OZ from A to (almost) Z

22 July 2010 by

- Aboriginal: One last census established that Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders are more than 510 000, more than 2.3% of the Australian population. Although there were over 250-300 spoken languages with 600 dialects at the start of European settlement, fewer than 200 of these remain in use. In 1983 the High Court of Australia defined an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander as "a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he or she lives".

- Bottle shop: In Australia, drinking alcohol means going first to a Bottle Shop or “Bottle’O”. Some restaurants or Take Away are not allowed to sell alcohol, that’s why you could find some with written on the front “BYO”, which means “Bring Your Own” - you can bring your beer or wine in this restaurant.

- Cricket: This sport is born a long time ago (a doctor spoke about it in 1597). It remains now the most popular sport in the English Commonwealth, especially in countries like Australia, Pakistan, India, New-Zealand… The rules are numerous and there are some variations of the game but mainly, the match is contested between two teams of eleven players each. One team bats and the other one bowls and fields. The first tries to score as many runs as possible without being dismissed while the other team tries to dismiss the batsmen and limit the runs being scored. When the batting team has used all its available “overs” or has no remaining batsmen, the roles become reversed.

- Diner: Australian people love to eat very early, between half past five and seven o’clock. Some restaurants even offers a 10% saving if you eat before six. Australian cuisine has numerous influences, from asia (Chinese, Indonesian, Vietnamese food…) to Europe (English, Italian, Greek food). The wine, French grape grown in Australia or New-Zealand is drunk like beer: very cold. The real Australian diner is the Barbecue or BBQ. On huge and efficient machines, they grill meat (Angus beef preferentially), vegetables or fish.

- Ecology: Taken apart the global climate changing, the main Australian problem concerning Ecology is the lack of water. Even if one can use since a long time water tanks, built in individual houses, that permit to collect and recycle rain water, some regions in Australia are facing serious difficulties in the dry seasons. The other problem linked to the climate is the progressive disappearance of the famous Great Barrier Reef. This lively organism of 2300 km of length on the East coast of Australia could die within the next decade if the water continue to get warmer.

- Football: The football in Australia is not like football in Europe or even like football in the United States of America. It is a very popular and spectacular game called generally “Aussie Rules”. Officially born in Melbourne in 1859, The Aussie Rules, or “Footy” is maybe the most important sport event of Australia. Eighteen players in each team are on the oval grass fields, and try to score by kicking the ball between the middle two posts of the opposing goal. Players may use any part of their body to advance the ball, but they usually kick, handball or run with the ball (in that case, the player must intermittently bounce it on the ground).

- Garage sales: This is more than a tradition in Australia: garages sales are a real opportunity to discover ones neighborhood, its inhabitants and heaps of second hand books, discs, or furniture. The garage sales are organized each Saturday and sometimes the Sundays in front of the particular’s houses. You can find the announcements in the local newspaper, or you can find it on the road: often, the garage sales are marked by air balloons.

- Hats: With its sun shining all year long in one part or another of Australia, the government doesn’t joke much with sunburn. The Australian Cancer Council is in every corner to remind you to wear a shirt, put sun cream every two hours, and wear a hat. The typical Australian hat is the famous Akubra. With its large edges, the Akubra – whose name comes from the factory based in New South Wales – protects your face and neck from the sun, and makes you feel like a cow-boy even if you are in the middle of the CBD of Sydney…

- Jewelry: Even if you can easily find heaps of freshwater pearls in Australia, the country’s most famous jewelry is without any doubt the opals. The opal is a mineraloid gel which is deposited at a low temperature and may occur in the fissures of almost any kind of rock. Shining and playing with the sunrays, the opals can be classified from the most rare (and expensive) red and black ones to the most common, white or green. Some opals jewelry are made from different cut of the gemstone to give it a wonderful and wide scale of colors. Coober Pedy in South Australia is one famous city producing opals massively.

