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The traveller’s guide to the suburban Aussie barbecue by Morse.
Popular culture paints a picture of Australians as being keen surfers who like nothing better than to crank up the barbecue as soon as they get home from the beach.
For this we can thank soap operas and Paul Hogan (of Crocodile Dundee fame) for his (in)famous “shrimp on the barbie” quote from tourism ads of the 1980’s.
The harsh reality is that we don’t all live on the beach, we don’t all know how to surf, and most Aussie barbecues are about two things: Beer and burnt sausages.
If you’re spending time in Australia over the summer months, it’s quite possible that you’ll be invited to a barbecue, often with people you hardly know. It’s important that you observe the correct etiquette so here’s a traveller’s guide to the suburban Aussie barbecue.
Food. The host will provide sausages (“snaggers” in Aussie vernacular), stale hot dog rolls, butter with streaks of Vegemite in it and a crusty bottle of tomato sauce (not ketchup, that’s too fancy). The snaggers will be burnt on the outside and possibly uncooked in the middle so be sure to check or face the dire consequences.
More ambitious hosts might choose to burn some steak and onions as well. The wife of a male host may make a salad, but feel free to ignore it because everyone else will.
Side note: the common “barbecue” sausage is a variety that can be found in all Australian supermarkets alongside the pork and beef – don’t ask anyone what is in them because they won’t know and you don’t want to.
Drink. Beer. Bring your own, but don’t bring really good beer otherwise you may find others wanting to swap theirs for yours, or (depending on the crowd) you may be singled out as being posh. Cheap beer may not be very nice but it won’t offend anyone, and you’ll be respected if you defend your choice to the death.
XXXX is only drunk in Queensland, and no-one drinks Fosters. You may wish to invest in an Esky, a local brand of insulated food and drink cooler.
After attending several barbecues you will become adept at negotiating your way through a sea of these while drunk.
If you don’t drink beer, you have no business at being at an Australian barbecue.
Dessert: more beer. If someone serves pavlova, you’re probably in the right country but at the wrong house.
Cooking. The man of the house will always be the chef, and he will nominate a mate or two to stand alongside him to talk about sport while the snaggers are burning. The mates will take over watching the snaggers burn when the chef goes for another beer (“cracking a tinnie”). Unless clearly invited, never ever touch another man’s barbecue.
Also make sure you stay in the garden, the inside of the house is off-limits during a barbecue. If you need to go to the toilet, wait until you get home.
Dress code: Anything that goes with thongs, although thongs are optional. And that’s “flip-flops” to you other-worlders. Whatever you do, don’t turn up at an Aussie barbecue wearing a thong or a mankini.
Activities: Sitting around drinking and talking about nothing in particular is a great Australian pastime. Younger male guests may attempt to start a game of football or cricket – those not used to the Australian sun may end up as red as a lobster if you join in.
If you are in Victoria, Western Australia or South Australia you may find yourself caught in a confusing discussion about Australian Rules Football (AFL). You may also be offended by the average Australian’s view of soccer – and whatever you do, don’t call it football…
I hope this you have found this guide helpful. As a rule, Australians are very hospitable and will often invite you into their home after having just met you. Just don’t break the rules and you’ll make it home in one piece.