One Thursday afternoon after being in Melbourne for about three years I invited a man from the Church over to my house for a Bible Study, after which we had lunch. To my surprise he began going through the cupboards and refrigerator looking for something we could eat for lunch making sure to point out that most of the food was unhealthy and I needed to eat better.
That experience while shocking to some is important to me because I have told the story countless times while in the States to describe the one thing you must have to survive in Australia…the ability to laugh at yourself. Aussies love to give their friends a hard time about things that may be embarrassing or humiliating for them (such as my weight) in a cultural tradition known as “having a go.”
I have written about this subject and the infamous Girl Truck Story but allow me to clarify by saying Australians base their respect of a person on their character or maturity. Don’t worry having a go involves something more subtle than searching the fridge for unhealthy food (even my Australian friends view that as crossing the line), and after becoming friends, giving you a hard time is the greatest compliment an Australian can give.
Thankfully during the “healthy lunch fiasco of 2009” I knew my friend was just having a go and was able to laugh and point out that he could drop a few pounds himself. Now 2007 John who had just come to the Mission field would have probably thrown him out of the house, joined a gym, and went on a starvation diet that day, but that would have totally missed an opportunity to connect with him and earn his respect; and use some of my awesome responses for when someone “has a go“.
So to all my American friends who want to visit Melbourne make sure to bring your passport, sunscreen, and full size American flag (just kidding), but don’t forget to pack your sense of humor; you’re going to need it. Oh and if someone is really going to far with having a go just say, “well at least I am not a _______ (insert the Australians favorite sports team) fan.” Just make sure to run away really fast after doing it.