What Does It Mean To Be Australian?

As an Asian person living in Australia, being Australian has always confused me. It’s something I’ve struggled to put into words. What is “Australian” exactly?

When I was a kid and up until university, I remember my Chinese-Malaysian dad saying to me countless times, “You were born in Australia. So you are Australian.” The older I get and the longer I live in Australia, the more I realise being Australian is more than just having an Australian citizenship certificate in your name.

A touch of kindness in Melbourne, Australia | Weekly Photo Challenge: Serenity.

A touch of kindness in Melbourne, Australia | Weekly Photo Challenge: Serenity.

The longer I live in Australia, the more I notice certain things about Australia and Australians around me. Being Australian is about being laid-back, easy-going with the ‘she’ll be alright’ attitude. Many places where I’ve worked here I’ve seen my colleagues run out of the door 5pm sharp to live life.

Being Australian means being social. Work hard, play harder. Hanging out with your mates having a beer or a BBQ or watching sport. Or all together. In the warmer months here, sporting grounds and rooftop bars around town are packed.

Being Australian is about being friendly to everyone, giving each other a fair-go. Giving nicknames to each other and being generous. At work, classy fashionista colleague Felicia calls me Miss Mabel and very nicely gave me the chance to play Heads Up at the last Christmas party games.

But although I make a living here and have a supportive group of Australian friends, there are times when I’m made to feel like I’m not Australian. Last year I was called ‘chink’ by a Caucasian guy while walking in the city. A few months ago, I got told condescendingly on the phone at work by a client, “I can’t understand your accent.”

There’s an ugly side to being Australian: racism is, still unfortunately, part of life here, which is (ironically) un-Australian. Racism on public transport. Lack of cultural diversity in commercial media. In encouraging signs, in 2008 the leader of the nation publicly said Sorry to the Indigenous people, the rightful owners of Australian land. Being Australian is about being humble, admitting our shortcomings as we build bridges together. As Indigenous writer Melissa Lucashenko said, Australia is “about mateship and relationships.”

Yes I like kicking back and hanging with friends but no, I don’t speak with the broad Aussie accent, am not a fan of Vegemite, don’t drink and get as much done at work as possible. Being Australian isn’t only about sticking to stereotypes, but also juggling different cultural, social identities. Shattering stereotypes as a nation in a world where we’re all on the move.

And so being Australian means acknowledging that we all come from somewhere, that we’re a nation of migrants. My parents came here from Malaysia in the 80s to find a better life in Australia. Then I came along, and so did many, many others all over the world as I realised – friends from Vietnam, Taiwan, India pushing past me to get to the head of the canteen queue during recess in high school.

Being Australian is not just about giving everyone a fair go once and for all, but also celebrating each other’s rights and cultures. Alongside Lunar New Year, Diwali and so many diverse multicultural festivities Down Under is Australia Day. But many of us have mixed feelings about this day, 26 January: some say it isn’t relevant and think of it as Invasion Day. Nevertheless, on this day we all seem proud to stand on Australian soil – we’ve come along way from the days of the White Australia Policy.

Australian flag. Block Arcade, Collins Street.

Australian flag. Block Arcade, Collins Street.

Sometimes being Australian – and finding confidence to be who we are – lies in the smallest of moments. The other warm summer’s morning I looked in the mirror beside my window, bare-faced and about to put some make-up on before going out. My eyes wandered over my reflection. Brown eyes, pale cheeks, three light brown freckles clustered together on the right cheek, flat nose – wait, when did the freckles appear?

I cast my mind back over the last few years. The last few years where I spent quite some time wandering bright yellow sandy beaches with flip flops on my feet. Getting lost wandering Melbourne’s laneways wearing board shorts. Building a life here throughout the spring, summer, autumn, winter days, as the seasons melt into one another.

Being Australian is about accepting change as a nation and within ourselves, being positive as we move along. I look back in the mirror. Don’t know. Maybe they popped up some time ago. I look more typical Australian now…yet very much Chinese. Oh well. What can I do? I left the house, face untouched. Ready for my next Aussie adventure.

What it means to be Australian, it’s certainly not written on paper. And it’s not black and white.

What are your impressions of Australia and Australians?

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174 thoughts on “What Does It Mean To Be Australian?

  1. I just learned i’m part native american. I’ve had this whole guilt about being an american white male. And now i’m expecting a child whose mother is from inner mongolia. What do you do with that?

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    • Identity is a very confusing thing. But at the end of the day, all of us are different, and no two people of the same culture have the same story to tell. I’ve found that focusing on what I have and the positive side to things and cultures help.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mabel I love your blog 🙂 I’m not sure if you remember me but I interviewed you a couple of weeks ago. I really wanted to take you on but the General Manager decided to hire the other guy. Since I met you I was intrigued and have since been following your blog 🙂 I wish we could’ve worked together. I absolutely love Zelda too (did you know Majora’s Mask is coming out this year on 3DS? Eep!) and I’m a published author so meeting another writer is always exciting. Even though the GM did not hire you, I am really glad to have met you and will continue to follow your posts and support your blog.

    -Rebecca

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    • That is great to hear that you are a writer too. Congratulations on being a published author, that is an amazing feat. Writing is much harder than anyone thinks. I am sure what you write is different from what I write (non-fiction, diversity, youth) and maybe one day I’ll get to check out your work 🙂

      I’ve heard Majora’s Mask is out on the 3DS this year. Very excited about that since I’ve actually never played it! Very glad we have connected, very nice to have connected with another Australian writer, I haven’t met too many here (I don’t know why…maybe we’re a shy introverted bunch). Thank you for your nice words and your support. I am redesigning my blog currently to give it a more Australian feel 🙂

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      • Hi Mabel! Thanks for the kind words 🙂 I started writing my book when I was 17 and only got it published last year at 24 so I agree that it is much harder than people think! I write fantasy fiction – my story is about Astrology and the secrets behind the stars. I’m currently writing the sequel! I’m definitely shy and introverted so it’s nice to know I’m not the only one 🙂 I really enjoy reading your blog; you’re a great voice for Asian Australians and you’ve taught me so much already about Asian culture! Keep up the great work! I hope to see you again one day 🙂

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        • Writing a book certainly takes time but I am very happy for you that you have a book our already, and a second one soon. A friend once said to me you can take ten years to write one – so true since there are so many stages of writing. And writing is art, and you can’t hurry art.

