by Georgia Gilson
It’s the law of bloody common sense that Aussie humour is a cultural tie that binds. In this globalised world, we may be able to speak in common tongues, but the nuances that come from growing up in the same place and a shared funny bone cannot be bought, and can rarely be trained.
It’s unsurprising that when you live in a city like Berlin, there can be an inevitable pull toward those who effortlessly catch onto your jokes and pop culture references.
Many expats will be familiar with dropping a “Tell him he’s dreaming,” only to receive blank looks from others. All too often, Australians will try to explain, “Oh, it’s a hilarious movie about a man and his family who don’t want to sell their home to an airport, and he likes telling his son the Trading Post prices are too high…” The hole you dig gets deeper and deeper, then fills with water. People begin to disperse – you’re losing them. There’s no explaining classic lines from The Castle, and what it means to so many Australians.
So ensconced are we in American and British pop culture, that it’s lovely to have a haven of Aussie humour that’s just ours. Expats starved of regular exposure to their fellow citizens foster a talent for having entire conversations in quotes – applicable in every situation. If somebody screws up, “You’re terrible, Muriel.” When a friend wants to branch out and be unique, “Dance your steps at the Pan Pacifics.” You’re trying to describe somebody, “Jenny, Jenny? No, Microwave Jenny.” And when somebody doesn’t chip in for their half of the döner kebab, “Now listen here you mullet. You owe me 4 euros.”
Not lost yet? Congratulations, you’re Australian or an Australiaphile.
In writing this, I tried to pick apart why I find such comfort in Australian screen and television. Yes, it’s the phenomenal comedic actors, from Rachel Griffiths to Eric Bana, Magda Szubanski to Bill Hunter. Yes, it’s the gutsy directors, writers, and producers who use wry wit to explore dark places. But really, it’s the story of the underdog that characterises most of our classic Aussie comedies.
The working-class family living next to the airport, drag queens performing for dazed outback audiences, lost-in-translation stories of immigrants, the unlikely ballroom dancer competing for her pasa doble partner’s heart…
We don’t do the big Hollywood ending. Rarely in these Australian comedies does “the guy get the girl”. They find quiet victories. Maybe this speaks to our mistrust of those who have it all and shout it from the rooftops – along the vein of tall poppy syndrome. But in the end, it’s not about the individual quotes, but rather “It’s the vibe of the thing” – many Australians who live abroad work hard to forge a new life, and maybe even learn a new language. But most still take delight in making a connection with the familiar. When you make your home on the other side of the world, it becomes your castle, and if you can’t be in Bonnie Doon, you may as well be in Berlin.
(Header image – 1994 film Priscilla Queen of the Desert is a jewel in Australia’s crown, showcasing Baz Luhrmann’s talents with a troupe of drag queen performers in the Outback.)
Georgia Gilson is an Australian freelance writer and communications consultant living in Berlin. She works predominantly with German start-ups as they launch into English-speaking markets, as well as tweeting and blogging about culture, news and politics.
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