Or not; some critics of my stay there claim I only discovered that they brew good beer and drive on the left-hand side of the road down under, and are only moderately grateful that I didn’t try to combine those two revelations.
I immediately noticed, when I deplaned, that I was not used to being in a foreign country where everyone spoke English. This seemed weirder than it should have, especially since I had gone to Belize last year, where everybody also speaks English, until I realized in Belize, everybody knows you are a tourist anyway, whereas in Australia they assume every white person is Australian until they prove otherwise. Mostly I did this by holding out a handful of unfamiliar coins to sales clerks and inviting them to take what they needed.
Australians are fond of casual wear and slang expressions, much like Californians, but unlike Golden Staters, whose sense of self-importance is only exceeded by their inflated real estate values, Australians are a self-deprecating lot. They will happily share stories of their nation’s misguided adventures, my favorite of which was the Great Emu War, when the Australian Army geared up to rid the western part of the country of an overpopulation of large, flightless birds, fought against them for months, AND LOST! The emus rule to this day.
Speaking of animals, people in Brisbane are deprived of the priviliege of using the word "batshit" to describe the mentally unstable because of a large local population of fruit bats. These are big bats, with a wingspan of about four feet. They eat fruit instead of insects, as their name implies, and dollop their waste generously over local landscapes, including your car, home and, occasionally, head. Bat shit is not to be taken lightly there.
No occupation is treated with much deference in Australia. Most are referred to by dropping the second half of the job description and adding the suffix “ie.” Thus a postman is a “postie,” and a bricklayer a “brickie.” A carpenter is a “woody,” I expect.
What most Australians don’t want is to be thought of as “bogan.” In America, bogans would fall along the white trash-hillbilly-redneck continuum. There are a few important differences—bogans prefer ‘70’s rock and modern hip-hop to country music and wear flip-flops and go barefoot rather than boot-scoot. The conflation of Jesus and country is well known, whereas bogans are not overly religious. Australians in general are not overly religious—the only person I met there who went to church regularly attended services by the Salvation Army, which, in Australia, made her a “Salvo.”
Also, bogans are not as enamored of hunting as rural Americans. The closest they get is going to bush ponds and trapping “yabbies,” which are Australian crayfish.
Most Australians avoid behavior that would be described as bogan, such as being continuously drunk and having amusing fatal accidents, but some embrace it. No pastime is more bogan than playing Goon of Fortune.
Goon of Fortune is played by removing the bag from one or more containers of boxed wine (the “goon”) and tying it or them to a square, rotating outdoor clothesline. The square is then spun, then the person whom the goon stops closest to has to take a slurp from the bag. The process is repeated until the wine is gone.
I expect many poor decisions are made during and after playing Goon of Fortune, although opting to play a few rounds probably shows a predilection for poor decisions in the first place.
In spite of these cultural differences, most Americans feel quite at home in Australia, especially Americans from my Left Coast. Modern conveniences are universally available, including Uber, which is handy getting from one Brisbane craft brewery to another. I was sitting shotgun on one such ride when our driver, a Sikh from India, and my Australian friend started having an argument about which country had the dumbest politicians. I endured it for a few minutes, then I had to shout out, “DON’T FORGET THE USA JUST ELECTED THE DUMBEST POLITICIAN OF THEM ALL!”
American exceptionalism. Point it out whenever possible to foreigners. It’s the patriotic thing to do.