Greetings from Australia, where I’ve been helping out with a family illness for the past month. I’m about to head back to France, but being home brought up a few cultural questions.
I started Le Franco Phoney because the French culture felt alien to me, an Australian, who barely spoke the language. More than ten years later and the tables have turned. Returning to Australia has surprised me in the same ways that France surprised me all those years ago. Here are some snippets.
Insects in French bakery displays, due to no flywire screens, now seem normal to me. In comparison, seeing these trolley wipes at the supermarket were a complete surprise. How posh! Yes, people use them all the time.
Public toilets are never fun, but at least the advertising on the back of this toilet door is appropriate. Why advertise glamour or fashion to people squeezing one out on the crapper when you could get their attention about something for more pertinent to them at that moment? Talk about a captive audience! I’d forgotten how pragmatic us Aussies can be.
Did I hear this correctly?
Since I’m talking about advertising, let’s talk about fish, because “there’s always something new to learn about fish”. Seriously! This advert says so:
What? Who could possibly come up with that line for an advertisement? And what did we learn about fish? Did a group of marketing people have one of those lightbulb moments? “Hey, fish is this MASSIVE mystery to the world. There’s ALWAYS something new to learn about them! Let’s run with that. It’s surefire.” Bonus points for the “school of fish” pun at the end.
“Am I in France?” moment #1
Looking for an Australian postcard in a Melbourne tourist shop, I found some Eiffel Tower minis alongside the Australian flag and other Aussie goodies. Do we have an Eiffel Tower in Melbourne? Did France send us one like they sent the Statue of Liberty to the US? Or did the shop order these towers instead of the Arts Centre with its Eiffel-like spire? Even more disturbing is that there’s a variety of Eiffel Tower models on offer.
“Am I in France?” moment# 2
Long-time readers might remember France’s amazing letterbox. It seems Australians are now onto the trend of creating mini-home letter boxes. This one is a carbon copy in a suburban street.
Down, down (with Coles)
For years, I’ve been blissfully unaware of supermarket Coles’ “Down Down” jingles. French supermarkets have had a wide range of annoying song snippets but none of them compare to this. Every night lately I’ve been going to bed with this ten-second screech on repeat. Over and over. And over.
Sorry about that. I hope by sharing it, the burden is lifted from my shoulders. Down, down, with the burden.
Australian states have number plate slogans. Queensland is “The Sunshine State”. Victoria is a bit more confused. It was “The Garden State” when I was little, and in 1994, then-premier Geoff Kennett changed the slogan to “Victoria – On The Move”. Now there’s a whacky mix of the old plates, plus “The Place to Be”,”Stay Alert Stay Alive” and “The Education State”. Being a sport-loving state, Victorians can also get football team number plates, such as the one below for Aussie Rules football team the Geelong Cats. Meanwhile, my mum’s car has no slogan at all and I don’t blame it.
Banter is king
French interaction with strangers is normally limited to greetings when entering buildings or shops. In Australia, it’s not uncommon to casually hear about a shop assistant’s brother who is getting married on the weekend. Elevators aren’t off-limits either: “I’m escaping” a guy in a hospital gown said as he entered a packed hospital lift to get to the ground floor. The occupants made jokes and everyone left with a smile.
Australia, I’m leaving you with a massive smile, clean trolley hands, and a suitcase full of Tim Tams, a mini-Eiffel Tower and some frozen fish meals from Coles stuck inside an awesome letterbox.