So I have this friend named Kevin.

He lives somewhere in the US, and I’m reluctant to be any more specific because Kevin has questions – lots of questions – about Australia. In today’s politically-charged climate, if I were to identify Kevin as a resident of San Francisco (he’s not) you might imbue those questions with a certain coastal progressive elitism. Likewise, were I to place him in Alabama, you might make an entirely different set of assumptions. Were he in Minnesota, you’d think him nice. In Florida, crazy or old.

If I told you where he lives you might also, in your mind’s ear, give him an accent. A question from New York Kevin would sound quite different than it would with a Texas Kevin drawl.

And this, incidentally, is the first thing Kevin should know, but hasn’t asked, about Australia. Even though the country is as large as the US, the regional distinctions between peoples are almost nonexistent.


Sydneysiders and Melbournites have a good-natured rivalry. Like Americans do with Alaska, Aussies sometimes forget Tasmania is a state. Perth is one of the most remote cities in the world, so very few, save those who live there, know much about it.

Except for the odd word, there are no accentual differences between regions. If an Aussie from Darwin – capital of the Northern Territory – were speaking to someone from Adelaide – capital of South Australia – you couldn’t tell them apart.

But Australians do differentiate themselves in at least one way Americans would understand. Some are classified as ‘bogan.’

The word bogan roughly translates to ‘redneck’ and both stereotypes share some of the same features. You just might be a bogan if you have flawed teeth, work in construction, drink beer or listen to AC/DC, among other things. There are books and TV shows featuring bogans, but it’s difficult to positively identify one in real life.

A few weeks ago, I drove some three hours west of Sydney to the city of Orange for a wine and food event. Orange should be, according to the stereotype, prime bogan territory, but during my weekend there I found nothing but kind, pleasant folk all brought together by a common love of drinking while hiking through rolling hills as mobs of kangaroo hop around you. The night after the event, I strolled into a local pub near my hotel fully expecting to discover that this – finally! – was where all the bogans were hiding. Instead, I was greeted by a peaceful blind man and his guide dog, a competent solo guitarist belting out early Pearl Jam, and a group of rough and tumble rugby hooligans so amped up from a day on the pitch that they sat down and quietly talked with me for fifteen minutes before giving me – for free – the $18 plate of finger food they’d ordered after I mentioned I was starving.

The answer to the question Kevin hasn’t yet asked is this: Aussies are Aussies. You don’t need to know where they’re from. You don’t need to look for differences in the way they talk. In fact, you don’t need to look for differences at all. They’re each beautifully, wonderfully, uniquely individual, just like you and me.

There is one difference though. Aussies live in a much cooler part of the world.

More on that next week.

Next up: Which way do Australian toilets flush?


Previous installments:

Part 1: I Would Like to Acknowledge


Photo by britsinvade