As when going to or living in any country other than then one your were raised in, I feel like you can always find some interesting things locals did as children which seem so odd to you. One of those things for me was some of the food which was seen as classically Aussie. One day when I went to the grocery, I picked up a chocolate scroll from the bakery, however it wasn’t until I was home and tried it that I realized it was definitely not chocolate, but vegimite. I later learned this was a classic Aussie food, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget how wrong it tasted to me.
Another item like this is fairy bread, which is essentially white bread buttered with colourful sprinkles on it. To me, this seems like an odd combination, but apparently, growing up this was many Australian child’s favourite food.
One of the things that struck me most while in Australia is the similarities in pop-culture. Although it might be on the other side of the world, the music and movies which I see were the same which all of my friends were talking about back at home in Canada and the UK. It was interesting talking to some family friends who moved from Canada to Australia some 40 years ago, and to hear how different that aspect of life was then. Before there used to be separation, different music and film industries, not however with the advancement of technology and globalization of consumer trends, what is at the top of the charts in Australia is at the top of most English-speaking Westernized countries.
One difference which myself and all of my exchange friends did enjoy is the Australian TV. While there were a number of programs from the United States and the United Kingdom, there was also a lot of Australian programming. Australian versions of reality TV shows like the Bachelor and Survivor were on and very popular and also shows like Home and Away and Neighbors which were what I would consider soap operas, locals were very invested in. My favorite show, however, was probably the classic Bondi Surf Rescue which which follows the lifeguards at Bondi beach which was 30 minutes away from home home. Overall, I really enjoyed the similarities and dissimilarities with living abroad.
By far the best part of this experience of my year abroad has been all of the people I have met. From when I first landed meeting my roommate and flatmates was amazingly comforting in a foreign place. The group of friends I made my first semester I think will be friends forever, at the end of the semester it was so hard to lose them and to have to start over but it was worth it because in my second semester I made so many more friends from all different places. Through my travels around Australia and New Zealand I was able to meet a unique mix of people from around the world and was able to learn so much from them. Below is a sampling of the some of the people I’ve met so far on my travels.
Melbourne is home to quirky and alternative architecture similar to marmite, you either love it or hate it. The most controversial architecture can be found in Federation Square which is home to many festivals and events all year round. My favourite building is The Atrium which I think is much more impressive on the inside than the outside.
Across the road from Fed Square is a more traditional work of architecture in the form of Flinders Station, built in 1910 and the busiest train station in the Southern Hemisphere. The building is breathtaking and arguably the most iconic building in the city.
Melbourne is famous for its laneways and street art which are constantly changing in laneways such as Hosier Lane and AC/DC Lane. My favourite piece of street art is currently by the artist Lushsux – a moral of Beyonce pregnant with her twins. This can be found in Collingwood- a suburb close to the CBD which is definitely worth a visit. This photo proves that any building can be beautiful with Beyonce on it!
While travelling though Australia, I have learned a lot about aboriginal culture and traditions. This was particularly prevalent in the Red Centre, where Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park attracts 250,000 people a year to take in the fascinating landscape and hear the aboriginal stories. As I walked the base of Uluru rock there were many sites prohibited for photography as they are considered sacred to the aboriginals. This is because the rock contains areas strictly for women and areas strictly for men, meaning if a male witnesses a sacred women’s area, they will be dishonoured and even exiled from the tribe.
Aboriginal stories explain the formation of Uluru which are centred around morality, so when children hear the stories, they are taught that those who commit wrong doing are punished, much like fables I heard as a child.
I also learned that to climb the rock is not only unsafe but extremely disrespectful to the aboriginals since Uluru is their sacred place. Many tourists climb the rock unprepared and with no care for the pollution they leave behind or their own safety when temperatures can rise to a scorching 40 degrees celsius.
Aside from the famous Red Centre, aboriginal culture extends the whole country with more than 500 tribes and communities practicing their own values, languages and traditions. Although much of the population has declined since Western settlers arrived and displaced families as termed ‘The Stolen Generation’, aboriginal traditions still hold strong in the remaining communities.
Much controversy remains around how aboriginals are portrayed in the media with many being stereotyped as unemployed alcoholics, dependent on state hand outs when this is not applicable to the majority. The politics around ‘the stolen generation’ also remains an issue as to how the loss of aboriginal children during the English colonisation can be truly compensated by the state today.
Melbourne is home to hundreds of festivals each year ranging from free concerts in the gardens to long rave weekends in the Australian countryside.
A particular festival highlight for me is much closer to home – St Kilda fest. Held once a year in the height of the summer, St Kilda fest runs over a weekend and welcomes all with free entry and plenty on offer for all the family and young people alike. The festival is an opportunity for up and coming Australian artists to showcase their music in the most artsy city of the country. I discovered new artists such as Bec Sandridge and Gretta Ray- both talented musicians who received a great reception from the crowd. Another favourite was Drapht, a hip hop artist from Perth who performed the extremely catchy “Jimmy Recard” into the night on the main stage.
Aside from the music, there was an abundance of street food stalls and Nandos gave out free chips for those who braved the lengthy queue! The ferris wheel and fairground rides were also a hit with a view looking over the beach and across to the city it really is a spectacular setting.
Another free festival I have attended was a concert in the botanical gardens, part of the Sidney Myer series. The music was based on Romeo and Juliet making it a very theatrical and entertaining performance!
Australia is renowned for its kangaroos but it wasn’t until I started my exchange that I realised they are a delicacy also! My first kangaroo burger can be described as a consistency in-between chicken and beef to my surprise, but definitely worth trying while in Australia! Another Aussie favourite is a ‘snag’, aussie slang for sausage. The student union serves free snags every Tuesday which has been a great way to immerse myself in the culture while living on a student budget.
A more controversial delicacy is the witchery grub. I stumbled across this while travelling through the outback – full of protein and vitamins they are a great source of nutrition if you are willing to taste! They can be find in the roots of plants and when we dug one up we soon realised why they were used in bush tucker trials on I’m A Celebrity.. Get Me Out of Here! The texture is hard to describe, it is not offensive but an unusual one. The taste is actually similar to popcorn but I wont be exchanging it for the real thing in the cinemas anytime soon!
Asides from the barbie culture, Australia is home to the all time classic Tim Tam, much more than the humble chocolate biscuit. I would say a Tim Tam’s closest substitute to anything in the UK is the penguin biscuit but Tim Tams are in a league of their own. You can walk into your local Woolies or Coles and find aisles full of different varieties ranging from espresso martini to double coated, both a definite guilty pleasure of mine.
The sweet theme continues with fairy bread- this is simply white bread topped with hundreds and thousands. I’m not overly keen on fairy bread as it mixes the sweet with savoury in a weird combination but it’s a definite hit at kids’ parties for its simplicity and magical nature.