One thing that shocked me no end a couple of years ago was that my American friend didn’t know what vegemite was. She’d never heard of it. I couldn’t believe it. I know that pretty much everybody except Australians don’t like the stuff, but still…it’s our National food. And then, just a few days ago, another American friend confessed she didn’t know what Milo was.
I decided then and there that my American friends needed some cultural education if they were going to be friends with me. We Aussies may not have much in the way of culture, per se, but we do know how to spread toast and how to suck Milo through a Tim Tam. And that’s about as cultural as we need to be…really. Well…
So, in the interest of expanding all our cultural horizons, I made them all up an Aussie pack. I packed an Australian book for them each as well (because actually I DO believe we have a valuable culture beyond Arnotts and Kraft…which the Americans own anyway). Here’s my offering:
How to be an Aussie: a user’s guide to the contents of this pack.
- Make toast. Butter it while it’s still hot. Spread it with a thin layer of vegemite. Drool. Eat.
- Open Milo packet. Scoop two (or more) heaped teaspoons into a mug. Fill mug with boiling water. Stir. Top up mug with small amount of milk. Drool.
- Open packet of Tim Tams. Remove first one. Insert first section (approximately one centimeter) into mouth. Bite. Turn Tim Tam around and repeat the process at the other end, so that both ends are bitten (some purists believe that opposite corners are better for this process rather than opposite ends).
- Hold Tim Tam in the centre. Insert bottom bitten end (or corner) into mug of hot Milo. Place mouth on opposite end. Suck Milo through Tim Tam like a straw. Suck until chocolate starts melting on your fingers, and then quickly insert rest of biscuit into mouth before total collapse. Smile.
- Sip Milo.
- Open book. Read.
- Repeat steps 4-7 until some sense of completeness has been established. Possibly the end of the Tim Tams, or the end of your stomach capacity. Generally the end of the mug of Milo. Sometimes the end of the book.
Some extra tips:
Obviously once you have mastered this you should be capable and confident to move onto more advanced Australianisms such as inserting swear-words in the middle of a sentence without noticing, or, for extra credit, in the middle of a word without noticing, just to prove you do have a fabulous vo-effing-cabulary.
Watching the cricket at least once a season is also an essential. The first Test starts today in Brisbane between Australia and South Africa, just to whet your appetite. Or your apper-!@#$-tite if you prefer, although such words can be considered vulgar his side of the Summer holidays.
Insult people well, and learn that the better people insult you the fonder their affection.
And lastly, stop taking people’s words at face value. Why do Americans do that? Just because someone says something rude doesn’t mean it’s what they mean! Surely it’s not THAT hard to understand…
So that’s my guide for my American friends. What do you think…have I forgotten any essentials? What books do you think I should pack for them that typify Australian culture? And, most importantly, do you think sucking Milo through a Tim Tam and learning to spread vegemite toast should be a prerequisite for all Australians?
Ooo! I can’t wait for the Tim Tam, Milo snack time. The kids will have so much fun! Well…I will, too!
YES!! But you have to learn to call it Morning Tea. Or Afternoon Tea. It won’t be an Aussie cultural experience if you call it Snack Time 🙂
Love it! Although beware: American Bread tends to be a lot sweeter than Australian bread, hence their dislike of vegemite…Sweet and Salty just don’t work together. Make sure you teach the kids you meet how to play cricket (you may have to improvise with a tennis racquet and ball)
I’ve heard that about American bread, although I can’t imagine it. And I disagree about sweet/salty not working together. The first time I ate chocolate after a years’ break from it (yes it was hard!) I couldn’t believe how SALTY it tasted! I think our brains are in denial about some things 🙂
If you buy ‘French bread’ in America then it is not so sweet and goes better with vegemite. US bread is just too sweet and only goes well with peanut butter 🙂
Wow, bread is THAT sweet? I’m amazed. They have it with baloney though. I’m looking forward to my first baloney sandwich 🙂
Great post. I have never sucked milo through a tim tam, I prefer to dip then eat and repeat.
Never sucked? Oh Jen, you so should try it! Decadent is the only word.
