Picture this, you are on an amazing holiday in let’s say Thailand. You have enjoyed mixing with the locals and hearing the different languages. But now it’s time to go home and you are waiting at the airport. The last thing you want is a reminder that you are going home when from somewhere behind you hear “too fuckn right mate, I reckon I could have skulled three more beers if I wanted”. Your heart sinks, it’s an Australian.
On the other hand picture this, you are on a holiday in Norway. You have just got off a train at 11 pm and you have no idea where your hotel is. There is noone around and the few people you have tried to speak too don’t understand English. Suddenly to your left you hear “Yeah no worries mum I’ll give you a call tomorrow”. Thank God, it’s an Australian!
Hearing the Australian, or your own countries accent over seas can either be the best or worst thing that happens to you on a holiday. On the one hand it can be the comfort and assurance you need in an uncertain place and on the other it can be the reason you left in the first place.
I recently had a friend return from Japan. When they heard their first Australian accent again on the journey home it was enough to prompt the planning of the next trip immediately. But last week I had some Australian friends visit me here in Koblenz and to me hearing their accent was like the singing of angels.
So why does an accent invoke these reactions? Well I think an accent is so easily identified with everything you either love or hate about home. For me the Australian accent can be a reminder of what we call a “Bogan” (see end of article for definition) back home. When you are abroad sometimes you need to take a break from the more unsavoury aspects of the society you live in, and an accent can remind you of what you hate. But at the same time the Australian accent reminds me of my friends and family. It’s a comforting and familiar tone, if a little unrefined and obnoxious at times.
I find that when I’m overseas I like to try and promote the best aspects of the Australian stereotype. So there is nothing worse than hearing an accent and seeing someone displaying the worst. Whether it’s the Englishman starting a fight over soccer (football), the American complaining about everything or the Australian exaggerating every story. We all cringe a little bit and then try to avoid those people at all costs. At moments like these the national pride goes away instantly and an excuse like “oh they must be from Queensland or something ” comes out.
For some Australians going over seas is like a challenge to assert their Australianess on other people. Therefore their accent becomes extremely Australian not unlike crocodile Dundee. For me the opposite has happened. I have refined the way I talk subconsciously because I know people have trouble understanding me. I really fear if I do run into other Australians they may mistake me for being English no matter how much I insist I am Australian (I have already been accused of having a more English accent in Australia at times. So this isn’t a stretch).
But there are times when abroad where your feelings are neutral and yourself and other Australians seek each other out. Australia day is a great if not rather obvious example. Whenever I feel like there is something going on back home that people here might not understand I get the urge to seek out my Australian brothers and sisters. Another example is the Australian football grand final. I feel like my German friends just couldn’t understand why I’m yelling at the TV or why the players are picking up the ball. “Why is this game called football if the players pick up the ball?”
For those who may not have heard an Australian accent before, I think Australian comedian Adam Hills does a great routine on it.
And for those who don’t know what a Bogan is, please see below:
noun: bogan; plural noun: bogans
an uncouth or unsophisticated person, regarded as being of low social status.
“some bogans yelled at us from their cars”
I’m definitely proud to be Australian. And there is no doubt that I’ve been enthusiastic to fly the flag of my country over here living in Germany. But we have all been somewhere else and felt like this at least once on our journeys.