You know that you’re dealing with a confident, mature human being if they are self-deprecating. Likewise, if a city can laugh at itself then you know you’re going to enjoy visiting it. Test out my theory if you like — google ‘what not to do’ in London, Paris, New York, or Rome — they are comfortable with their foibles, relaxed in their self-mockery. Now repeat the exercise for Sydney and see what you find. Aha, see what I mean? WTF, Sydney! Luckily for you, dear reader, I am a keen observer of the antipodean condition, and can put your fresh concerns to rest. But first, a little history.
219 years ago, Captain Arthur Phillip watched a soldier run the Union Flag up a repurposed spar and proclaimed this penal colony New Albion. The name, like many things in Australia, never really caught on and we ended up with the way-less cool sounding Sydney. Over the next eighty years, Sydney lured the lion’s share of 162,000 reluctant one-way tourists from the gaols and poorhouses of England, and has been dominating the overseas visitor drawcard ever since. The only difference between visitors then and now is that we now let most of them leave. A good percentage of visitors to Sydney can’t leave soon enough, and I can give you ten good reasons why. It also explains why Sydney isn’t ready yet to laugh at itself just yet.
(#10) We don’t like it when you mispronounce the name of our Prime Minister.
Who the fu*k is Prime Minister Trumble, Sean Spicer? We’re not fans of Melissa McCarthy so much, she reminds us of our kid sisters, but she was on point with the SNL parodies wasn’t she, Shawn. If our PM can avoid calling your boss Ronald Dump, then you can elocute “Malcolm Turnbull” can’t you, Shaun? I mean, they speak English on Rhode Island, don’t they, Siobhan? And that goes for all you other funny-talking mofos as well, not just the witless Press Secretary to the President of the United States. We may not be impressed by our Grand Mal, the spineless flip-flopping weasel, just this very moment; but he’s OUR spineless flip-flopping weasel! We’re a bit touchy about stuff like that here in New Albion. Tourists from more easy-going countries don’t expect it.
(#9) We don’t like it when you disparage the little Union Jack in the top-left corner of our national flag.
When you do this, it gives two-thirds of the population of Australia, let alone Sydney, the mega-shits. It shits the remaining third as well, don’t get me wrong, but for totally different reasons. This flag-mockery is an especially dangerous tactic if you’re here around Anzac Day (April 25) because we all take the day off to drink, gamble, and punch the shit out of anyone with a tan and a beard, anyone who makes fun of our Southern Cross tattoos, and anyone who complains that our beer is too cold, which I think accounts for most of you. And we will vigorously defend our right to drink, gamble and punch because it’s enshrined in the Bill of Rights, or would be if we had one. Don’t mention that either, by the way. Only about 1% o the population know this, the rest think ours is the same as the Americans.
(#8) We don’t like it when you come here on your boat in your fancy uniforms and impregnate our women.
We never really got over that in the 1940’s, and as a result of all these shenanigans, we had to drown a generation of fat-headed kids called Chuck and Brad and Larry and shit, just as we were on the cusp of eliminating all the weak-chinned Alberts, Georges, Timothys, and limp Dicks. Now of course they’re all strapping young fullback-Jack, or front-rower-Noah, or maybe I-don’t-really-play-team-sports-Dingbangs, but at least they’re all true-blue Aussie kids born with a thong-notch on both feet and tomato sauce for blood. With an 8:1 ratio of convict men to women until the late 1800’s, it’s no wonder us blokes remain paranoid. Luckily, modern Australian women are really expensive, so the average American tourist finds he gets more bang for his buck in the Philippines. But watch out for that Duterte bloke, he will kill you.
(#7) We definitely don’t like it when you have an accent already but pretend not to understand our accent.
Officially, it’s called strine, not that there are many practitioners nowadays. We still chuck a sickie when we’re crook, bignote ourselves, and chew the fat while bending the elbow with a mate. By comparison, what the hell does “Jeezum pees!” mean anywhere except Jamaica. When some bloke with a Physics degree from Punjabi University rings from a call-centre in Delhi and says, ‘Ello, my nem is Trevor. Would it be you are wanting to be buying a…‘ I can hang up, because his name sure as shit isn’t Trevor. Don’t come here and giggle at us if your native accent is even worse than ours. We speak the lingua franca, unlike most of you babbling chimps, just with a charming parochial lilt.
(#6) We don’t like it when you detour from the sanitised tourist areas to areas we haven’t prepared for the viewing audience yet.
