm).

So welcome to Australia for the next four years. You’ll find us to be a less insane version of the USA. Just watch out for the drop bears and flying bunyips. And it’s sauce, not ketchup.

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