Posts Tagged ‘IDaustralia’

Real Heroes Walk Away…


Not all of Australia’s drinking activities are uncivilized, as you may have picked up from our article about the culture of shouting. But that aside, it is clear that the country still has a major problem when its longest serving emergency department director throws out the “d” word.

“We have developed this incredibly dumb drinking culture in Australia…and it’s a national issue,” said Professor Gordian Fulde of St. Vincent Hospital in Sydney.

Fulde’s comments last year came in light of the estimated 3,500 Australians that suffer brain damage as a result of assaults each year. Approximately 82 percent of these injuries occur on weekends, between the hours of midnight and 4am, and 70 percent of them happened in the close vicinity of pubs or clubs.

While this may shed some light into the macho Australian attitude that I experienced within minutes of landing in Sydney during one visit, especially when fueled by alcohol, it is a serious issue that has many officials calling for even stricter regulations on nightlife (there are already bans in place for serving drinks in glasses after midnight).

The government also launched a multimedia campaign last year, called Real Heroes Walk Away, in hopes of curbing the late night violence.

According to Fulde, the larger problem lies in the culture, how young people have a badge of honor attached to engaging in violence and winning fights. “And we have to show Dad that what he looks like on Saturday morning with a hangover is horrible,” he added.

Courtesy of

Having a Shout in Australia!


That Australia is a nation known for drinking is little surprise. It is widely thought that the first Australian settlers drank more alcohol per capita than any other population in history, and understandably so given that the country’s currency for a time was rum.

What isn’t so known, to outsiders anyway, is the concept of “shouting.” Going back through Australia’s long history with alcohol, it has always been considered bad form to drink alone here. And in the old days, when the nation was primarily a land of convicts, people used to buy drinks for others, perhaps as a test for character. If he returned the favor, he was okay—if not, he was someone best avoided.

My friends at Convict Creations wrote a fascinating piece about the social benefits of shouting, and how it has ironically saved a culture known for drinking from some of the catastrophic drinking-related problems of it’s Russian, South American or East Asian counterparts. So please go there for some interesting tidbits, while now I will focus on helping you understand the proper way to shout Down Under. 

  1. There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch:  Maybe you’ve heard this in Economics class, but it holds true here. If you aren’t going to return the favor, don’t accept a drink from someone. And don’t try to say you’ll pay them back next time!
  1. Don’t Knock Over That Man’s Beer:  If you have the misfortune of knocking over someone else’s drink, you had better hope there is another full mug on the table. In some parts of Australia, spilling one’s beer earns the guilty party a punch in the arm from every other member of the group!
  1. Step Up to the Plate:  It is up to you to step up to the plate and volunteer your shout. Nobody else is going to remind you unless it becomes painfully obvious that you’re attempting to breach your responsibilities to the group.
  1. Don’t be the Showy Offy Drink Snob!:  Whatever everyone is drinking, keep it consistent. If you try to switch the good old VB to a round of Chimay because you tried it on your trip to Belgium and enjoyed it, you’ll look like a douche.
  1. Nobody’s Forcing You:  In the event that you are starting to feel you had too much and want to bow out, wait until the end of a round. You don’t want to look like that guy mooching, nor do you want that round’s volunteer to appear cheap by not having to buy the same amount of drinks as everyone else. If you must drop out mid-round, try requesting a non-alcoholic drink. You may get a chuckle, but everyone saves face.
  1. Everyone is Equal:  Unlike in some cultures, here it doesn’t matter who is rich, who is poor, who is man, who is woman. The same expectations and obligations apply to everyone.

Now that you know the rules of the game, enjoy your shout next time you find yourself in Australia, or just drinking with a group of mates from there!

Plastic Cup Special: Drinking After Midnight


You’re all excited for your big night out in Sydney. You put on your favorite t-shirt, check your hair in the mirror, and cab it down to King’s Cross for an epic Saturday night. You beat the queue, march up to the bar and order your drink, only to be handed…a plastic cup? What kind of place is this?

You see, it has just passed midnight, and the Australian government has made it compulsory for pubs to serve alcohol in plastic cups after that hour. Why? With something in the neighborhood of 1,000 “glassings” (an attack using glass as a weapon) each year, drunken, John Wayne Western-style violence has become a black cloud over the country’s social scene. 

