What type are you?
In the time I’ve spent over here in London I’ve observed a lot of Aussies. It’s inevitable really, given so many of us make the journey and spend the minimum two years over here. It is a bit of a coming of age thing really, so many of us do it. It’s not at all rare to walk into a pub and randomly see someone you knew from school or some other part of your life who you’ve not seen in years and years. Although, that said, it never ceases to amaze me that our worlds re-collide so far from our home soil while we probably barely saw each other when we lived a couple of streets away.
Some Aussies I’ve observed simply by being the nosey parker that I am and listening in to their conversations on the tube and/or some other public place (hey give me a break, they’re hard to miss and people watching is cool alright?!), or some I’ve met through other people, or some I’ve seen at Aussie gatherings or some, I’ve known from home and have stayed friends with.
Through said observations, I’ve come to the realisation that there are broadly 3 types of Aussies who live in London. They are outlined below.
TYPE 1 – EXTREME AUSSIES:
These are the ones that mostly live in West or South London (most particularly Shepherd’s Bush, Hammersmith, Acton, Ealing etc). Although this is not the only indicator for this type and other types can also be found in these locations. Extreme Aussies tend to only hang out with other Aussies, only go to Australian bars and can usually be found decked out in full Aussie garb (flag and Southern Cross tats and all) at the Walkabout on Australia Day and or any other day they feel is appropriate. These are the Aussies you see walking through London in the middle of winter wearing their pluggers. This type probably came here to travel but aside from going to the continent, probably don’t leave their little part of London and show very little interest in seeing the rest of the UK. You can hear this type coming a MILE away – their accents are as thick as they were the day they left our Island Home and they still have that Aussie drawl and high use of swear words or unnecessary linking words such as ‘like, ay, but, yeh’. I’ve always wondered about this type – why would you travel across to the other side of the world and only hang out in Australian bars and with other Australian people??
TYPE 2 – UN-AUSSIES:
A long way off from the ‘Extreme Aussies’, there are the ones who live primarily in East and North London (Shoreditch, Hackney, etc), although again, not exclusively. This type tend to be more scene-sters than your typical West London Aussie. Or, they are the type that have settled here for good with their families. This type would probably have exclusively non-Australian friends, and spend more time checking out what London has to offer. They wouldn’t be seen dead in an Aussie bar and they would also probably look down their noses at the Type 1 Aussies, because they are just ‘so uncool’. The Un-Aussies have been completely absorbed by London life and are apologetic or in complete denial about their nationality, often heard claiming ‘I’m not Australian, I’m a Londoner’.
TYPE 3 – GOLDILOCKS AUSSIES:
While Type 1 and Type 2 are so at odds with each other, there is a third type that sits squarely in the middle. They have Aussie friends and they have other friends from other nationalities. They’re proud to be Australian, and can be known to rock the Aussie garb now and then, but they’re also keen to soak up as much from London, the UK and the rest of the world as they can. People belonging to this type aren’t hipsters and they’re not scene-sters, (they aren’t cool enough for that). They are just normal people, living in London and who want to enjoy it while they can. They wouldn’t mind going to an Aussie bar on a rare occasion like for the State of Origin or to watch a big AFL grand final or as a bit of a laugh, but wouldn’t go there on a regular basis. These are your balanced Aussies, letting a bit of both worlds creep in. Some have tracings of English accents or words, yet you can still hear the Aussie twang and the inflection at the end of a sentence so characteristic of Australian speech. Not too cool for school and not too insular, these are the ‘Just Right’ types.
Can you guess which type I am going to say I am? Yes, I’m a Type 3, but I will be honest and admit that at times I have sadly teetered dangerously close to the edge of the Un-Aussie territory. I have lived in both West and North London, specifically in Hammersmith, Shepherd’s Bush, Notting Hill, Roehampton and Angel, so I’ve had quite a balanced view of London and a significant amount of contact with the various types. I am DEFINITELY not cool enough to be considered a Hipster and I’ve got a good balance of Australian and non-Australian friends. The Aussie friends I have over here all sit firmly in the ‘Goldilocks’ category too and the majority of them I’ve known from home.
I can definitely see that comfort can be found by the familiar, in such an unfamiliar place. Of course Aussies are going to relate to other Aussies, having grown up with the same cultural references and background and, if you’re lucky enough to have friends here that you know from home, why would you NOT stay friends with them? I just think it’s a little dangerous and sad if you allow yourself to stray too far into either of the ‘Extreme’ or ‘Un-Aussie’ categories. Moving here is difficult for anyone, especially if you do it on your own and don’t know anybody. It’s a MASSIVE culture shock, and I don’t think we fully appreciate just how isolated Australia is until we come here and expand our minds and our understanding of the world. But that’s the whole reason we do it right – to enjoy a whole new world? So long as we don’t forget who we are in the process.