But then my decadence is with coffee and chocolate biscuits instead…
“Insult people well, and learn that the better people insult you the fonder their affection.” Thus the reason I insult all my friends with a big grin all the time.
Gotta love the Tim Tam slammers – too decadent for words, really. Yum!
I had one today. Had to, after all that writing about them 🙂
On Easter Sunday 1991 I visited Rome for the first time. In my backpack at the outdoor Mass in St Peter’s Square were TWO one-kilogram tubs of Vegemite. The guards were perplexed as I passed through the screening point, until I did a Vegemite spreading action in the air and said “pane” (bread)”!. Afterwards, I climbed the Janiculum hill to have lunch at the college of a friend studying for the priesthood. He roared with laughter at the gift, telling me that this was fantastic. He said that he could leave the Vegemite safely in the kitchen, because after introducing newcomers to the flavor, they rarely stole any! It would be all HIS! Bwa-a-ha-ha!
HAHA! Love it. Can’t imagine life without vegemite though.
Please tell. What is Vegemite made from?
Pat it’s a yeast extract spread. Looks like tar. No idea how to describe it to anyone who’s not had it before. Salty. Black. Consistency of…well…tar. And completely addictive!
LOL You don’t exactly have me sold – but I would be willing to try it if I ever have the opportunity.
Good on ya Pat! We’ll make an Aussie out of you yet!
Gotta be Rachel Treasure books for reading with a good dose of aussie culture thrown in!!
Oh yeah! I’d forgotten Rachel Treasure’s books. Auntie Jean loaned me one once, and I really enjoyed it. Thanks Joss!
[in my best ocker accent]
It’s also perfectly ‘ken acceptable to use ‘ken port insead of ‘ken milo, not recommended for arvo tea with the kiddies.
What doesn’t make any sense is that my Mum is from Lancashire (England) and has been addicted to Vegemite several times and had to go cold turky. I have seen her eat it by the teaspoonful.
You do need to spread it thick enough that you decent hit of the saltyness. I think the American palate is too atuned to sweat to really enjoy the wonder that is Vegemite. Do they eat corned silverside (beef)?
*sweet. Sorry Glen. WordPress doesn’t let me edit typos mate 🙂
But I love what you have to say. Never tried it with port though.
You have vegemite here in the uk we have Marmite, I think they are similar, marmite is a love it or hate it thing here. Me I love it.
Yeah and in New Zealand they have Promite.
I’ve never “got” Marmite. Or Promite. Funny the rivalries that exist between fans of the three! What you’re brought up with, I guess.
I will give you ten USD dollars if I can have you transport once of each of this items when you come over to Michigan…(is that enough money to cover it?).I can come and pick it up anywhere you want me to visit in Grand Rapids and even say hello for a bit…I’ll bring my wife along so you can meet her as well…..I’m a writer so its all about experiences for me…let me know..no worries if that doesn’t work for you …just enjoy your trip in the US)
Philip absolutely! You don’t have to pay…I’d love to meet you and your wife, that’d be so cool! I’ll put you in touch with my GR social secretary and you can work out the details with her 🙂
Cool….Then I’m buying you big box of Twinkies instead! 🙂
DEAL!!!! And a baloney sandwich.
I enjoyed that. But I still don’t know what vegemite is. The first time I ever heard that word was in that “Men At Work” song. Don’t worry…they aren’t my favorite Australian group. That thing with the Tim Tams sounds marvelous! I get I can’t even find those in Texas, though. I guess the closest thing we have to that is dipping our Ore-effing-o’s into milk. 🙂
Jeff that made me laugh FARRRRR too hard!
I can’t imagine it would work with ore-effing-os though. Wrong type of biscuit.
I’ll have to photograph some…or even better, photograph the experience!
So true! We have american students and when they go home (after 6 months!) their suitcases are packed with Tim Tams and milo! they don’t go so well with the vegimite i must say! 🙂
That’s funny! It’d be interesting having exchange students I must say. I can’t imagine what they must feel like, so young, and getting off the plane for the first time.
Aussies are nearly as weird as the English, but not quite!
Yup. You’ve pretty much summed us up!