As an Aussie who has lived abroad for the better part of the last decade, I have celebrated – and cried alone looking at pictures of friends at sunny barbecues or the beach – many Australia Days in odd locations.
The first time I marked the occasion overseas was in Amsterdam, with several Americans, a couple of Canadians, and a Hungarian, all of whom needed little reason to join me at the city’s one Australian bar ‘Cocos Outback’ on a Tuesday night. They also embraced the theme spectacularly, with green and ‘gold’ clothing, and temporary cheek tattoos.
Cocos, with the slogan ‘lousy food and warm beer’, is a popular place to watch any kind of sports match – it was there I saw much of the 2010 World Cup and the Winter Olympics ice hockey final between Canada and the US. They also serve some level of Australian food and drink, with VB and Coopers, along with self-proclaimed ‘Aussie baskets of wedges’ (with mayonnaise instead of sour cream and sweet chilli, so I would argue against using ‘Aussie’ as an adjective for the dish) and meat pies for upwards of 14 Euros.
Still it is the only place I’ve come across in Amsterdam to recognise Australia Day, so it was there we went. Much of the night consisted of me singing along to Aussie pub classics alone, though my friends could join for a few, like Down Under and You’re the Voice.
The Americans in our crew found they were big fans of VB, though as the night progressed they also began to notice it had quite more of an effect on them than a Heineken. The beer-focused portion of the night included a lesson as to how un-Australian it is to drink Foster’s, which they were of course shocked to hear given the company have been brainwashing Americans into thinking that Foster’s is ‘Australian for beer’ for years. You have to appreciate the genius that is the Foster’s marketing department for that manoeuvre.
Though I brought a crowd of foreigners to the Australia Day party, there were many Aussies there, including a guy with a travel tube of Vegemite strung around his neck. He kindly unscrewed the lid to give me what I anticipated would be a small dollop on one finger, before covering my hands and arms in the stuff. I love Vegemite perhaps much more than any next person you will find, but I confess that scraping it off my arms in a crowded Amsterdam bar was a low point in life.
Nevertheless, it was a brilliant night, and I have consistently received messages from the entire group, though we have all since spread to different corners of the globe, on January 26 as Facebook helpfully reminds them of the fun they had on that day.
My other experience celebrating Australia Day abroad was in London, where there are substantially more Aussies than in Amsterdam, and there are therefore parties all over the city. There I had many Australian friends, so it took little planning for all of us to apply temporary tattoos to our faces and don flag capes before catching the Tube to Shoreditch.
In Shoreditch, we went to a rooftop bar where there were not only Aussie drinks served, but a proper barbecue and huge groups of Australians shouting along to the ‘traditional’ soundtrack.
Australia Day is not the only Antipodean-inspired party in London. New Zealand’s Waitangi Day is also celebrated in the city with a huge pub crawl that has been known to stop traffic when spontaneous rugby games begin in the streets.
Courtney Gahan is a serial expat, traveller and freelance writer who has bartered with Moroccan marketeers, seen the sun rise at Angkor Wat and elbowed her way through crowds on NYE in NYC