A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about travel myths from some of my trips abroad and attempted to shed some light on their validity. As a result I was inundated with requests for a blog focussed specifically on Australian myths (when I say ‘inundated’ I mean ‘three people” but hey, feedback is feedback). As an Australian I probably skim over the Australian myths, forgetting that they have just as much ridiculousness to them as their more well-known cousins from overseas. I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence then, if I didn’t cover some of the myths that Australians laugh about and foreigners aren’t quite sure are real or plain made up.
The majority of myths about Australia seem to centre on our wildlife. There is a perception that everything in our country can and will kill you. While this isn’t entirely untrue, there is an element of truth to it. Crocodiles up north, snakes and funnel web spiders can all be life ending confrontations and virtually everything in our oceans has a death rate statistic of some kind. Depending on which list of deadliest snakes of the world you look at, we have five of the top ten or four of the top five. It’s not that Australian animals are deliberately deadly mind you; it’s just that even the placid animals appear to have anger management issues. The Cassowary is a prime example. It is a large, flightless bird with claws it can use to rip your stomach open. It can be found in Queensland, along with most of the other things that can kill you in Australia. It’s always safe, then, to not approach anything non-human. ‘Let it be’ is not just a good song name- it’s sound Australian travel advice.
Kangaroos deserve their own category. So many myths exist about their behaviour due mainly to the fact they are one of the most recognisable animals in Australia. And what’s not to love; they are a large animal that has a pouch, jumps to move around and has bigger biceps than most adolescent males. The most common misconception is that every Australian has one living in their back yard. While I cannot deny that some people in rural areas do have kangaroos in their paddocks, they are not popular backyard pets nor can people ride around in their pouches. In fact at times they are downright scary. Dogs have been known to be beaten up or killed and rouge males have been known to occasionally attack people. However, they are at their most hazardous on the road. In areas that kangaroos frequent, roadsides can be littered with ‘roo carcasses, struck by passing cars and trucks. Their problem is that they exhibit the poorest road safety awareness of any animal I’ve seen. Their suicidal tendency to wait until the last moment to jump in front of moving vehicles has cost many a kangaroo’s life not to mention thousands of dollars in vehicle repairs. According to a viral internet video doing the rounds, their other weakness is being punched in the face. Check it out on YouTube.
What can be confirmed is that kangaroo meat is something that we eat. Some international visitors find it unbelievable that we would eat one of our national emblems. Whilst kangaroo meat is not to everyone’s taste (I’ve had people tell me they would not even serve it to their dogs) it is one of the healthier meats available.
The myth about drop bears is fantastic. Australians around the globe will readily tell people of encounters with furry bears with razor sharp teeth that drop on people from above and feverishly attack them. My research has failed to uncover the beginnings of such an excellent myth but I’m more than certain that it began with a couple of blokes in a pub, drinking beer, talking to a couple of backpackers about the dangers of the Australian bush. What concerns me more is that there are visitors to Australia that forgo common sense and believe this travel classic. For the record, as if I needed to tell you, drop bears aren’t real.
There are more than just wildlife myths, though.
Australian’s love a good nickname and the stranger the story behind it, the better it is. Not only do we love having nicknames ourselves, but we will often go out of our way to nicknames others, for no real reason at all. We don’t limit ourselves to just people either; we will abbreviate and nickname our animals and our towns- half out of fun and half out of laziness. Why say “kangaroo” when “roo” will do? A New Zealander is clearly a Kiwi. Hell, we call ourselves Aussies instead of Australians.
Finally, distance in Australia is grossly misunderstood. Tourists regularly underestimate distances and the sheer size of our country. Australia is the sixth largest country by area, a fact often forgotten by visitors thinking they can get from one place to another in a short amount of time. The truth is that half the countries of Europe could fit inside Australia. That should be proof enough that a little bit of forward planning is required to get to your next destination.
Australia is a unique place. Our money is lots of bright colours and looks like it’s come straight from a game of Monopoly. Our animals are strange and some of our town names contain more vowels than consonants. To top it off we are a long way from anywhere. All of this is bound to create an element of mystique, isn’t it?
– Look but don’t touch, no matter how cute. It probably bites, stings, scratches, poisons and moves faster than you.
-Always plan your trip in advance so you know how far you have to travel. Don’t get stuck in the middle of no-where like a future 60 Minutes story.