          “secrets behind the stars”. I love how you say it. At some point I will check out your book!

          Thank you for your nice words. Culture is all around us and it’s always interesting to take a closer look at 🙂

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  3. So many great questions, Mabel. We can all benefit from asking them ourselves about our own situations and countries. My impressions of Australians are of an open and easy going group and it sounds like you have plenty of those around you mixed with the not-so-happy types who have to comment on anyone different from them… In other words, a lot like here. 🙂

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    • “We can all benefit from asking them ourselves about our own situations and countries”. Very well put. The more we ask question about ourselves and those around us, the more we understand them.

      Interesting perspective on Australians…yet not surprising. I think the not-so-happy types are the more vocals ones. The easy going ones just like to let everyone be and enjoy their surroundings 😀

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  4. Well written once again 🙂 Being Australian is about being different, it is diversity…. and we need to show the world that is what we are. Time to throw out the stereotypes. During our travels, I (Le struggle the most). When people ask where David is from, and we say Australia, everyone accepts that but when they ask me and I say I’m Australian, they more often than not say, “Really?” or “No, I mean what is your background?” I have gotten, “But you don’t look it!”

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    • “Being Australian is about being different,” I agree! So sorry to hear not many trust Le when she says she’s Australian. It must be annoying. I think a lot of Australians accept cultural diversity, and that we’re too embarrassed to say anything when some opinionated person exemplifies otherwise.

      Happy Australia Day!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Mabel,

    I have been reading your posts and admire them each time I visit your blog. It is interesting to note that assimilation into the culture of another country can be so challenging even after growing up there. Probably the appearance and the values we inherit play a significant role in this. Despite the multiculturalism, discrimination is still ingrained in human minds and can be experienced all around the globe!

    I liked the subtle way of your lovely description. Thanks for sharing.

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    • “assimilation into the culture of another country can be so challenging even after growing up there.” That’s a very insightful sentence, and I actually never thought about it that way in depth. Sometimes it’s impossible for us to let go certain values we grew up with and values that make us stick out – they are simply a part of us.

      Discrimination does still exist, and it’s partly due to ignorance and a lack of education.

      Thank you for the nice words and for supporting, Balroop. And for the support on Twitter too. I’m looking forward to checking out your blog soon 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think your analysis not only applies to Australia but several other countries. I know Canada as well as the States has a diverse population as well but they are united because they wave the same flag.

    I have never been to Australia but I get the sense that it is a rather laid-back nation where socializing and enjoying life is of importance. Most Australians that I have met it Taiwan take everything easy, they don’t sweat the small stuff, and do what is needed at work but nothing more. However, that goes for a lot of other expats here as well.

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    • That is true. Most countries around the world have diverse populations and cultural discrimination certainly happens outside of Australia as well. And I’m sure Australians aren’t the only laid-back folk around.

      Sounds like you’ve met many typical Aussies. “enjoying life is of importance” Spot on. Work-life balance is considered the norm in many work places here. Interesting to hear expats in Taiwan are generally laid back. But fair enough – since they’ve come to work in Taiwan, why not enjoy the country too? It makes sense 🙂

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  7. You know I actually wanted to migrate to Australia as recent as last year. I even got my IELTS and was going to submit my papers for Skill Assessment, but my resolve is wavering now.

    As I read blogs of Australian migrants, I realized that there is actually a very big community of Chinese migrants there: Malaysian, Singaporean, Indonesian, Phillipines etc in Australia. And it’s like they have their very own communities set up. Melbourne Malaysians, Perth Singaporeans, that sort of thing. I don’t feel too inspired to deal with that. I think when each ethnic group sticks to themselves, that is when stereotypes and racism grow. I wanted to go somewhere where I can hardly find another Asian nearby. My brief experiences in the US and Europe seems to tell me that racism is only rampant in places where there are many migrants. I have only experienced people calling me a Chink or a bloody Chinese in San Francisco and England, but never in Colorado where you can hardly find very many Asians.

    I don’t know, I guess I have seen enough of 2nd class citizen treatments here, if I am to look for a new home, I want to find somewhere that I will really feel welcome.

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    • You are very right in saying there are Malaysian, Singaporean etc. communities in Australia. It’s sort of a cultural pride thing, perhaps. Migrants who move abroad tend to miss their hometown foods, activities, past times and so naturally stick together to feel more comfortable and not socialise with the locals. I do wonder how other Australians view this.

      To be honest, I’ve never been drawn to being a part of these communities, as cozy as they sound. I don’t know, I just never fit in with my Australian citizen privilege (e.g. better job opportunities, no residency problems). And you know what? I am okay with that.

      While Australia is a very multicultural place, not all places are popular with migrants. There are towns in Melbourne where you won’t see an Asian face at all, and the people there just accept you for you who are (like Geelong, which is south of the state).

      It’s very interesting to hear you didn’t face too much discrimination outside of Malaysia. Maybe you look approachable, look like a nice guy. Some people do have that effect on others 🙂

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    • There are many places away from the major capital cities where you will find less Australian citizens who identify with an Asian background or ethnicity. However, I would caution you that this does not mean you would be welcome. Small towns can have small-minded people purely because they are more isolated from international influences, or more conservative in their viewpoints. I think you should visit Australia and try a few different places, as I am sure you will find somewhere that feels “right” for you. It is a natural for some emigrants to seek out those of their own ilk, but equally others wish to start a new life and break with the past ties of the homeland. We are all different in our reactions. If you feel homesick, you will be drawn to your own community. I hope that Australians welcome you, as I would as a person first and foremost. Good luck with your journey.

