First published in The Concordian
Episode 15: In which Mim wants you to meet Melbourne
One of the first things that Canadians ask me once they’ve established that I’m Australian is “how do you survive back home, knowing that a spider or a snake could crawl into your bed and kill you in your sleep?” So, in dedication to those curious cobbers, here’s a column that seeks to answer your questions.
Fact #1: You won’t cark it from a deadly creature if you live in the city. The likelihood of seeing a tiger snake or a spider the size of your own face is roughly the same as a Montrealer seeing a giant Canadian bear. Sure, I’ve stepped on a couple of snakes in my lifetime, gotten bitten by mozzies and bull ants, and have shared lunch with a possum and a blue-tongued lizard, but that’s when I’ve been camping, deep in a forest six hours out of town.
It was a visit to Montreal’s Café Melbourne (4615 St-Laurent Blvd.) on Saturday arvo that got me thinking about Australia. They serve stereotypical Australian foods such as Vegemite, lamingtons (a cube of sponge cake iced with chocolate and shredded coconut) and jaffles (essentially a cross between a toasted cheese sanger and a waffle). The décor is minimalist ‘60s-style retro and the bathroom walls are covered in pictures of Australian icons including Heath Ledger, Nicole Kidman and Steve Irwin. Here, the baristas only make fair dinkum lattes and cappuccinos, all the while chatting to one another in true blue Aussie accents.
Fact #2: In Australia you can’t order filter coffee. Or, at least that was the case half a year ago. I’ve since been told that filter coffee has become a trendy new beverage.
I had a yarn with the café’s co-owner Angus Castran, who told me that customers in Melbourne are now ordering filter coffee for its novelty factor. It’s like the reverse of Starbucks putting flat whites on their menu.
Sipping at my extra-hot, double shot pretentious soy latte, I sat by the window and stared out onto a dismally grey St-Laurent Blvd. The light rain reminded me of a Melbourne winter.
Fact #3: In Australia, it’s not summer 365 days of the year. It mightn’t snow, but we sure get pretty narkyabout rainy 10-degree weather. After enduring four months of Montreal’s winter, however, I will never whinge about such piddly weather again. To me, five degrees is now the sign of a lovely spring day.
I’ve been asked some pretty gobsmacking questions since arriving in Montreal. The first: “are kangaroos a standard mode of transportation in Australia?” Thankfully that one was a joke. This one, however, was not: “aren’t you scared that a drop-bear will fall from a tree and kill you?” Once I’d nutted out what a “drop-bear” was, I couldn’t help but laugh at the wuss. They were referring to a completely harmless, herbivorous marsupial: the koala. Strewth. Seriously, mate, get over your hang-ups about Australia, and give it a burl. Trust me, she’ll be apples.
Glossary of Australian Lingo (language):
Cobber = friend (can be used with close friends or acquaintances)
Cark it = die
Mozzies = mosquitos
Arvo = afternoon
Sanger = sandwich
Fair dinkum = genuine
True blue = the real thing
Yarn = chat
Narky = easily annoyed
Whinge = complain
Piddly = trivial or pathetic
Gobsmacking = surprising
Nut out = solve
Wuss = a weak person
Strewth = an expression of surprise
Give it a burl = give it a shot
You’ll be apples = don’t worry