So as a follow up to my last post here, I promised to get Rabindra’s view on what he sees as ‘strange’ in my culture.
I’m not sure if all of these are necessarily cultural or just reflective of me and only some Aussies, but here goes.
1. Festival where art thou festival? When Rabindra first moved to Australia he suffered a bit of culture shock. It doesn’t just look different but culturally he didn’t know how or what we celebrated. I told him we celebrated Christmas, Easter and depending on your other interests, you could participate in events such as multicultural festivals, gay and lesbian festivals, races, sporting festivals etc. However, he was still shocked that we didn’t have any Australian-specific festivals that are celebrated across Australia at one time (like they do with Teej, Dashain etc), instead just Christmas and Easter which Christians celebrate across the world. I must admit, I never really questioned my culture before, but now that I think about it we really do lag behind Nepal compared to their rich and diverse culture. The original owners of our land, the Aboriginals, do have a unique culture and Rabindra has enjoyed seeing aspects of it, but unfortunately, it’s not displayed very publicly due to most Aborigines living in the very rural areas of Australia.
The only other way I can explain why we have a lack of culture is because of our short history and how most people emigrated from parts of Europe. Also, the emphasis on family and community in Australia is not as strong compared to Nepal and for that reason, people here usually spend time in a more individual setting with close friends and family at BBQs, pools, dinner parties rather than at community-wide events like they do in Nepal.
2. We eat our national animal. For Rabindra, this is a big one he doesn’t understand. In Nepal, beef is never eaten, not just because of Hindus worshipping cows as Gods, but because the cow is also their national animal and they need to respect it. Over here, even though kangaroo has not been officially adopted as our national animal, it’s generally accepted by Aussies and internationally, that it is our national animal. I’ve actually never tried kangaroo and it is not widely eaten, but most people have no qualms about trying it. Most international visitors think they are cute, little innocent animals and don’t understand how we can kill them but in fact Australia has too many kangaroos and for that reason some believe they need to be culled.
3. We’re not all clean freaks. I was a bit surprised by this one. Rabindra believes a lot of people from Asian countries have the view that we are very clean people. I don’t know where they got this from. I have a messy cupboard where all my clothes are but other than that, I keep the home very clean. I think I’m like most girls who make a real mess when I throw my clothes in the cupboard after being unable to make a decision on what to wear!
4. We don’t have a national/traditional dish. Well this isn’t entirely right. We have vegemite. And good ol’ meat pies. But to tell you the truth even Aussies don’t know what our national dish is. The Nepalese have dhal bhat, the Italians have their pasta and Turkish people have kebabs. Some might stay it’s beef sausages, beef pies or steak. When Rabindra first asked me what our national dish was, I said we ate salads, sausages, beef and pasta regularly but he was quick to assure me none of these were traditionally ‘Australian’.
5. We spend money we don’t have. OK so when I was asking Rabindra about what he thought was strange about my culture, he said “you go shopping even if you don’t have enough money for lunch”. I was a little perplexed about this and I must admit I had a good laugh. In one way, this could be about me and my occasional spending habits but I think it also paints a picture about Australian society generally. In Nepal where they are surrounded by poverty and paid such low wages, they need to be frugal about spending money. In Australia, it’s very easy to be lured into spending money on things we don’t need. Since meeting Rabindra, I have become more careful about wasting food and spending money on things I don’t need because I’ve heard the saddest of stories about the poverty in Nepal. When I visit Nepal and see things with my own eyes for the first time I think it will hit me even more and be very aware of what I spend money on.
6. Our washing up style is “dirty”. In Australia, most people I know wash dishes by rinsing plates beforehand, filling up the sink with bubbly dishwashing liquid, putting all your dirty dishes in the sink and then wash them in the sink before placing them on the drainer. A couple of months into our relationship we had an argument about my washing-up style. Of all things, yes, how I did the dishes. He said it was dirty because all the residue from the dishes was floating in the sink and essentially I was washing dishes in dirty water. I never saw it like this because you rinse extra food off and there’s nothing that dirty in the water. I’ve since changed my style to his style of wash-as-you-go with no sink full of ‘dirty’ water because I’m sick of hearing whenever he had an upset stomach that it was because of my dirty washing-up style!!
Well that’s all folks. Do you agree with any of these perceptions? What are your perceptions about Australian culture?