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      • Very wise advice. I’ve yet to go to a suburb in Australia where I haven’t felt welcome, but in all honestly I haven’t traveled to much here. Each suburb in Australia – at least in Melbourne – does seem to give off a different vibe and attract certain demographics. For instance, you get the hippie, creative mostly Caucasian types who like to live in Brunswick. In the city, it’s a different story – crawling with people from all over the world. Maybe the latter comes off as more friendly, I don’t know. Matter of perception.

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    • I think Canadians and Australians are similar in many ways. After all, Canada and Melbourne are the top livable cities, so I am sure we think alike and hold similar values 😉

      However, I’ve heard Canada is much more diverse than Australia, and more accepting of it.

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        • The few Canadians I’ve met here were very friendly. They were very honest, though, and said Canada is more multicultural than Melbourne – and there seems to be way less cultural discrimination over there. You have every right to be proud of your country 🙂

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          • There is a great deal of diversity here especially in larger cities. I know I am proud to have the Canadian reputation of being friendly and accepting. When traveling we often receive a very warm reception.

            On another note Mabel we are doing some preliminary investigation into a trip to Australia in 2016. We understand March and April are good months weather wise. Any suggestions for must sees in the Melbourne area?

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  8. It seems that these problems are especially visible in countries which are nasically invasion countries. When a white persons says she/ he is from Canada or USA everyone will just accept it however when an Asian says this everyone will ask about the background.
    Even though these issues are more common in those countries you may encounter them also in good old Europe. I spoke recently with a guy who is fourth generation Chinese living in Germany. He has no accent whatsoever, is in many things more german than I am but still people ask where he is for answer he speaks so fluently the language…

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    • “invasion countries”. I love how you describe it. Your poor Chinese German friend. He must get tired of convincing others that he is German. Maybe he is the only Chinese person in the neighbourhood and that gets people confused. Or maybe they are just curious.

      Sounds like Europe has similarities in Australia then. Of the Australians who have asked me about my background, they tend to be very pushy in getting an answer other than ‘Australian’ out of my mouth – by asking many questions.

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  9. Mabel I felt so sad for you when I read your blog today.
    Sad that some Australians can be so bigoted and hateful because they see no further than a difference in skin colour.
    As you so rightly said:
    “And so being Australian means acknowledging that we all come from somewhere, that we’re a nation of migrants.”
    I have just been reading Soul Gatherings (http://soulgatherings.wordpress.com/ ) and Therese was writing of a woman she spoke with at the 9/11 museum.
    Anyway what she said reminded me of you and I mentioned you and your blog in my reply.
    So many people around the world need to recognise that
    Hate solves nothing, while love and peace benefit all.
    I am ashamed of those Australian bigots and wish I could do more to help you and others struggling to be accepted and comfortable in this land of ours.
    I came from migrants and am a mixture of Irish, German and English, but I was fortunate enough to have family who could celebrate and accept our country’s different roots, cultures and religions.
    To me that multiculturalism should be our strength.
    But we must try not to bring the problems of those cultures here ., whether they be Irish, Jugoslav, Serbian, Sri Lankan Italian, Chinese or Korea , to name a few .
    We all need to work ,live, laugh and love together. (end of my rant 😉

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    • Don’t feel sad for me, Maureen. I am a tough cookie! It definitely isn’t nice to hear racial insults from fellow Australians, but really, what can I do about it? Not much really as there are some stubborn people out there. I suppose the least I can do is write about these unpleasant experiences and hope to convince those who aren’t on the same wavelength as us, otherwise.

      Diversity is a beautiful thing and certainly should be championed, and I am glad your family did just this. “Hate solves nothing, while love and peace benefit all.” Very well put. Sometimes I think we turn a blind eye to racism in Australia, mainly because we are too embarrassed to be associated with it or even look at discrimination right in front of us. Rightfully so…but I don’t know if it will solve any problems.

      Thank you very much for the support, Maureen. Soul Gatherings looks like a great blog. I will be sure to check it out more soon 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I wanted to mention first that I always like the way you intergrate the photo challenges into your post. I notice them all. And secondly, as the good folks have already commented, Australia is no different than other “Western” countries that seem to struggle with a minority landscape and the intergration and acceptance of many peoples.

    We often hear that “diversity is a good thing” but sometimes I don’t know if we truly understand what this means. And considering the recent events in France, I find this topic – timely. I’m often struck by what is considered “fair game” in the world of racism and what is not. Everyone in the US, for example, loves to make fun of the American South. But if we stopped to think about it, as if we’d applied to another set of peoples, it would be considered wrong and shockingly so.

    Asians often are considered “fair game” but we are also considered the easiest of the minorities to accept. I suppose this is due to the stereotypical “model minority” thing. But I hear more of our voices over the web and sooner or later, I think folks will begin to realize that we are paying attention to how we are treated.

    As far as Aussies go, I find the women to be much gentler than the men. As tourists in Thailand, they act like monkeys that have been let out of their cages. But as an expat, who has had the privilage of knowing Australian men and women, you all are really lovely people. 😀

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    • Australia Day is coming up in a few days, and I thought it fitting to write about this topic this week. It is true, discrimination knows no geographical boundaries. I think you are right, that many of us don’t really understand what diversity is. Some think of it in terms of age, the industries we’ve worked in, our education…and don’t bat an eye at cultural diversity since perhaps they grew up around one culture or live in a neighbourhood with people of similar ethnic background.

      To be a multicultural society means giving each other equal rights and respecting, understanding each other’s cultures. Not just stopping at appreciating and lapping up delicious Chinese, Japanese, Italian food. Asian being the easiest to accept because of the model minority myth. I’ve vaguely heard about that before…now you’ve gotten me thinking about it again, Lani. Hmmm.

