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Put Some Shrimp On The Barbie

Australia has some pretty interesting slang. Priyanka Sanger analyses whether Aussie slang is representative of all Australians or if it’s actually culturally cringey.

Have you ever wondered where that phrase actually comes from? It originates back to the late nineties from an Australian Tourism commission advertisement that stars Paul Hogan. However, the irony is that so many Australians hate that saying as it moulds Australians as laid back country-bums who constantly cook on the ‘barbie’. Australians also use the word prawn instead of shrimp - shrimp is the term used in America. Australian slang itself has been Americanised, like so many things.

To many tourists travelling to Australia after watching Crocodile Dundee in the early noughties, we were seen as the home to snakes, sharks, spiders and many more deadly animals that could potentially kill you. This is one of the factors that reduced tourism rates in Australia. However, in Paul Hogan’s ad, Australia became the 7th most desirable holiday destination in America. This was also the be - ginning of Australia’s cheesy stereotypes that we all know and hate to be known by.

Personally, I was very dumbfounded by how much culture cringe has affected not just Australia, but people all over the world. When I went to Disneyland in Orlando on a school trip and the theme park workers were meeting and greeting the theme park guests that had come from all over the world, they stopped to talk to my little cluster of classmates. They were asking us a few questions about Australian culture and our school life. We sarcastically replied saying “we rode into school on kangaroos” and that “you need to watch out for drop bears whilst driving”. After we made those comments, some of the other guests looked strangely at us and were very confused about the lives we lived in Australia. One of the parents came up to us and asked us “Is this all true? About the drop bears and the kangaroos?”. As Australia is its own country and continent, people from outside assume that we live differently on this isolated island of ours with no exposure to the outside world.

Due to this stereotypical lens that other countries perceive Australia through (perpetuated largely by Australians ourselves), Australia’s portrayal of our culture was overruled by ‘cultural cringe’. Arthur Angell Phillips, who coined the term, explains that ‘cultural cringe’ is defined as the inferior dismissal of Australian art and work by bigger western cultures such as America and Britain. This idea was evident in the 1960s and 70s where Australia had a huge influx of migration. There were great shifts in social conventions throughout those years and a great segregation from British culture and the ‘American Dream’. As a result, Australia’s national identity became more unclear and was determined by what others thought of their culture.

The talent and culture has been undermined by outsiders to the point that we have had to outsource ourselves to be noticed. If you had to google ‘Australian Celebrities” you will be surprised to see the abundant amount of celebri - ties that you didn’t realise were Australian. Even I recently discovered that Iggy Azalea was born in Sydney, in Ryde hospital. However, these celebrities fail to represent the multicultural nature of our country. Within our roughly 26 million individuals, Australia is home to over 270 different ancestries. Our population has increased by 60% over the past 10 years due to the high influx of migration. Most of our well-known celebrities fail to show our multicultural nature.

Since we don’t globally exhibit the diverse population that we possess, we fall into these cookie-cut stereotypes formed by ridiculous ideas. We are so much more than our barbecues, beers and stereotypical slang. We are more than just an idyllic holiday destination with a bunch of beaches and bush locations. We are a country that’s filled with so much art, culture and talent.

So next time you rock up to your next barbeque party, your next shrimp… I mean, prawn, dish might not just be your common ‘ shrimp on the barbie’ - it might be a marinated mix of everything that represents what Australian culture means to you.


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