- Kookaburras: One of Australia’s strangest birds. Even if it is linked to the kingfishers family, the kookaburras are easily recognizable by their funny shout between the human laugh and the monkey’s scream. Those birds are quite sociable and you can often hear them at the sunrise or the sunset. If you hear one that seems a bit unsuccessful, don’t worry, it’s just a new born kookaburra who is practicing under the patient advices of its mother.

- Lamington: The lamington is one of Australia’s national cake. Often presented in a square shape not longer than ten centimeters, the Lamington’s origin could be linked to Charles Cochrane, Baron of Lamington, Queensland Governor between 1896 to 1901. The cake is made with butter, sugar, eggs, chocolate with coconut. The 21st of July is Lamington’s National Day in Australia.

- Marsupials: Marsupials live in Australia, Tasmania or New Guinea. Marsupials are mammals whose female possess an abdominal pouch where the larvae comes after its birth to grow up and be fed. Kangaroos, Wombat and Possums are marsupials.

- No Worries (and other slang words): Australian’s language is very colorful with tons of silly expressions like “Flat as a shit catter’s hat”. “No worries” is quite a common expression you will hear in Australia. It is not only the reflection of the mood of a happy man, but the way of living of a whole nation.

- Outback: Let’s quote Bill Bryson for this one: “To Australians anything vaguely rural is “the bush”. At some indeterminate point “the bush” becomes “the outback”. Push on for another 2,000 miles or so and eventually you come to bush again, and then a city, and then the sea. And that’s Australia.” (Down Under)

- Police: In 1979, three commonwealth law enforcement combined to create the Australian Federal Police (AFP). “The role of the AFP is to enforce Commonwealth of Australia criminal law and to protect Commonwealth and national interests from crime in Australia and overseas.”

- Road train: A road train consists of a tractor unit, more or less colorful, pulling two or more trailers. Australia has the largest and heaviest road-legal vehicles in the world, with some configurations topping out at close to 200 tons. Some of them can have a fuel tank of 2,000 liters. Road trains are used for transporting all kind of materials, from livestock to minerals. Low cost and effective, the road trains have played a significant part in the economic development of isolated areas.

- Surf: The art of surfing has a Polynesian origin. The first observation of it was made by the crew of the ship Dolphin in Tahiti in 1767. Surf was first used to determine the leaders of the leading classes of Polynesian tribes. Hawaiian tribes used three types of trees including the Acacia Koa. Surfing was brought to Australia in 1915 by Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku. He demonstrated this ancient Hawaiian board riding technique at Freshwater in Sydney.

- Tea: Australia’s first hot drink. The morning tea is around nine o’clock and the afternoon tea between three to five. Real Australian people use to eat a classic Tim Tam biscuit – named after a horse which won the Kentucky Derby in 1958 – with their tea. The method is simple but you need a little exercise: first, bite one of the corners of the Tim Tam, then the opposite corner in the diagonal, and then, enough quickly not to let the chocolate biscuit melt in your hand but not too much because of the high danger of burning your lips, swallow some tea trough the biscuit and eat it in the same movement.

- Uluru: This is maybe the most famous monolith of the world even if it is not the biggest or the highest. Situated around 400 km south of Alice Springs in the red middle of Australia, Uluru is 9km of circumference and 348m high. First seen in 1872 by the explorer Ernest Gilles, the Uluru is a sacred place for Aboriginal people, that’s why it is forbidden to take pictures of it in some places. Uluru is listed as a World Heritage Site.

- Vegemite: Australian’s best friend for breakfast. This black cream made from concentrated yeats is very salty, but full of vitamin B. You will have to put just a little bit of Vegemite on your buttered toast to appreciate it, otherwise you will say this usual comment “pouah, how can they eat that?”

- X-Ray: The X-Ray painting is an Aboriginal technique in which sacred animals like the Kangaroo or the Emu are painted showing some parts of the inside of their body. The artist expresses in that way all the beautiful simplicity of the system created by Nature.

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