Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Surprise! (you oik)

Very few things have surprised me about the UK - but one of those that has is the lingering class system. I was aware of it of course but the fact that it staggers on with increasing complexity was unexpected - it's really a mucky parallel of the Indian caste system.

Part of this is a self indulgent sense of ascendancy over oiks from the provinces - a deluded, poisonous and false ascendancy of course - but palpable in the most learned and otherwise admirable people.

This is why the "Hobart, Tasmania" jingle I mentioned earlier was lingered over with such delight. (In fact, the jingle was a syndicated one - in trying to find a copy I found the same tune for "Des Moines, Iowa". The merits of Des Moines turn out to be very similar to Hobart's - in metre if not exact wordage.)

People will always ask "where are you from?" - "from" seems to mean where you spent the majority of your childhood. Like the caste system you are born to this and can *never* escape it - ever. God help you if you are from Wales.

I never troubled people with the fact that I am from Tasmania - my first claim was to be Australian. An interesting thing used to happen when my true origins were discovered: "But... but... you said you were from *Australia*"

Tasmania is seen as a funny little country completely separate from Australia - Aus is held in high regard and promoting yourself from Tasmanian to Australian is equivalent to a Dalit claiming to be Brahman. This will just not do.

I quickly gave up on trying to explain that Tas is a state of Aus as it was seen as being whiny. Eventually I hit upon the analogy of being from the Isle of Wight and being on hols in the US. Surely you would just say you were from the UK. This seems to be an acceptable explanation - forgiveness is usually granted. Unsurprisingly, expressing delight at an Australian sporting victory remains wholly unacceptable though.

1 comment:

former taswegian now australian said...

Quite a few years ago I heard an interview with Mike Leigh (directed Secrets and Lies, Vera Drake and lots of others) who said he would have loved to have made a film, working title "Whingeing Poms". He thinks the phenomenon of the WP is that, regardless of their "station" in England (and what an English concept that is) they think that if they emigrate to the colonies, they will, naturally, lord it over the natives. Of course it doesn't quite work out like that and thus is born the WP.

It was quite a revelation to me. Very strange but it certainly explained a few things, like when I was stuck in Stockholm with a valid ticket but the (English) British Airways travel consultant wouldn't lift a finger to help me. Or maybe they treat everyone like shit and not just us colonials.

Anyway, a very interesting post SBB. Australia's relationship with England is certainly a complex one.