      I had no idea some Australian men come across as hyperactive monkeys in Thailand. I think I need to see this to believe it. But thank you for thinking that we are a nice bunch. We really are very lovely 😀

      Thank you for your compliment on my photos. I do wonder how many people notice them. Actually, I plan on writing a post about photos at some point, soon, I hope. You’ll probably like it 🙂

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      • Yes, I will look forward to that post. And I’m probably being unfair to young and swinging Aussie men, but a lot of men treat Thailand like their personal playground and it gets a wee bit old.

        And yes, I thought your post was timed originally for the holiday…very good of you, too! You’re so well planned!

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    • Hehe. That is not me in the first photo. I just snapped away randomly and got that shot. But I think the girl in the photo and I do look similar!

      Hopefully one day you can visit Australia and take nice photos of my country 🙂

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  11. Great post, observations and thoughts. As a migrant, albeit a British one, I see it much the same way. Most of the time this seems like a paradise. In South Australia they pride themselves as a “paradise of dissent”, and are maybe? more tolerant? Our State Governor was himself a refugee from Vietnam and of course Australia Day is when new citizens are welcomed- as they should be!

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  12. Hi Mabel, thank you for stopping by and made a comment on my blog. I really love your picture for Serenity. First, I never thought that this is a challenge post. But it made me curious and read all the way.

    I’m not Australian. Never been there also. I can’t comment much on those problems you wrote. But I feel you. In term of minority, anywhere, we always have to blend in even though sometime they are not welcoming us.

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    • Thank you, Ryan. My blog isn’t about photos, so I can understand why you thought it wasn’t a challenge post…but I try to weave the challenges each week into my posts anyway 🙂

      You are right. In many situations we need to try to blend in as that will bring us the best outcome. The sad thing is sometimes no matter how much we try to blend in, we will still not get accepted. But maybe that will change someday.

      Thank you for stopping by and the nice words. Glad we have connected.

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    • Thanks, Matt. I’ve learnt to live with racist remarks…it’s a part of life here. But it doesn’t come my way every day. There’s so many other things to enjoy about Australia. Maybe you will get to visit here someday 🙂

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        • You never know, Matt. Maybe one day you’ll visit my city, and I’ll be happy to show you around. Oh yes, the water does turn the other way down the sink here. Fascinating. Reminds me. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched the water in my sink…

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  13. I’ve only been to Australia once, and found the people very friendly. My dad almost took us to live in Australia when I was a child, and I often wish that he hadn’t changed his mind. It’s a really amazing country. I’m British and lived in South Africa for many years before moving to America. I think that whatever country we live in, we have to embrace the culture as much as is possible. There will always be some things which don’t sit well with us though. I’m afraid that every country has it’s share of racists, and that’s very sad. I’m sorry that you’ve had to bear the brunt of racist comments. xx

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    • So true. No place is a complete paradise and there will always be some who will disagree with us. Racism is something I’ve come to live with but by speaking out about it here in the blog world, maybe it might help.

      Wouldn’t it be fun if you actually did live in Australia 😀 We are a very friendly bunch and welcome you with warm hugs! Think of all the wildlife you’d be able to photograph. You know, it’s still not too late… 😉

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  14. You express so well about the racial problem. I know that it’s something that is not easy to write about. As a young woman, you have a great courage to face the facts, racism and discrimination, and has the writing skill (power, I should say) to address the issues and problems openly through the social media and honestly (instead of complaining), that makes me believe you just may make a difference in the near future. Great post! Love these two photos. 🙂

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    • Racism is indeed a problem in Australia. No use running away from it. The risk standing up and speaking about racism in Australia is getting more taunts from the opinionated ones. But I think it’s better than not speaking up about it.

      I don’t know if racism is as bad in the States or where you live. It doesn’t seem to be the case and Australia has a long way to go.

      Thank you for the compliments on the photos, Amy. Sometime this year I hope to do a blog post about photos and how I go about taking them 🙂

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      • US has established education, programs, and laws to against Racism ever since LBJ signed the Civil Right Law, which wasn’t too long ago. Maybe you can apply grad school in US to see this part of the world.

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        • There is a discrimination act here in Australia, but sadly racism still happens. We have a long way to go in terms of achieving cultural equality. The next step in grad school for me will be a PhD. I hear it takes much longer in the States to do it than in Australia.

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          • You can try and find info online. Many universities in Calif have more than 30% Asian students, and UT Austin is a diversified university. It sounds like you want a change.

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            • Universities in Australia also have a high percentage of Asian students too, interesting similarity. I’ve been feeling restless of late being out of work (it’s a hard job market in Melbourne these few years), and not sure if I should go back into work or take time off to do what I really want to do. Hope you’re having a good week, Amy 🙂

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              • It’s always hard to decide what to do for a young, talented, and intelligent lady, and specially in an environment that is not so friendly. Good to hear from you, Mabel. 🙂

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                • Thank you, Amy. I don’t think I’m that intelligent, actually. I’m very slow and indecisive on a lot of things…probably the Australian side of me coming out.

                  No, it is always good to hear from you, Amy ^^’

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  15. Your summary of what it means to be Australian summed up well what I know about the culture. A Vietnamese friend of mine, Khoa, lives there, too, and I know he’s experienced some of the same things. (I can’t believe someone called you a “chink”! Grrr…)

    People always wonder where my last name came from. It’s Cyphers, and honest truth I have no idea. On my dad’s side, my great-grandmother lived in Australia for a while. Years ago, the British sent their convicts to Australia, so it *is* a little hard to define what it means if you say your family came from Australia. Your grandparents were criminals?

