Do you know where Australia is? Would you like to know?
I was in my travel agent’s office the other day and saw an imposing poster: “European Package” it proudly proclaimed in 3” letters. Below were the glossy photos to entice you to visit the wonder that is Europe: The Eifel Tower, Big Ben… and a kangaroo.
OK, for full disclosures sake, I’m an Australian. I am also a realist. Australia is right down the bottom of the list when it comes to globally significant countries. But people, we are not in Europe!
It borders on a national obsession, recounting stories of tourist misconceptions. I have personally been told, on disclosing my nationality, that my English is quite respectable – in that slightly loud way people like to talk to non-English speakers, (as if volume is the secret to learning languages).
There are some outstanding stories from the Sydney Olympics in 2000 – Tourists turning up with Austrian currency and complaining the Vienna Boys’ Choir was nowhere to be found, questions to travel agents asking if milk was available – or should they bring their own; and my personal favourite (although I suspect apocryphal) is the story of the American lady who turned up for her Olympic experience – in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
So here it is folks: Australia is an Island in the Southern Hemisphere, we are a multicultural society where English is the official language, you can’t walk from Sydney to Perth, unless you want to die, as in between is an extremely large desert. There are no kangaroos in the streets of Sydney, (but quite a few in the restaurants, if you catch my drift). It is stinking hot at Christmas, and while it’s true we have a fairly large group of poisonous snakes, spiders, plants, and fish, you are unlikely to meet them sipping on a latte in a Melbourne café. (Yes, we also have coffee in Australia).
I do wonder in the Internet age why there are so many people who simply don’t know where things are. I perfectly understand why you wouldn’t know where Lichtenstein is – I don’t know myself, but geographically, Australia is the 6th largest country in the world, more than twice as large as India and 48,000 times bigger than Lichtenstein.
Australia is also a delightful place to visit, the people are friendly, and the weather is excellent. Remember, we speak passable English, or at least our version of it, so don’t be surprised at my superb grasp of written English, (but I concede if you are an English teacher, you may be thinking the opposite). So don’t be fooled by your Travel Agent, kangaroos are not European.
If you want to go to Australia, or simply impress your friends by knowing where it is, follow these straightforward instructions:
Log on to your computer and open Google maps. Go left at America and when you get to Japan, head south. It’s the huge place at the bottom (no, not the Antarctic, you have gone a country too far!)