The Australian abroad

Backpackers drinking beer

You can’t escape Australians abroad. Whether you are trekking through the jungles of Colombia or tubing down a river in Laos, there’s bound to be a shrill Aussie accent piercing the chatter of excited travellers. We overrun the Contiki tours of Europe, merrily flood the Oktoberfest beer halls in Munich, and dominate the full moon parties in Thailand. This is in addition to the hundreds of thousands of expats living in the UK and Europe, North America, and just a hop across the Tasman in New Zealand.

Whether it’s a product of our isolation near the bottom of the globe, or it’s just our innate sense of adventure and “have a go” attitude, we have a strong desire to explore the world away from our fair shores. From the gap year backpacker to the UK working holiday maker to the group package tourists, Aussies from all walks of life jet off to broaden their horizons in more historic, colourful or otherwise richer cultures overseas.

Generally, Australians are well-loved abroad. We are inquisitive, have a sunny outlook, and love a beer, which on its own can bridge many cultural gaps! We may not fully grasp the concept of eating dog or the European three-kiss greeting (even amongst men?), but we are respectful of cultural differences and take it all in with curious fascination and/or amusement.

Australian expats have the reputation of being direct and proactive, and are highly valued by employers due to our “work hard, play hard” attitude. They may not get our dry, self-deprecating humour, but they know that when we say that we will get the job done, it will be delivered on time (even if it meant we had to work through the night and over the weekend powered only by coffee or red wine).

The flip side of this likable Aussie, however, is the loud, drunken yobbo traveller. Or perhaps more accurately, groups of loud, drunken yobbo travellers. Solo Aussie travellers or couples rarely cause an eyebrow to raise, but as soon as we form a larger contingent, it seems that we degenerate into a shouty, foul-mouthed mob. Especially after a few too many snakebites at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Walkabout.

When we venture to South-East Asia in particular, we are well on our way to being off our faces and it’s not even 11am. The beer’s cheap, what can we say? We may try our luck at scoring drugs and hope we don’t get busted by the cops, and if the locals don’t understand our slurring speech we’ll bitch and moan about how much easier things would be if they could just speak English. Yes, we Aussies can get pretty ugly abroad.

To be fair, the same groups of loud, drunken yobbo travellers are probably getting ejected from the Ivy or the Roxy back in Sydney on a Saturday night. People don’t change their spots just because they’re in another country. And groups of young people from any nation get rowdy and rude when alcohol-fuelled – just look at the Italians at Oktoberfest and the Brits in Spain.

However, we should remember that when we head overseas we represent our country and all Australians back home, so we have to take this responsibility seriously. Respect other people, the local laws, and make an effort to learn a bit of the native tongue, and you’ll find your travel experience all the more richer. And you’ll spread the love of Australians worldwide!


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