    I hope you find comfort in Australia. I actually liked living in Asia because I stood out: feeling out of place became the norm. Here in California, it feels weird to blend in. But my boyfriend has a Southern accent, so even though he’s from the States, he often feels out of place here, too. It’s just… The way life is. Ultimately, I think our contentedness in a place has to a lot to do with our own flexibility. Racism, though, is a terrible thing and is everywhere (unfortunately).

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    • I am so sorry to hear your Vietnamese friend Khoa experiences racism too. Very sad. I think a lot of the racism here entails verbal abuse and thankfully doesn’t get physical too much.

      Cyphers is indeed an interesting last name. Thanks for explaining it as best as you can. I don’t know why anyone would want to think that of Australians are criminals. It was a long time ago and it’s a very generalised idea.

      I’m quite happy living in Australia, but don’t know if I can call a place home. Flexibility. I like that. It sounds like you’ve lived a life with many twists and turns and you’ve accepted things as they came and moved along. I suppose…you want to be anything but ordinary (there’s a song called just that) and you learn so much more being different. Maybe one day you’ll come visit Australia 🙂

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    • Thank you, Sandy. You summed it up perfectly what we’re all actually are, “citizens of the world”. We’re always moving, learning and meeting different people of all backgrounds, how can we not be citizens of the world. If not moving geographically, then with the help of the online world.

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  16. i think wherever we live, we should be open minded in embracing the culture as much as we can and more importantly respect it. racism and discrimination are everywhere; unfortunately the sad part of life. in my younger years, i’ve been to australia several times due to work.

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    • I agree with you. Discrimination is everywhere due to a number of reasons, one of them being difference in opinion. Like you, I really wish we all can be open-minded and respect different cultures – and even if we don’t agree with it and other cultural lifestyles, just accept things as they are and move on.

      I hope you had a pleasant time here in Australia back in the day. We are a pretty friendly nation.

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  17. Australia is the cradle of Kangaroos… I see Australia the same as America. A land of free and rich…and strong. Truth be told, I know little about the Land Down Under. Seriously, I learned one thing after reading this: Physical features no longer preclude the idea of borderless citizenship. That stigma of being perceived as Asians based on physical features is almost vaporized.

    I used to think of Kangaroo when I hear the word Australia. I think of Mabel now.

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    • You have such a poetic way with words, Sony. I won’t be surprised if you come out with a book one day. But I digress. Sadly, there are times Australia isn’t a ‘free’ land – hurtful words will make some of us feel like outsiders. I think many of us suffer in silence (which is terrible) but manage to move on somehow and keep to themselves.

      Thank you for the very, very nice second paragraph. It’s one of the best comments I’ve received. Thank you, Sony ^^’

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  18. great perspective, but for me
    i think mostly Australians (i mean the white ones) used to be kind and humble, but saying shitty things behind your back, similiar with British person, lol
    i mean it’s personally, but in general Australian isn’t that straingforward

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    • Oh my gosh, Dedy! You say it so straightforward, much more than me. Lol 😀

      But I reckon you are very, very, very right. Everyone wants to make a good first impression so they will look like decent people. But on the inside, you never know if they are really that nice. My parents always said white Australians have very good manners…but as someone who has experienced racism, I don’t think some of them mean well on the inside.

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    • Saying mostly white Australian and white British people are like this sounds prejudice no matter how you dress it up (ie- lol). There are racist and small minded people everywhere across the global but that doesn’t cloud my judgement nor should it yours either (mate).

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  19. The stereotypes are perpetuated ad nauseam, but have very little bearing on the deep reality. Even someone of Anglo Saxon heritage, such as myself, does not identify with these stereotypes of what it means “to be Australian” and sometimes encounter prejudice/sarcastic comments because I grew up in another country, speaking with a different English accent.

    There are certain values that being Australian is supposed to encompass, such as tolerance, openness, freedom, fairness, etc, so I guess that is part of it, but, of course, there are “Australians” who don’t practice these values.

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    • You put it very well what “Australian” means. The definition is complex, and it really doesn’t stop at stereotypical ideals. It is refreshing to hear someone like you admit that they do not identify with the Australian stereotype. I think there needs to be more education about this in schools.

      Today I was out in Melbourne having a look at the Australia Day celebrations. It was very nice to see so many people and families of different backgrounds enjoying the celebrations. I hope it was like that in Sydney too.

      Like

  20. Pingback: Happy Australia Day | The Blog of Charles

  21. A good summary of what’s perceived to be Australianーboth within and without. I remember seeing both the good and the bad while there, but on the whole had a very positive experience. I had already left Oz by the time of the 2008 apology, but I’m glad it happened, as I remember it being discussed very heatedly while I was at uni there. I also remember lots of different multicultural festivals in Brissieーand the best Greek food I’ve ever had in my life. It was Oz that opened my eyes to a wider Asia: I made friends with people from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea and Japan.
    I think you hit the nail on the head with “Being Australian isn’t only about sticking to stereotypes, but also juggling different cultural, social identities.” While not perfect, Oz is doing better than the USA (similarly a “new” country, created by colonizing Europeans) in many respects and will hopefully be continue making positive strides in the future. ^^

    Ooh! If I made add something quintessentially Australian to your list: the seemingly incorrigible habit of understating things. 😉
    Slightly off-topic but still on topic, have you read Bill Bryson’s “In a Sunburned Country”? (Also titled “Down Under”. An absolutely wonderful read, and I’m sure you’d have some great thoughts on it if you’ve not read it yet! ^^
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24.In_a_Sunburned_Country

    Like

    • Awwww, Australia opened your eyes to the world. Glad to hear your uni experience was very international and friendly, and you met people from all over the world. There are quite a number of international students here who don’t like to mix with local Australians and like to stick with their own race, I don’t know if you encountered that.

      I don’t think many Australians like to understand things too deeply…maybe it’s our easy-going nature. Many of us seem to accept things as they are…then again, I’m sure there are many deep thinkers among us/

      I haven’t actually read In a Suburned Country, but it sounds interesting. I would love to get to know the Australian characters. The summary sounds like the book is a lot of fun 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • There were definitely some instances of segregation I noticed when it came to international/Aussie students. I think there had to be active involvement or interest from both sides for it to work.

