Australia through Italian eyes: Stingrays, Spiders and Kiwis!

I must admit I continue to develop a strong sense of pride being an Australian living in Italy / Europe.

Having travelled to just about every continent, I have always been welcomed and well-received as an Australian and this seems to be the consensus among other travellers and fellow Aussies.

I do find it fascinating – ok sometimes frustrating – and for the most part very funny, the comments I receive from people I meet (Italians in particular, but Europeans generally) about their impressions of Australia and the misconceptions.

And so, these are some common perceptions that I attempt to negate on just about a daily basis:

Australia: Fantasy-land

That Australia is the land of fables and dreams. It’s perceived as this fantasy-land because of it’s size and distance from Europe, Africa, the Americas (ok from the rest of the world!!). Italians sometimes stare at me open-mouthed and in awe (this is after I’ve explained that I’m not American of course – given that every white, english-speaker must be!). “What is it like? It’s beautiful isn’t it? But it’s just too far!” I get asked about things ranging from the outback, to floods, to bushfires and extreme heat.

‘Global’ does not encompass Australia

That the global financial crisis (note the word, global) has not reached Australia. Um hello, why? Because it’s too far away?? This always gets me. “Ehhh ma poi in Australia, non si sente la crisi” (there is no recession / GFC impact in Australia). Now granted (and not to get political, but only because of the mining boom and richness in natural resources) Australia has ridden the GFC wave quite well (just!) and in no way a scratch on Eurozone affairs , I always respond with, “Ma certo che si sente. E` una crisi mondiale” (Of course it is felt, afterall it is a global crisis). And their response is usually in agreement and with a raised eyebrow, “Yes, I guess you’re right. It is global.” Admitedly, I do try to get off this topic quite quick though, Italians love to talk about la crisi – which of course is real, but let’s just say it’s talked about to death and by everyone!

Watch out for that snake!

That Australia is dangerous. Aparently Australians are dying off in droves – killed off by any dangerous or poisonous animal, wildlife or insect you can think of… I’m talking sharks, stingrays, spiders, snakes, the list goes on. Apparently there is some threat, that I – as an actual born and bred Australian – didn’t know about. Australian readers, please watch out!

I admit though, that this is actually a nice change from having to answer questions about kangaroos and koalas. Speaking of koalas, I love seeing an Italians’ eyes widen when I tell them that while they’re a cute and furry little creature, they’re not the friendliest and will probably scratch your eyes out!

Canberra who?

That Sydney or Melbourne (note, these are pronounced Siiii-den-ay or Mel-boooorne) are the capital city. Canberra, I offer my sincere apologies – nobody in Europe has even heard of you. Remotely!

A Kiwi I’m not!

Oh and finally… don’t get me started on New Zealand!! Clearly, The Lord of the Rings has played some sort of role in putting our cross-Tasman neighbours on the global map in recent years. I get asked about the Kiwis constantly.. no.. CONSTANTLY! “You’re Australian?? Have you been to New Zealand? What’s it like? It’s very green isn’t it? What about those people who paint themselves and do that dance?”

So in closing… Note to Tourism Australia – roll up your sleeves…. you clearly have some work to do!

Having said all that and despite the ridiculous (and hilarious) inaccuracies, it would seem that for the most part, we Australians are a well loved breed around the world. And that, after all, is a nice thing!

Signing off from Rome (where I am now taking refuge from venomous Australian animals) 🙂

Baci, Maria

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