We also have Electricity and Running Water

In 1984 my family moved from Melbourne, Australia to St. Louis, Missouri in the good old U.S. of A. I was 8 years old, and “moving to America” sounded like the greatest adventure a kid could have. We flew with Qantas from Melbourne to Honolulu, and then transferred to American Airlines. The very first thing a real American ever said to me was, “Would you like some Sprite?”

We settled into St. Louis, and worked on learning the new lingo. I vividly remember the blank look on the teacher’s face in the cafeteria when I asked for a serviette instead of a napkin, and I remember the righteous frustration I felt when my little brother was marked down in english class because he wrote “bucket” instead of “pail” under a picture of a… well, a bucket as far as I’m concerned. (To this day, the only time I’ve ever used the word ‘pail’ is when reciting ‘Jack and Jill’.)

But the thing that really floored me and my family was the way that the average American seemed to be completely ignorant about the world outside the States. We  had people say:

  • “Australia? That’s just south of Texas, right?”
  • “Is that in Canada somewhere?”
  • “Do you folks have roads where you come from? What about cars?”
  • “I suppose you had to leave your pet kangaroos back home.”
  • “Do you have shops in Australia?”

Those weren’t questions asked by kids. They were all questions my parents were asked by other adults. But things changed in ’86, when Crocodile Dundee was released. Australia was suddenly interesting. Now,  I grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne. I’d never even seen a croc or kangaroo anywhere except in a zoo . But all of a sudden I could get away with anything just by pulling out the line, “That’s not a knife. This is a knife.”

Crocodile Dundee was just the beginning. Although we moved back to Australia a year later, I was confident that with TV and the internet, ignorance had been replaced with understanding. 

A couple of years ago, I found myself in Seoul, South Korea for a few days. We’d did all the traditionally Korean things, including going to a Korean club, so on our last night our guide suggested we check out a “G.I. Bar”.

The Bar was at the top of a badly lit staircase. A Korean man indicated that entry was $5 each, and women got free drinks all night. It sounded like a pretty sweet deal. We paid and went inside.

Other than the two men behind the bar, everyone was either from America or Canada. Apparently this was the go-to place for teachers and army guys. And with free drinks for all the women, it was probably the best pick-up joint around.

My companions and I proceeded to enjoy the free drinks and dodgy 80’s tunes, and it wasn’t long before we’d attracted the attention of some of the American guys. I soon found myself talking to a very handsome and muscular young man from Florida. We exchanged names, home towns, and so forth. Then he said, “I don’t normally listen to this kind of music.”

“Me either,” I said, yelling to be heard over Madonna singing Like a Virgin. “What kind of music are you into?”

“Hip-hop,” he said. Then he looked concerned. “Have you heard of hip-hop? Do you get that kind of music in Australia?”

“Uh, Yeah,” I said. “I love hip-hop. I’m really into Australian hip-hop right now.”

The guy looked at me like I was crazy and then started to laugh. “Australian hip-hop?” he said incredulously. “How could you have Australian hip-hop? That’s ridiculous.” Then he started to laugh again.

I don’t remember what happened next, but I didn’t see him again for the rest of the night.

Anyway, in case you were wondering:

Yes, we have hip-hop in Australia. We also have electricity, running water, cars, trucks, telephones, politicians, crime, Simpsons reruns, racism, and all the other modern conveniences.

And if you’ve never heard Aussie hip-hop before, here’s some samples to get you started. Even if you don’t like American hip-hop, give it a listen and let me know what you think.

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17 Comments

Filed under Random Stuff, The Inner Geek

17 responses to “We also have Electricity and Running Water

  1. Plus I hear people are really tall down there. Must have something to do with the kangaroos. 🙂

  2. Oh, my goodness! I had tears running down my cheeks on this post! LOL It’s so funny the things people will say. Oh, and I’m glad to ehar you have running water and electricity. 😉

  3. Momma Be Thy Name

    People like to ask me what part of New York Rhode Island is in.

    • Seriously? I’m not sure whether to think that’s hilariously funny, or just a sad reflection of the education system. Possibly both. I mean, everyone knows Rhode Island is in Boston. (Just kidding!)

  4. People don’t really say those things do they? So dumb.

  5. Well… I don’t really dig the American variety of hip-hop, for the most part. My musical mind moves in very different ways.

    But I’m glad to see you all have Simpsons reruns. The alternative? I shudder to think… the barbarism

    (I say this, of course, as a person who very, very rarely ever catches Simpsons these days, either new, reruns, or otherwise. I’m a veritable Conan.)

    • Actually… one time in grade school I did a report on Australia. I don’t remember what all I learned about in my report, but I remember painstakingly tracing a map of Australia out of an Atlas.

      In my undergrad, I had an International Marketing class. In groups, we did reports on the business climate and marketing implications of cultural differences in different countries. For bonus points, we brought a food sample from the country of origin. I didn’t do Australia on that one… but I remember that whoever did brought as their food sample: Vegemite. Shudder. No offense… but it tasted like a kick in the mouth. Shoe leather and all.

      I figured only in Australia, where every living thing conceived by nature is trying to kill you (I know this from bad Discovery Channel and Travel Channel “worlds deadliest” specials where the deadliest whatevers are always from Australia ;P) would the people be hardy enough to enjoy Vegemite.

      It’s still on my list of places to visit someday. 🙂

      • Vegemite is certainly an acquired taste, and not something that every Australian eats all the time. But the reason most non-Australians don’t like it when they try it is because they’re doing it wrong. No offense – it’s just one of those foods where you need to be told how to enjoy it. Vegemite is generally eaten on sandwiches (with or without cheese) or on toast. With most spreads, the done thing is to put heaps of it on for the full flavour. I’m thinking PB&J here – you want a good layer of each. Vegemite, though, is a bird of a different feather. The idea is to use as small an amount as possible, while still being able to taste it. We generally use a “scrape”, which is to say that you scrape it on, and then scrape most of it off. The flavour’s so strong that this is all you need. And when you eat it right, it’s really quite moreish.

        But you’re right — everything in Australia is trying to kill you. Venomous snakes, poisonous spiders, swooping birds, crocs, sharks, etc etc. They’re all just a part of life. Even “cute” koalas will use their razor-sharp claws to slice you open down to the bone if you make the mistake of trying to “pat” one in the wild. And then there’s the drop-bears…

    • I generally try to avoid TV as much as possible, Simpsons reruns or not, but somehow it makes me feel better just knowing they’re there. 🙂

      Oh, and even if you don’t like American hip-hop, you should listen to at least one of these Aussie hip-hop tracks. They’re very different breeds. (It’s like how Chihuahuas and Great Danes are both dogs, but you never see a celebrity with a Great Dane hanging out of their Louis Vuitton bag.) Australian hip-hop doesn’t tend to have the same big gun/hot chick/fast car/mo’ money content.

  6. Speaking as an American, I hear “bucket” for that object a lot more often than “pail.” Could be a regional thing though.

    Speaking as a guy who likes some Eminem on occasion, that first video’s pretty good.

    • Possibly. It could also be a time thing. My experience was 25 years ago (gosh I feel old), and the world has opened up a lot more since then, and language changes over time.

      And I’m glad to have introduced at least one person to some “pretty good” Aussie hip-hop. 🙂

  7. Chris Mackey

    This story had me laughing. And THANK YOU for posting those videos. I love the musical stylings of hip-hop, but I’m always searching for lyrical content. Rapping about how good you are at rapping gets tired quickly. I’ve never heard of any of these so they will be keep me busy for a while 🙂

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