        If you do get the chance to pick it up, please do! It’s one of the few books I’ve actually laughed out loud while reading, and had to keep sharing quotes with friends/family. ^^

        Like

        • So true. Both sides, international students and local Aussies, have to want to be with each other and learn from each other. It can be anything both sides are interested really, like food, and then it will work.

          That book doesn’t seem humorous to me. Glad you told me as I like funny books!

          Liked by 1 person

  22. Sure there is the ole matey Aussie stereotype, Bondi beach, or leather trenchcoat/hat outback cattle /cowboy wrangler. I’m certain Aussie Tourism still plays up that image. Just as friggin’ annoying as the Canadian Calgary/Alberta image of cowboy, oilfields and bison. Now the world economy is sliding because of the fall of oil prices, Alberta’s one-time arrogance just last year, as Canada’s eoncomic engine, falls on its face for being overly cocky /boastful to the rest of Canada.

    Mabel, I don’t pretend I feel super deep kinship with Calgary/Alberta. I feel closer in spirit as a Canadian, to Ontario and British Columbia where I have lived for quite awhile and still visit. That is how I reconcile how I feel as a Canadian, with uglier elements of Canadian society that appear redneck/conservative / choosing to be blissfully ignorant. Canada is a huge, diverse country that there’s lots of choice how I identify with Canada’s best things. I’m sure Australia offers something like this or?

    Save your energy from not focusing on whether or not you belong in Aussieland. But more on regions/elements that you love about Aussieland the most, as your adopted country.

    Like

    • You are right in guessing that Australia is huge and diverse, and there are certainly many good things about Australia – and to be affiliated with, some of which mentioned in this post. Tourism ads for Australia (and ads for our national carrier Qantas) never fail to showcase our lovely beaches, kangaroos, surf…stereotypical of Australia. And as Australians, many of us know that there is more to Aussieland than them. A lot of the time when I look at these tourism ads I wonder what is so good about Australia, and what the tourism body is trying to say and who they are trying to target. Beats me.

      “I feel closer in spirit as a Canadian” Now that is an interesting thought. To feel close in spirit, to be united by the relationships that we share. I wish more Australians can realise this.

      Like

    • That is an interesting blog post, Jean. Never knew that was a part of Canada. In all honesty, I’ve never seen cowboys or cowgirls in Australia. But googling the subject, it appears that they do have a presence in some states in the outback. So you are right.

      Like

  23. We don’t have to box ourselves in, do we? =) Love where you took this, the wonderful and surprising ways our own features can embody (pun intended) our multiculturalism (though we may genetically be purebreeds). I’ve gotten to know Australia through bloggers like you!

    Like

  24. Hey Mabel, don’t worry about having a different accent (by the way mine has turned quite British). And really, don’t worry about not being a fan of Vegemite!!! 😛 hehe. Happy Australia Day!

    Like

  25. Thanks for this post Mabel, it’s a great analysis of the good & bad of Australia. The most recent migrants in my (biological) family came here almost 150 years ago, so I really do call Australia home and love it very dearly, but in recent years I’ve felt despair about the way in which our conservative governments have really acted against the spirit of those positive values captured by the idea of a ‘fair go’. The use of asylum seekers as a political football, for example, gives the racists in our community license to abuse people. I even feel embarrassed or shamed to be Australian sometimes.

    Like

    • Thanks for sharing about your family. It is interesting to hear, and interesting to know that you can trace your family back so far. Shame how the government treats asylum seekers and their rights. And though the government did say Sorry to the First Peoples, this demographic is still marginalised to an extent. Big difference between action and words.

      I am sorry to hear that you feel ashamed to be Australian, but you do have justified reasons for saying that. As a nation, we have a long way to go towards achieving, how can I put it, diversity equality. I don’t know if that’s even possible.

      Like

      • Yes, we do indeed have a long way to go, and it’s disturbing how rapidly we can go backwards. I certainly didn’t feel ashamed though when Kevin Rudd did the Apology, & I hope that we can find a leader who’s more visionary and has greater integrity than most of the latest crop of politicians.

        Like

        • The Apology was indeed a step forward and has its place in the history books. We certainly need to build on the multicultural foundations established over recent decades. Understanding one another and our unique cultures is something we all need to work towards.

          Liked by 1 person

  26. It is encouraging reading the comments above, as I have faith that in time, those with racist or narrow-minded views will diminish or even, cease to exist, in our country. Fear and ignorance often drive racism, and narrow minded views seem to breed in times of economic uncertainty. You do a wonderful job challenging conservative viewpoints and stereotypes with your blog. Like it or not, we are a multi-cultural country and diversity is our great wealth. It enriches our society and makes a modern Australia, Australian!

    Like

    • The comments on this post have been very insightful. And they come from all over the world, which makes it all the more interesting. Perhaps if we ignore culturally discriminatory remarks they will go away over time…but I don’t know that by not saying anything that will work.

      As you said, “Fear and ignorance often drive racism”. I’ve always been a believer in standing up and speaking out about racism – the more we know about it, the more we’re in a position to educate others around us.

      Thank you for your nice words. I really appreciate it. In a diverse society we get different perspectives that are so eye-opening, shame that some can’t see that yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Such an awesome post Miss Mabel. I ask these questions myself, often when I travel and always on Australia Day.

    When I travel I become one of those patriotic loons, hand over heart when I hear Aussie songs and see vegemite, no judgement that you don’t dig it. LOL! And often at the tail end of Australia Day, I do question the drunken hooligan bogan screaming Aussie Aussie Aussie. But…. Always, I love my country, and I think it is one of the most magical, diverse and amazing countries in the world.

