Thongs ... these go on your feet.
But it occurs to me that for foreigners coming to Australia for the first time, it would seem like we do some pretty strange stuff here as well.
So in the interests of fairness, and with a lot of help from a band of expat friends of mine, I've compiled this list of the bizarre things that Australians get up to.It's a great Aussie tradition to get dressed to the nines for the races ... then struggle home without shoes after a big day. Photo: Paul Rovere
Shortening all words
Whatevs, it's not like we shorten everything. Except sunnies. And boardies. And footy. And snags. And chucking a uey. And calling Barry, Baz. And Sharon, Shaz. And Robert, Robbo. I even travelled with a girl who referred to her binoculars as "binos".
"Bring a plate"Kelly country ... Ned's big in Australia.
When my mum first arrived in Australia she was invited to a friend's barbecue and told to "bring a plate". So she brought a plate. An empty plate. She was a little embarrassed to find that everyone else had brought some food on theirs.
It's great when foreigners first realise this: "You can take your own wine to a restaurant? Geez, can you take your own beer to the pub?"
Watching the footy
Because there's no such thing as just "footy". There are four sports here that could qualify as "footy", and you can never be quite sure which one people are talking about. Still, you gotta love the footy.
Buying a beer
What the hell is a "pony"? And who came up with "schooner"? And why do "handles" not have actual handles? And in which other country is it normal to order a "pot of gold"? South Australia takes the grand prize for weirdness though, with a glass called a "pint" that doesn't hold a full pint.
Taking a day off for the Queen's birthday
I'm not arguing about it or anything, but it's not even on the Queen's actual birthday. And the Brits don't celebrate it, so why do we?
Having a bank robber as a national icon
Ned Kelly was no Robin Hood, was he? No altruistic man of the people. He just shot some cops and wore a bucket on his head. And we revere this guy? (OK, I know there's a lot more to this story, but from a foreigner's perspective, it's pretty odd.)
Dressing really fancy for the races...
Then getting absolutely obliterated. There's nothing more Australian than seeing a smartly dressed couple stumble out of the races, her with high heels in hand, him with a tie around his head, and start drunkenly screaming at taxis going past.
"How's it going?"
This has to be up there with the American "what's up" as the most nonsensical greeting around. How's what going? I remember a few exchange students at uni talking about this, saying, "It took me a while to realise that Australians don't actually want to know how you are going. They just want you to say 'good'."
Complaining about the rain in London
Somewhat stunningly, a mate of mine pointed out that Sydney gets more rain each year than London. Ouch.
Having celebrity TV shows that don't feature any celebrities
Australia's pool of actual, legitimate celebrities is frighteningly shallow, but that doesn't stop the networks from pumping out "celebrity" versions of their reality shows featuring people you've never heard of. We have chefs dancing on primetime TV. It's embarrassing.
Eating seafood on Christmas Day
I'm all for a few prawns and bugs on the 25th of December, but if you're from the Northern Hemisphere and were expecting a turkey roast, it might seem a little bizarre.
Worshipping meat pies
It's pastry filled with bits of meat, and slathered in tomato sauce. Not exactly a gastronomic masterpiece, but that doesn't stop us getting all excited about eating a lukewarm one at the footy.
Just between you and me, swimming's not really a sport, is it? It's a pastime; a survival technique. But anyone who wins gold medals over here is a big deal. Heck, we even treat walking as a real sport once every four years.
Playing the pokies
Surely the dreariest, most antisocial form of gambling there is, and yet Aussies are mad for it. We flock to pubs and clubs around the country to pour money into the gaping mouths of these flashing, dinging monsters. Sigh.
Australians love to travel, right? Well sure, as long as it's not in Australia. No, we can't tell you what WA is like, and we haven't been to Adelaide. But what do you want to know about Bali?
Rugging up for winter
Northern Hemisphere folk think it's hilarious, just as we have a chuckle when everyone strips down to their bikinis in England when the temperature nudges 20. In Australia, a brief dip into the teens will mean the scarves and coats are out for the next few months.
Wearing our thongs on our feet
This is for the Americans, who always look a little confused when you ask them if they've seen our thongs. Or, do you think I should wear thongs today? Sounds a little inappropriate... but at least it's not as dumb as jandals.