William Drake

Understanding Australian Culture Through American Eyes

Most cultures display some degree of internal inconsistency, and Australians are no exception. Australians are both prudent and rash. Despite the national fixation with gambling, Australians have a high rate of personal savings. But while they save, there are relatively few “investors” and most put savings in savings banks with low rates of return. They have a high rate of home ownership and a wanderlust that finds Australians around every bend of the trail in the world.

They are prone to live for the day but most have life insurance. They make good-natured fun of subjects that in America are approached with great seriousness like death, accidents, religion and anything deemed even a little pompous. And as we shall see with “Waltzing Matilda”, Australian humor mixes the grim into the playful.

They admire the “bush” ethos, but choose overwhelmingly to live in cities. They have disdain for those in authority, but have laws to protect officials from defamation which are much more restrictive than in America.

The Australian attitude toward authority is ambivalent. While depending on the government to provide for many needs, Australians are simultaneously skeptical of authority figures and don't trust the government.

The ambivalence about authority figures in relations between Australians and the English, and latterly the Americans. “Poms”, a name of disputed origin for the English, have long been derided as effete, decadent and even treacherous. This is not surprising in a country with a population of that England’s outcasts and Irish political prisoners. On the other hand, for years, the middle and upper classes emulated all things English, often disdaining Australian ways. This is known now as the “cultural cringe.”
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Bill Drake
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