    Sure, there are those few that are a disgrace, but we can find those Aholes everywhere, but I would think they are in the minority (possibly an ignorant statement right there, I don’t have people like that in my life). I say….. We wouldn’t be Australia if we didn’t have all the other cultures here too.

    Hope you had a rippa Straya day!

    Cheers,
    Anna

    Like

    • Hehe, thank you Miss Anna 😀 Love your Aussie pride. There is so much more to Australia than bogans and drunks…it really is just one part of Australia and I think a lot of us are level-headed enough to realise that. I agree with you that the anti-social locals are a minority – it really isn’t every day we encounter them and I reckon they just happen to be the more vocal and outspoken ones. And just so happens that those of us we love to experience different cultures are more inclined to mind our own business and let others live the life they want, stereotypical life or not.

      I certainly had a crackin’ Straya day. Very relaxed, very good. I hope you did too!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. I have to say that I have been learning a lot more about Australians with you!
    I have never been to the country, I only know a few Australians… though not enough to know how people are there. But I found it interesting when you said that they work hard and play harder hahaha.

    What I can say is that is a few years from now, Australia will be even more a mixed country, and racism will eventually (hopefully) go away. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I’ve always associated Australians with being laid back, easy going, friendly and social. I know a few Australians and have visited a few times, but I think that perception was formed even before, because of portrayal in the media… TV shows, movies, etc. Over the last several years, have read/ heard a lot in the news about racism in Australia but I’ve never seen it first hand.
    A lot of points you made about diversity, accepting change, not being black and white, moving forward, etc.ring true for a lot of countries… the world in general I guess.

    Like

    • Sounds like you’ve met very lovely Australians. Most of us are a decent bunch, and I reckon those who are opinionated and culturally intolerant are a minority.

      That is true. The world is a diverse place and in order to get along we really need to respect each other’s cultures. We’re always traveling and moving as well 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  30. This was a really great post! I have never been to Australia but I have met many wonderful, fun Australians when I have travelled. Only once did I meet a rowdy group of young Aussies and I thought “hey! for once it’s not the Americans…” But at the end of the day, there are good and bad every where, right? On that same trip, I was around some Texans that were quite embarrassing. I will admit, I wish I had an Australian accent. I never want Aussies to stop talking, I just want to listen – I love it! 😛

    Like

    • Thanks, Jessi. There sure are rowdy Aussies here in Australia too…I think sometimes we do have too much of a good time 😉

      “there are good and bad every where” Spot on. Glad to hear you like the Australian accent. I’ve heard quite a few people say it’s hard to understand. Then again, we all have different accents and different ways of pronouncing things. And different Australians in different states speak the accent differently! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  31. I have a dream, one day I can visit Australia..not for making live there. I’ve heard so many times Australian accent, such as Nicole Kidman. Though she’s already been living in the US, but her Australian accent can be still heard, and you know….when I heard Australian accent for the first time, I laughed spontaneously, especially the way they said ‘day’…identical to ‘die’ and I got angry at first. Do you think I’m gonna die? hahahaha..

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  32. It is so disappointing to hear of racial comments and actions towards you (or anyone), in part because it is simply ugly to see ~ but perhaps mostly because the person who says/acts in such a manner is one hurting individual, whether it is insecurity or fear…it is quite pathetic, and I think they understand this as well (if not at that moment, than at some point later in life). True sadness.

    Anyway, as I have yet to visit Australia I cannot give a true accurate account of my experiences ~ but from the Australians I know I simply will repeat your words: “being Australian is about being friendly to everyone, giving each other a fair-go”. I just think it is the coolest nation in the world as it holds the coolest people 🙂

    Wish you well Marbles 🙂

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  33. HI Mabel, I just stumbled into your blog and as an Australian living in China, long time, I really enjoyed reading this post. You’ve really captured the essence of being an Aussie. a liking for vegemite is not compulsory!
    I remember when my Chinese ( former) husband first arrived in Australia, my Chinese-Australian friends advised him to relax a bit, not work 24-7, and that Australia gave the opportunity to have free time to enjoy life. Actually, he never got the hang of that and returned to China.

    Over the past few years the ugly, very ugly side of racism has emerged. Sometimes things happen which make me ashamed to be Australian. But then these kinds of polarities are emerging all over the world, with a great deal of ugliness on one side and lots of beauty and kindness on the other side.

    I prefer not to watch the news much now and just see the beauty wherever i go.

    Thank you for this great post. As you said, we are all a nation of immigrants. Apart from the indigenous people, we are all either boat people, or descended from boat people.

    Debbie

    Like

    • It sounds like you have many great experiences in both Australia and China, Debbie. Sometimes if we go and live abroad for a bit, we tend to come back with a different view of the country we’ve left behind.

      It is true that racism is prevalent in Australia, and I think quite a proportion of racism incidents go unspoken and some of us don’t realise that racism is happening right before our own eyes. It’s so much easier to laugh along with a stereotype or cultural put-down than stand up and say that that is not funny, as we risk offending and getting hurt.

      I’m like you. Don’t watch too much news or even TV in general. Going out in Melbourne, you actually see such a culturally diverse city and everyone of different races moving along altogether.

      Thanks for stopping by, reading and commenting. Really appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. Yes there are indeed lots of great, positive examples of multicultural people, events etc… the news only displays the ugliness, and in the internet generation, that ugliness spreads quickly.
    And you are welcome 🙂

    Like

      • hi Mabel, and all who have contributed comments to this long thread… i was scrolling down the comments to reach your reply Mabel and pressing ‘like’ all over the place.
        it is so true what one commentator said about a fourth generation chinese still being asked about their roots – and as an australian living overseas sometimes i get sick of the where are you forms, but usually i just answer and engage in conversation as i know here it stems from a genuine interest.

        anyhow what you said above about the positive stories is so true, and that is why blogs like yours are so important, because the mainstream media seems to be getting worse and worse. and there are so many positive stories out there!

        debbie

        Like

        • It is true that being asked where are you from stems from genuine interest and it’s a harmless question. We’re all fascinated by difference, sometimes so much so that we forget we’re being judgemental. It’s encouraging to see Australia is much more accepting of multiculturalism these days – it’s something a lot of the capital cities talk up in the context of tourism.

