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Three Conversation Starters with an Aussie

A fusion of cultures that birthed a simple meal for 3am post-booze munchies, captures ‘Straya better than I can with words.

Second year student at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies
CHEN, Meira

From the countless questions I have been asked about my home country, I gather that a common perception prevails about Australia: it’s an island paradise for kangaroos, koalas and man-eating spiders. There is however, more to this huge island (or small continent) than most people are led to believe. Here, I’ll share three snapshots of local Sydney culture, which will hopefully give you a glimpse into the rich multicolored tapestry of my hometown.

Sydney Harbour Bridge in Port Jackson

A hot and sunny Christmas

Imagine that today is Christmas. It’s the perfect weather for surfing at the beach, or getting that summer tan all your friends are raving about. The smell of sausage sizzles and ‘tsssst’ of beer cans permeate the air. When night falls, the local park rings in a medley of Christmas carols and festive cheer. You ride your pet Kangaroo over to join in the fun.

Okay, the last part will probably remain in your imagination, but everything else is actually a part of a typical Christmas day in Sydney, Australia.

Bondi Beach (left), which is very popular in Sydney. Locals flock here on Christmas Day, and pretty much any day the sun is out. The “Coastal Walk” (right), from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach, is also a popular activity for locals.

One of the world’s most ancient living cultures

Opera house in the evening. The land here was once a place for ceremony, gathering and celebration in Aboriginal Australia.

When my Japanese friends hear that I’m from Sydney, they immediately say everything that they know about my hometown: “There’s that place with the eggshell sails…and koalas!” People from all over the world come and marvel at the architectural innovation of the Opera House, but I wonder if they have heard about the rich history of the land it is on. The site of the Opera House was a place where the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, our Indigenous peoples, gathered for ceremony, feasting and celebration. When you get the chance to visit, I encourage you to connect with one of the world’s most ancient living cultures, through visiting the Blak Markets, tasting Australian bush foods or hiking through valleys, caves and Indigenous cultural sites in the Blue Mountains.

What’s HSP?

HSP, packed with volume, diverse food cultures…and carbs.

Sydney local food culture is representative of the diverse ethnic groups that make up our communities – English, Chinese, Greek, Lebanese, Italian, German, Indian, Thai and more as our city grows. While I could talk forever about our food, from thick handmade pies to an avocado-on-toast brunch culture that is now an internet meme, I’ll instead share a local celebrity that is so local, most Australians don’t even know about it. Meet HSP, also known as the halal snack pack(※). What is it? Thick, crisp and hot, the chicken-salted, cheese-sprinkled chips that have soaked up the flavor from halal kebab meat, then slathered in chilli, garlic and barbecue sauce. A harmonious marriage of Australian and Middle Eastern tastes, the humble kebab-on-chips boasts its own multicultural identity. A fusion of cultures that birthed a simple meal for 3am post-booze munchies, captures ‘Straya better than I can with words.

(※)Fun fact: halal snack pack was voted as ‘People’s Choice Word of the Year 2016’ by Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary.

It’s much easier to connect with others when you know about the idiosyncrasies of their culture. Perhaps these newfound aspects of Australia can be conversation starters with an Australian next time!

Seafood platter lunches overlooking Sydney Harbor are quite popular (possibly among seagulls too).

◎What Australia is like◎

The official name is the Commonwealth of Australia and the capital is Canberra. Australia is located in Oceania and is a federal constitutional monarchy consisting of mainland Australia, Tasmania and numerous islets. The area is the sixth largest in the world, about 20 times that of Japan, but the population is about 24.99 million (2018). Australia is a multi-ethnic country, and about one in four people are said to be from overseas. Australia has three time zones, and the time difference from Japan is -1 to +1 hour. It has a peculiar climate such as desert climate and tropical climate, and the four seasons are opposite to those of Japan. There is a unique ecosystem, and nearly 90% of mammals and reptiles are endemic.

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