Box Wine and Bogans

A FOB's perspective on Australia

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Words || Masumi Parmar

I moved to Australia nearly 3 years ago from Malaysia. Though it’s been 3 years, there are still things that I find to be so uniquely and more importantly, weirdly, Australian that no Australian classifies to be Australian things.

Let me get started with the obvious and oddest one – the slang. The way you guys speak is beyond peculiar and honestly one of the most difficult things to get used to. The way the English language has been modified to suit your more relaxed culture is truly imaginative. It is so interesting and different. We’ve got phrases like “Maccas” and “bottle-o” that make sense but then there’s “shark biscuit,” (meaning someone who’s learning how to surf) and “a head like a dropped pie” (which means someone who is very unattractive). I respect it just because the phrases are so imaginative and unique but my god, it was like learning a whole new language when I moved here, and I major in English.

Another really uniquely Australian thing that I’ve had to get used to is late night shopping. What is that? Why are shops only open till 9pm on a Thursday? Back home and everywhere I’ve ever traveled to, stores are open late. Late like 11pm late. On my first day here, my mother who had come to drop me off, and I were so confused. The system was so odd to us because: what do you mean I can’t get food past 6 pm? The concept of people having to schedule their whole week to be able to shop on Thursdays seems really unnecessarily difficult. I understand that it’s probably so that people who work at these stores can get home and have their family time but the concept still seems so alien to me. Those that have to work 9-5 only get Thursdays and weekends to run errands and get their kids last minute project supplies.

Speaking of kids, I love the way the Australian government looks after their people. I truly respect the way this country manages to fund underprivileged children and to look after the disabled and elderly with Centrelink, as well as keeping the rules of their country so well followed. Honestly, I’d never heard of such strict and closely followed driving laws. Though, I do have a bone to pick with the government – why do international students not receive a concession on our opal cards? I for one have to pay taxes with the 40 hours per fortnight we’re allowed to work at our jobs which often only pay us an average of AUD$880 dollars a week (before cutting tax and superannuation).  

Charles Sturt University estimates that “the average international student in Australia spends about AUD$1,550 per month (approximately AUD$390 per week) on accommodation, food, clothing, entertainment, transport, international and domestic travel, telephone, and incidental costs.”

Being new in the country, most of us cannot afford cars let alone driving classes which means we heavily rely on public transport. On average I spend approximately 50 dollars on my opal every week. That comes up to around 200 dollars a month. Seeing the amount of money taken out of my card compared to my Australian mates every time we tap off is genuinely painful. And then there’s the difference in school fees, which is absolute madness.

International students do not get HECS-HELP loans to help us pay for our university fees. We get to pay upfront instead which puts incredible amounts of financial strain on us and our families back home. Most people think that international students really can afford to live and study overseas leisurely and while that may be the case for some, for a lot of us it is purely for a better quality of education as well as more stable job prospects.

Another thing that drives me insane about this country is the whole ‘teenagers hanging out in parking lots’ culture. Honestly, what is that? Yesterday I was in a parking lot with a mate who needed to quickly eat a burger on the way home and I spotted a bunch of kids. These kids looked around 17, braces still on and in trackies trying and failing to fend off the cold. They were for some weird reason making each other laugh, testing their abilities to master the squat while eating off the hood of another friend’s car. I truly need someone to explain to me why: (1) These kids are allowed to hang out at parking lots at 11 pm? (2) Why this is a place to chill? (3) Why these kids willingly do this when I assume they have homes where it would be warmer and safer to meet their friends? And (4) why is this normal? I have seen this on multiple occasions, at the Krispy Kreme parking lot at Livo, at the Hungry Jacks parking lot at the side of a highway, and at the Maccas near Macquarie Park.

On top of that, what is with the drinking culture here? Before you say “No! We drink a regular amount!” have you checked with your liver? Call me when you do, maybe I’ll change my mind after. In actual fact according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics “In 2016-17, the total alcohol consumed in Australia was equivalent to 186 million Litres of pure alcohol, or 9.4 litres for every person in Australia aged 15 years and over… Over three-quarters of alcohol consumed was from either beer (39%) or wine (38%).” Seriously, university students’ idea of fun is drinking Aldi wine at a park, meeting with mates to have a few beers and then attack the goon, or go to a cute dinner date with your friends and get utterly wasted after. Then to wake up the next day and do the same thing again. I have multiple friends who constantly argue that they aren’t alcoholics yet are hungover most of the time I meet them. Y’all need to get healthier social lives, no shade.

To top that off, let’s have a little chat about bogan culture. So I have a friend that’s from this little beautiful town. She’s telling me about home, this majestic horse she has and her high school and everything. I ask her about her mates from school, if they left for the big city as well? Turns out two of them got out but the rest of them are still in town. People from her class that are still home have gotten too comfortable in the way of life there. They’ve turned into druggies who are twice-divorced and have had three kids with different people. Now I’m not shaming anyone mind you. You just can’t tell me that I come from a third world country and that you guys are really developed, especially with the way the true owners of this land are treated. Yes, you may address them with every speech and have every child learn it at school, but it’s not seen in any actions.

Australia may have silly things like Tim Tams and Vegemite that make it the majestic country that it is but the underlying issues that perpetuate also contribute to what it is. Australia is a beautiful melting pot of cultures, you can find anyone here but is everyone really respected?

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