Crikey intern Grace Jennings-Edquist writes: Like most urbane modern-day Australian youths, I love to travel. Not within the bounds of my own enormous country — because, predictably, I plan to incorporate the seeing of local sights into my post-retirement itinerary — but rather to Europe, South East Asia, and other destinations favoured by inner-city and self-proclaimed ‘wordly types’.
Although this penchant for inter-continental travel has become a rather tired trait amongst University-aged Australians, I cringe at the thought of being regarded as merely another tourist on my travels. I scoff at the Walkabouts and Billabongs of the Northern hemisphere, brimming as they are with schoolies groups gleefully flashing Bintang Beer singlets — a uniform of the Aussie tourist that, along with the dodgy tattoo and the obligatory hair bead — I entirely eschew. I mentally compartmentalize myself, probably misguidedly, into a different category from those bucks’ night troupes who did not get the memo that nationalistic boozefests verge on distasteful in the context of a small South Asian village.
You can imagine my horror, then, when I arrived in London last year, bought myself a wine in the nearest pub, and was promptly labelled JAFA — that’s right, Just Another F*cking Australian — by the proper local geezer sitting next to me.
What was the give-away? I wanted to ask this guy, although he immediately became too involved in another, rather more vulgar, conversation about Cheryl Cole that I didn’t want to interrupt.
I had made a reasonable effort to transition smoothly into south London, superficially at least: I was wearing the exact same shades of khaki as everyone else in the place, I hadn’t dropped any of the stereotypical phraseology attributed to Australians, and I was an unnerving shade of porcelain, having flown straight from a miserable Melbourne winter.
Mystified as I was at this locals’ (accurate) pigeonholing of me, I set about figuring out how I had given myself away as a fresh-off-the-plane Aussie. The aim was to avoid the instant Australian moniker — it’s not that I’m not proud of my country and all that jazz, I just didn’t want the real Londonders to steer me in the direction of the nearest steakhouse, or incessantly quote Paul Hogan at me, every time I opened my mouth.
Anyway, eventually, after five months of posing as a resident, I did pick up a few tricks re: how to perfect the “traveller, not tourist” vibe. I’ll share them with you:
Learn the Antipodean areas
You should know from the outset that certain areas of London, including Wimbledon, Clapham, Shepherd’s Bush and Earl’s Court are brimming with Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans. If you want to meet locals and steer clear of the Aussie-themed pubs, avoid! Also beware of an event called the Church — it’s like a midday keg party for Australian expats, replete with roving cameramen who project images of patrons’ breasts onto enormous projector screens.
Learn how to order your drinks
Specify whether you want a large or small glass of wine; order a ‘half’ (not a pot), or a pint of beer; try not to order lemon, lime and bitters, because the bartender won’t understand you; and learn to love prosecco instead of sparkling wine, unless you want to buy a whole bottle. And drink lots of cider. It is served everywhere, and it is truly a delicious beverage.
Be aware of the accent thing
At the risk of racially stereotyping the English, I found that they placed a lot of importance on accents. A local once told me that you can either fail or pass a job interview on the basis of the “poshness” of your accent; another told me that, French aside, any hint of a foreign accent is viewed as lowly or “colonial”. I suspect/dearly hope these views aren’t representative of the national population.
In any case, you will notice that Geordie accents, like Cheryl Cole’s, are often meanly derided in London, while “posh” accents, like Kate Middleton’s, are generally admired. A small handful of Australian expats I know in London have picked up pseudo-posh accents. I wouldn’t recommend it. It sounds all a bit weird.
Converse with your fellow locals
It’s probably fair to say that the language barrier is pretty minimal, particularly if you’ve already heard some of the quirkier phrases in British comedic gems such as The Office and Peep Show. Nevertheless, make sure that when someone says “how do you do?”, you say it back to them. I would also recommend phasing phrases like “fabby” and “it’s so jokes” into your vocabulary. You can avoid inadvertent sexual innuendoes by referring to thongs as “flip-flops” and spunks as “fitties”.
And one last thing — no matter how much you integrate into London society, please don’t ever use the “JAFA” bomb.