Australia is attempting to make it harder for John Wayne impersonators after midnight

As the majority of these attacks have occurred between midnight and 3am, the government is hoping to play its part in eliminating these attacks. Much like the gun-law debate in America, however, there is much contention over whether taking away one weapon will eliminate the violence, or if another approach should be considered.

For now, though, you fine wine connoisseurs may want to enjoy that expensive bottle before midnight, because it all may taste the same in red plastic cup!

MyID, Part II: 31 December 2011; Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International


While this wasn’t my Initial Descent into Australia, or even into Sydney (this was my second visit), I had one of my more interesting airport arrival experiences here, worth sharing. Sadly, it may even provide a glimpse into Sydney’s culture, although let’s hope that isn’t the case!

Finally reaching Australian soil!

For the last hour or two of my 13-hour flight from San Francisco, I had been talking to my seat buddy, a young lady from Montreal who spent a lot of time in Sydney working in modeling. She had the typical model look–tall, incredibly skinny and pale-skinned–definitely not my type. But she was nice, and most interestingly for me, she was from Montreal. I had always wanted to visit there, and was happy to get some “local” perspective.

This trip, she was to be reunited with her boyfriend, who lived in Sydney and awaited her at the airport. After standing in the customs queue together for another 30 minutes (after our 13 hours together on board), we were about to wish each other farewell and part ways, as she saw her boyfriend awaiting her in the arrivals hall. They hugged, I gave her a casual “good luck” and told her to keep in touch, perhaps by connecting on Facebook. I can’t emphasize enough that after 13 and a half hours of acquaintance, I was just hoping to have someone local I could get some information about Montreal from when I finally did get my act together and visit.

This, apparently, did not sit very well with her boyfriend. She introduced us and we shook hands, and I watched them walk off happily into the Sydney morning. I then proceeded to handle my international arrivals business (sorting out the money situation, phone, etc.), and was shocked to turn around 15 minutes later to a tap on my shoulder. It was the girl’s boyfriend, who had apparently left the girl he had been waiting months to see in the car, and felt the need to walk back into the terminal and seek me out with an important message.

(insert thick Aussie accent here)

Guy: Listen mate, I just wanted to let you know that she’s NOT going to keep in touch with you, and you are NOT going to see her again, alright???

Me: (so astonished that I can’t even stand straight) You actually left her in the car and walked back in here just to tell me that? Whatever man, I’m not even interested!

I then stepped aside and walked away, the situation apparently diffused, given that I didn’t receive any more taps on my shoulder.

Arrivals Hall at Kingsford Smith

But I didn’t know what I was more shocked by–the fact that the guy felt the need to come back and say this to me, when we were clearly introduced–or the fact that he actually had the nerve to tell his lady after they got back to the car that he had to go back into the terminal to talk to me. I mean, what’s she thinking at this point?? I just hope that he didn’t get any that night, and if he did, well, bless that poor girl (with a working brain cell, please).

So, this was my first perception of Sydney–meathead, gym-mongering guys just looking to show off their macho wares to impress a girl. I would later find that while this may be spot on for certain areas like Bondi, fortunately, not every Sydneysider is this way!


MyID: 03 October 2009 in Brisbane International Airport


My ID:  8:21am, Saturday, 03 October 2009:  Brisbane International Airport

Etihad Airways flight EY470 from Singapore

With sunshine reflecting off of royal blue Moreton Bay below, my Initial Descent into Australia was as beautiful and lush as I had expected it to be. Everything I had heard about this country was about its natural, physical beauty, and based on this first foray, I was not disappointed.

Customs, on the other hand, was a different story. Besides being just a few customs agents sitting in a room full of desks, leaving for an impossible queue, the authorities seemed intent on checking half of the bags coming through the hall. I had always thought Australians to be laid back and easygoing, which is perhaps why I didn’t expect the customs process to be more of a hassle than some of the US airports I’m used to, including New York City’s JFK or Los Angeles International. But that’s what I was dealing with, and I would find out within the next few days that my expectation of laid back and easygoing wasn’t really accurate even beyond the confines of a stuffy immigration hall.

Nevertheless, with a bright sun pasted atop a clear blue sky, I was happy to be in the Land Down Under for the first time!