An Australian Summer | Culture Trip
The Australian Climate
Let me make this clear – whatever kind of summer you’ve experienced before, you are nowhere near prepared for the fresh hell that is an Australian summer. See, the morbid death that we call summer isn’t just about the heat; no, it’s about the sun, the people, the clothes, and the tourists.
Here’s the thing. In Australia, in general – remember, we’re talking about a fairly large piece of global real estate here – the ozone layer is distinctly thinner than the rest of the world. Hence, the sun hits us like a laser-death ray, leaving anyone with distinctly Irish heritage lobster red. I managed to survive ‘heatwave lucifer’ in the middle of Italy, with temperatures clocking the high 40’s (that’s Celsius, my American pals), without getting burnt. What does that tell you about the Australian climate?
This brutal climate is the first and most prominent factor of Australian style. Whatever you think of yourself, tight tops and jeans are a no-go in the height of summer. Instead, what you’ll find is a collection of cut-off Levi shorts paired with simple tees and bohemian style sundresses. Anything too fussy is generally out the window, especially in local, coastal towns; if it doesn’t go in the water, it doesn’t go on.
How this affects style
The base of the style and the base of almost everything is, of course, the colonizers; the British. They are responsible for our rebellious dialect (created in the early days of colonization, and was specifically designed to piss the British off), and our base anthropological ways of life and furthermore, Gallipoli, the ‘making’ of Australia.
Whether we like to admit it or not, there is specific cultural importance and influence of our style that comes from world affairs, and Australia is no different. Though women began wearing the traditional societal costume, it very soon became apparent that a corset and three layers of petticoat would not be suitable for this type of climate. Bless the women who tried to keep up with societal norms (that had to have been rough) but also bless those who paved the way for light linen dresses and shorter designs, more appropriate to the outback.
This, hence, brought forwards today’s no-fuss-but-slightly-bohemian style. I tend to favor basic styles in summer; flowing, breeze-friendly dresses that cover my shoulders and my very freckled Irish skin. In winter, the overall style becomes distinctly more American.
My history teacher used to tell us that if our great-grandparents were to meet us now, they’d think we were American, and I believe he’s totally correct. Aside from a complete shift in accent, the American presence is obvious throughout the style capitals of Australia.
Australia, A History
Many Aussies can trace their heritage back to the people on the First Fleet ships, considering how complete the records were. For instance, on my mother’s side, one Margaret Downing stole a set of silver dinnerware – her to-be-husband was the first mate on the ship, and carried Captain Arthur Phillip ashore, therefore technically being the first person to stand on Australian soil.
Of course, you don’t have to trace your heritage back to the First Fleet to be Australian. The white Australia policy was implemented until the 1950’s, and 10-pound tickets were offered to Australia after the wars. We often overlook the sacrifice and slaughter of the Indigenous peoples of the land, of whom had a rich cultural history that was essentially erased. Though older generations are generally (and awfully) blasé about this loss, the government is slowly being pushed to make culturally appropriate changes.
The Australian People
Aussies are grumpy buggers, who don’t like fuss and will have a crack at you any moment they can. Don’t take it too hard – if you feel personally attacked, they’ve probably decided they like you. I had a Texan math teacher in high school who could not, for the life of him, understand this ‘eye for an eye’ culture. Insults are our form of love.
This is something to be aware of. The culture is generally friendly, open and laid-back, especially in comparison to, say, an American city. Aussie’s like things straight forwards; their opinions, their food, and their work. There’s no beating around the bush with ego’s here, as most people will know their worth and will ‘just want to get on with it’.
Keep in mind, that though the culture is laid back, we’re not that laid back. You won’t find many nude beaches here, and generally, a shirt-and-shoes rule applies to all social situations. Don’t go walking around in your bikini and flip-flops, that’ll just insult the locals. If you want to play the ego game, there’s a good chance that the locals will just walk away. It’s just not the culture.
Like I said earlier, Australia takes up a fair percentage of global real estate, and therefore there are a few places that need mentioning. I’m only going to briefly mention Sydney and Melbourne today though.
Melbourne is the closest city to my hometown and has been described as a bigger, cleaner version of New York. Situated in the southeastern corner of Australia, Melbourne has been voted the world’s most liveable city for (I think) 7 years running.
Melbourne streets run like a grid (literally) with the major ones being named after King William and Queen Elizabeth. Peter Alexander once described the city as a ‘sea of black and grey’, and let me tell you, he wasn’t wrong. The uber-modern skyscrapers lend to the nature of the workers in the buildings; modern, sleek, grey and black.
Melbourners have to prepare for every kind of weather, every day. Once, in Dublin, I was told that they had ‘unpredictable weather’, and I laughed myself silly. Melbourne is, and always will be, a city of 5 seasons. It can be sunny and hailing, snowing a block away from clear skies, or have gale force winds, in 38 degrees. Prepare for everything.
Sydney is a beautiful, beautiful town, very similar to Melbourne but sunnier and with the more predictable weather. Located on the east coast, the city hosts the famous Bondi Beach and the ridiculously attractive Bondi Vet. This is also home to Ramsay Street and the Home and Away crew.
No one in Australia watches this show; I’m fairly sure that they just produce it for the British now. You must see the Sydney Opera house. It’s a stunning monument to the culture that is even more striking from the river.
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