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From Down Under: Why Australia and Canada are the same place

Posted by Margot / August 31, 2009

20090831-sydney.JPGYou might have seen this landmark before. In case you haven't, it's called Uluru.

I'm sure there are about 21+33 million people who would take issue with the claim that their respective countries are the same. We Canadians are as fiercely proud of our beer, hockey, and ice-covered barren lands as Australians are of their beer, rugby, and sand-covered barren lands. I mean, that's what stereotypes are for, right? Of course, there are plenty of obvious reasons why the two places are very different: the flora (i.e. million-year-old bramble bushes), the fauna (thems animals are all crazy, hopping around everywhere and disobeying general laws of evolution), the language (they have more incomprehensible slang than you could shake a million-year-old bramble stick at), and the food (poutine = salty and delicious, Vegemite = salty and disgusting). But all across this land of dingoes and kookaburras and duck-billed, egg-laying mammals, I'm constantly asked, "Is Canada really different?" And after some musing and pondering, my answer is invariably, "No."

After hanging out on sandy beaches in the middle of winter and almost running over a wallaby while in a driver-on-the-right-side car, I was fairly certain that I wasn't in Canada anymore. But when my trusty Sydney crew brought me to the self-professed "indie club" Spectrum to enjoy the musical stylings of local DJs Thirsty Dedds, I was immediately brought back the 16,000 kilometers, back home to good ol' Montreal.

To begin, they seem to have our national flower everywhere. As we walked into one of Spectrum's many rooms, I noticed a pattern of fleur de lis across the wall. When I pointed it out to my Australian companions, they were seemingly unimpressed: "Oh yeah, that wallpaper flower design. It's everywhere." And in the days that followed, I noticed it definitely was, decorating my aunt's kitchen curtains and within the ironwork on fences around town. Turns out it doesn't carry the same statement it does here (I met a grand total of zero Francophones in Oz), but they were interested when I told them what a big deal it was here.

After I had digested the floral pattern on the walls, I noticed that the crowd in this new room was enthusiastically dancing to a song that was strangely familiar. Apparently, CanCon rules extend worldwide now, because the system was blaring one of Sum 41's hits from a few years back. I'll not pass judgment on the choice of music (iTunes Genius, perhaps?), but rather just be impressed with our fellow countrymen's widespread appeal. Seems we've moved beyond Céline, Shania and Bryan for our exports.

20090831-manlybeach.JPGA bit different than the middle of winter in Montreal

Moving back into the room with our DJ friends, I was met again with familiar get-up all around. We Montrealers might think that we're trendy - and sure we're one up on Drummondville (sorry, Drummondville, it's true) - but I think that the advent of MTV and perhaps the Internet has made a world of clone trendy young people. Call it globalization or a shrinking of the human village, but contemporary 18-30-year-old style is pretty much the same whether you're in Montreal's Spectrum or that in Sydney. Enter said club, look around, and this is what I see: assorted Nirvana t-shirts (total: 4), classic Ramones t-shirt (total: 3), and enough plaid lumberjack shirts and jackets to sink a ship full of convicts. Throw in some skinny jeans and a few pairs of Converse shoes, and we're golden.

Of course I had my partners in crime, Nicola and Amy, to thank for showing me around and helping me tear up the dance floor, and the good boys of Thirsty Dedd for playing all our favourite and obscure tunes, but at the end of the day (or night, or early morning), it was probably good old fashioned homesick nostalgia that showed me just how close to home I really was. In a diplomatic effort to make up for the sweeping generalizations about our two countries, I invite all Australians to our Great White North: come to Montreal and try the tastier of the sodium-laden dishes, play a game of shinny at the park. And to all you Canadians: should you have the opportunity to visit that crazy upside-down island nation in the south Pacific, do so. My aunt will be waiting for you with a barbecue of prawns.



Jer / August 31, 2009 at 03:46 pm
Hey, we have plenty of incomprehensible slang here too. Especially in MTL.

Welcome back.
lina / August 31, 2009 at 04:07 pm
Um, that's Sydney Opera House. Uluru (formerly known as Ayer's rock) is in the middle of the dessert!
Kate M. / August 31, 2009 at 05:13 pm
You could get paragraphs out of the parallels between Australian and Canadian treatment of their native people, but that might put a damper on your cheery tone.
Margot / September 2, 2009 at 02:31 pm

Immense thanks for your clarification; I should hire you as my travel correspondent next time I get away. Please sent your CV to my room at the Big Red Rock.

Angelique from Bitchin Kitchen / September 2, 2009 at 05:21 pm
Huh, never thought about it that way, but you have a point. I've never tasted that veggie stuff but my buddy who lived there for 4 months never got used to it. lol... oh and ya, lets keep the topics cheery...
Ex-Oz / September 11, 2009 at 09:10 am
Canadians are very preoccupied with "Do the Americans love us, do they not?" Australians tend to just do what the Americans would not do. Otherwise, very similar
CW / September 13, 2009 at 05:12 pm
You are comparing the Toronto of Australia to Montreal.

Jer / September 18, 2009 at 02:36 pm
Ha. Just read a piece by David Sedaris in which he calls Australia "Canada in a thong".
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