Some travellers want to immerse themselves in the local culture by roaming off into the ‘burbs or (worse) the countryside, to interact with ‘real’ Australians. Tip for new players: don’t. The country is where we store all the unfriendly Australians and most of the killy creatures. Encountering a 300lb rogue kangaroo in the bush which can easily keep up with your hire car at 60kph is an unnerving experience, but a sun-touched farmer with a shotgun and a ute might be even worse. Take a selfie if you like, horror makes a change from smugness, but the bush idyll you’re seeking might not exist outside of a Heysen watercolour. If it does, it’s probably filled with snakes, ants, spiders, stinging wasps and bushrangers. A tour through an Aboriginal township will change your opinion of cosmopolitan Sydney forever; they’re not the unfriendly Australians, but they are the real ones.
(#5) We think you should stick to Uber or catch a taxi, because if you end up on the wrong train it could be very, very bad.
If you are ‘travelling light’ (i.e. don’t have money) do not come to Sydney, because the first and perhaps last stupid cheap thing you’ll do is catch the train. If you wake up with a jolt at 10pm and look out the window to see a naked man defecating on a bench with the word ‘Werrington’ stencilled onto it, then you seriously need to turn around. But you won’t be able to, not safely, until you reach the next major hub. Getting off at a random suburban stop is like jumping out of a life raft with a cut on your leg. You’ll hear them coming for you. You won’t have much time, so abandon your belongings and run. Seek refuge in a house with the lights turned off, because darkness means the occupants are employed = chance they won’t cannibalise you. A fully-lit house at 2am is a trap. If anyone asks you, anywhere in Sydney, ‘mate you got a light?’ then it’s kung-fu time.
(#4) We have a thing called beach-etiquette here, and ignorance of these laws is no defence.
If you have to despoil the natural beauty of the Australian coastline with your fat, pallid bodies, here’s what you need to do to get along with the locals. Don’t put your towel down near anyone. Don’t play loud music, because the chances are nobody else likes Soulja Boy. Don’t leave your Golden Gaytime wrappers on the sand, they go in the bin. Control your kids, or the undercurrent will do it for you. Swim between the flags unless you want to get decapitated by a surfboard. Visit a beach other than Manly or Bondi, we have plenty. We didn’t invent fish & chips but we did perfect them, so try some. Get over the fact everybody calls you a c*nt, because over here it’s an endearment. Don’t ogle when a girl takes off her top, she’s not doing it for your benefit, and if her boyfriend notices you’ll get another chance to demonstrate your martial prowess.
(#3) Unlike most cities where they want you to blend in, don’t do that here: we punish you for that.
Australians are unashamedly patriotic. You see the Aussie flag, the Southern Cross (the unofficial Aussie flag), and the green and gold a lot around Sydney. We don’t suffer from cultural cringe, and there’s no such thing as an identity crisis in Oz. If anything, it’s the reverse — we are so Australian that any effort at fakery stands out like dog’s balls. Those ug-boots you buy at Circular Quay? Not the real deal. That pale yellow piss you paid $9 a schooner for at The Rocks? Wanker beer. By all means wear, eat and drink whatever you want, but if you stayed within the Sydney Tourist Zone then it’s all a sham. Borrow a ute, drive ten hours to the Bourke pub for kangaroo steak washed down with six or seven Vic Bitters, now that’s bloody haute-cuisine mate. Of course, if you do that, you have to drive back. That’s if the locals let you leave. Just make sure you get out of town before it gets dark.
(#2) Don’t come here and try our shit then complain on YouTube that it wasn’t any good — we travel a lot, we will hunt you down.
Why fly fifteen thousand miles to whinge. If our meat pies aren’t as good (in your opinion) as the ones back home, why are you eating the same food in the first place! A holiday abroad means sampling local stuff, observing local mannerisms, absorbing local culture. There’s nothing on Earth quite as disgusting as a Balmain Bug, so try one. But if your video pops up on EweChewb a year later comparing it unflatteringly to the langoustine (with lemon butter and garlic, mmm) you had one time at O’Grady’s in Galway, then a fit, blonde chick with freckles and a backpack is on her way to sort you out. Don’t complain if Stevo the tradie from Campbelltown knocks on your door in New Hampshire, one week after you bag the shit out of our Coopers Pale Ale. Fair warning. Aussie pride is a scary thing.
(#1) People come to Sydney from all over the world for the sun. Stay home, you have one of your own, and yours isn’t trying to kill you.