          Thank you for the nice words, Debbie, and for your support.

          Liked by 1 person

  35. Great post Mabel! After spending some years in Australia I must say that Australians are one of my favorite people because of everything that you’ve mentioned above.

    I also understand where you’re coming from regarding the “rasism” but I also believe that this exists in all countries, and I think that Australians are working towards a less rasist country. I found it very moving, for example, when the Sydney siege happened in Martin Place, how Australia came together in the “I’ll ride with you” to prove this.

    Just a thought! Thanks for a great post! x

    Like

    • Thanks, Angeliqa. Glad you felt very welcomed in Australia. We are certainly very nice and warm people! It’s true that many of us are working towards stamping out racism with many anti-discrimination campaigns over the years. They Sydney Seige certainly showed how all Australians can be compassionate and unite together in times of crisis, regardless of race.

      Maybe one day there will come a day where we can all live together in peace and harmony. In the meantime, we have to keep working to make that a reality. Looking forward to checking out your travel stories soon 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  36. My sister lives in Brisbane and she loves living there. She has her own family there but whenever I ask her the question “are you still British?” she still says yes.

    Her children (my nephew and niece) were born in the UK and were here visiting with her last March for 3 weeks. To me they were more Australian because of the Australian accent they both had. My sister, however, still seems to have her British accent. My niece, who is 16, loves living in Australia, but my nephew, who is 13, wants to come back and live in the UK. So I think he’s probably more British than Australian. 🙂

    I’m sorry to hear about the racism you often have to face, Mabel. I see it all too often here in the UK as well, and even I come face to face with it on occasion because I am Welsh, but live in England! It’s usually just a bit of name calling fun, but sometimes it can be quite hurtful.

    Like

    • That is very interesting to hear that your sister still has a British accent all these years. Your niece and nephew having an Australian accent – sounds like they spend a lot more time outdoors with their Aussie friends than at home 😀 Which is a good thing and sounds like they have made themselves comfortable here.

      I am sorry to hear you do get the receiving end of racism on occasions. It’s funny how people choose to treat us differently when they find out where we’re from or hear the way we speak. Hopefully one day they see the brighter side of cultural diversity.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, both love living in Australia very much, but I have a feeling that my nephew will eventually come back to the UK to live as he loves London so much. As a career, he wants to be on stage as a singer and dancer, so wants to work in the theatres of London’s Westend. He’s very ambitious 🙂

        It does not happen very often Mabel, but it just goes to show how racism can rear its ugly head even between people of the same nationality. Fortunately, most people here are not racists although we do have a General Election coming up in May, here in the UK ,and racism and immigration are high on the political agendas.

        Like

        • Not too sure why my spam folder took a shining to your comment again. It must have been very hungry when you popped by.

          Your nephew does sound very talented at theatre. I’m not very familiar with Australia’s stage production scene but I gather it’s more vibrant over there in London. After all, we get many touring musicals play here all year round and they are very popular with Australian audiences.

          You are very right. Racism does happen between people of the same nationality, and between people of the same race as well. I wrote about the latter in one of my first few posts. Maybe it’s a topic I should revisit.

          Liked by 1 person

  37. Hi Mabel,

    I love your blog- you are so insightful and seem very compassionate. 🙂 I am 18 years old, half Indian-Singaporean (born in Singapore) and half Australian, and I grew up in the U.S. As you may guess, culturally, I am a confused person. I am moving to Brisbane in a few months, having never lived there, but visited countless times (half my family is there). I am wondering if you have any advice for me? Being mixed, culturally and racially, I am not sure what to expect from moving. I don’t have any Australian friends younger than 40, so I’m not sure what the younger generation are like (in general) compared to young Asians and Americans.
    Thanks so much for writing about all these topics- your wisdom on these is very much needed in the world 🙂

    Like

    • That is an interesting background you have, Michelle. Growing up around different cultures, I’m sure you’ve come across different cultural perspectives. I’ve never been to Brisbane but I hear it’s humid there, just like Singapore.

      It’s hard to say how the younger – and older generation – are like in general in Australia. It depends on who you meet, and who you hang out with. We are all individuals, and if we are ourselves I believe that inner confidence of ours will shine through 🙂 Good luck with moving. It sounds like a very exciting time for you. And thank you for the kind words 🙂

      Like

  38. hey, great article 🙂

    i’m confused as to why “i can’t understand your accent” is a rascist thing to say. I get told that alot by my foreign friends because they genuinely cant understand my accent. Is it because the client was purposely being rascist? Also, which aspect of commercial media is lacking in cultural diversity? Maybe its something on victorian TV, seeing as the east and west have different TV.

    Also, i feel like writing my own blog, but i’ve never really done blogging before, so whats the dos and donts of blogging?

    again, thanks for the article, and happy australia day (for 2 days ago) 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks, Sladam. There have been times when I’ve started speaking the way I speak and the Australian in front of me says that to me, or something along the lines of “I don’t want to speak to you / I want to speak to someone else”. Happens when I’m dealing with clients over the phone or face to face in a predominantly Anglo office.

      But, if they can’t understand your accent, fair enough. Sometimes it can sound like we are speaking a different language/

      Reality TV in Australia has featured a good cross-section of the popular in recent years. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case with locally-produced dramas, and in the news.

      If you like writing or are passionate about a certain style of blogging, go for it. Nothing right or wrong whichever way you go. Blogging is what you make of it, like any other form of art 🙂

      Like

  39. Man I have an English assignment on what it means to be Australian. Always been a bit more of a maths and science person, Don’t know how you could love to write so much! Good Luck.

    Like

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