In April I wrote an article about the Australian custom of “having a go” at someone which consists of giving your friend a hard time over an embarrassing moment. While this part of the culture may seem barbaric it’s actually one of my favorite things about living in Melbourne, particularly after becoming good friends because then you can give them a hard time as well. Also having a go is based upon the idea that respect or friendship is something that should be earned based upon your character.
However since this is part of the Aussie culture its a good idea to keep the more embarrassing things about yourself secret. That chick flick you can quote because you have seen it ten times…the high school yearbook photo that no longer exists (because you personally burned every yearbook)…that shirt you burned along with the yearbooks. But no matter how hard you try those humiliating secrets have a way of revealing themselves.
Last Sunday after Church I along with my parents took some friends from Cornerstone out for pizza, it was a great time of fellowship as we shared funny stories. Towards the end one of my parents asked if they would like to hear my slightly embarrassing childhood nickname (suddenly I was running in slow motion and waving my hands while screaming noooooooooooo!) but before I could stop them the words had come out.
A friend giving you a hard time is part of living in Australia; as one friend put it, “This is the only Country where friends show their affection by heckling you.” Because of this as an American/Australian I view it as my responsibility to give some pointers on how to respond when someone has a go at you.
1. Laugh along with them, I don’t care if you are angry enough to kill someone, laugh as if it’s the funniest thing in the world
2. Change the subject as soon as possible; it helps if you have a funny or random way of changing the conversation. I would suggest “so how about those Yankees” (my favorite) or “who wants pizza”
3. If this doesn’t work then stop talking altogether. The worst thing you can do in this situation is try to defend yourself or explain how the situation isn’t embarrassing. Not talking is the verbal equivalent of lying down and playing dead so the pack of wild animals will get bored and stop attacking. (Editors Note: I did not just call the Australian people wild animals, they are a Nation of refined gentleman and dignified ladies)
4. Have a go at yourself: there is nothing Australians love more than someone who has a good sense of humor..but you had better be funny.
5. If you have been friends with someone for a while feel free to fight back using an embarrassing situation for their past. For instance I have a friend rarely gives me a hard time because one day he visited the Gossip Girl Forum
6. Use the Ignorant American routine which consists of explaining that you don’t understand the complicated Australian culture. Using an exaggerated southern accent works very well with this or in my case just talk normally (see number four).
7. Use the Arrogant American Routine: This is a variation of the Ignorant American where you act as if being from the US makes you better than them (“You can’t talk to me like that I am an American!”) Use this only if you are REALLY good friends with the people and make it VERY CLEAR your being sarcastic. The Arrogant American can even backfire with good friends so make sure you have running shoes on when using it
8. Act as if you are incredibly angry or offended at what your Australian friends have said, being able to cry fake tears is ideal but if you can’t just get really quiet for a long time…an added plus is this allows you to use short sarcastic phrases when talking with people
9. Look them right in the eyes and say “oy mate that’s enough”. I am still unaware of what the word oy really means but the American equivalent is saying, “Okay I am starting to get angry.” This one word works wonders and is able to quiet a room full of loud children as well as show your Aussie friends they have crossed the line. Do be careful however because if you use the word too much it will lose its effectiveness.
The Australian people love to have fun and having a go is a big part of that, but they are also the most accepting and gracious folks I have ever met. They are aware there is fine line between giving you a hard time and being mean and do their best not to cross it. So don’t worry when that embarrassing little story comes out, just wait a while before using the Arrogant American.