SURFER Magazine Editor at Large

Comparing American and Australian surf culture.

I find it surprising that Australians tend to be quite a well-behaved lot in their native country. They seem to lose that brash, chesty swagger and big nationalist chip on their shoulder and become, dare I say, English. But the good, friendly chatty English—not the evil, hostilely polite bastard English.

Australia, despite (or because) of their convict past, has become a nation of genial nonconformists, ruddy-faced law abiders, eccentric get-alongers. In this country there are laws and councils and a million municipal codes of conduct. Random surreal violence is for the footy field, not the streets. Children are taught from an early age to put their trash in bins, not out the car window or on the beach.

Australians are social people. They like each other’s company and seek it out constantly through their clubs and pub culture. Americans tend to be isolated and surly towards strangers. We hate anybody telling us what to do, even if it’s for the best.

There’s a huge difference between a bar and pub. A pub is a place to be with your mates and throw back a few pints. A bar is where you go to get drunk. In America you enter from harsh daylight into the dim confines of the bar, and the regulars check you out in the time-honored fashion of the Old West. They’re sizing you up, checking to see what hardware you’re packing. Look at somebody the wrong way and you might be called on to draw. Otherwise, finish your drink and get moving, pardner

Aussies evolved in a parallel universe to Americans. We both had our scoundrel beginnings, our epic frontier, our land grabs and gold rushes, our government-sanctioned genocides. But where the Yanks had a bloody Civil War that’s still being fought in many parts of the country, the Aussies – forced into exiled detention together – had each other.

America was based on the myth of the individual—the maverick, the Lone Ranger. We are a restless dissatisfied nation of big dreamers constantly searching for the next frontier until we finally ended up stranded on the western edge of North America looking east again. There’s a certain bad craziness here, something that spawns Wacos and serial-rape killers who work day gigs as children’s’ party clowns. Some say it’s a curse left by murdered red men, who, if truth were known, were no sweethearts themselves.

But as Burroughs once said: “America is not a young land. It is old. And dirty and evil. Before the settlers, before the Indians. The evil was there. Waiting.”



  • Steve Shearer

    Yeeeeah, Barlo.

    The other fact is that Australia is on the right side of the major power shift happening from the West to the East.
    We're well on the way to becoming an integrated part of the SE Asian power bloc, whilst America seems to be mired in a consumerist culture that has nothing to produce and has lost the ability to work constructively together.
    So when you back in Byron next?

  • drifter

    yep you got that right !

  • lala

    These are sweeping generalizations and stereotypes of two ENTIRE nations…wow. Not so good…

  • Steve Shearer

    They're broad brush strokes(from Barlo) that illumine the essential characteristics of the two countries.
    Nations and cultures have characteristics and idiosyncrasies just like individuals.
    They are worth discussing, even if you disagree with them.

  • Blasphemy Rottmouth

    Sold!
    .
    You quote something as Lovecraftian-esque as that last line by Burroughs and you could have written a dissertation on the virtues of killing small children and I would have swooned like an alcoholic holding his first glass of siingle-malt in a week.
    .
    Well done.

  • bullee

    "left by murdered red men, who, if truth were known, were no sweethearts themselves". Does that make you feel better about yourself? How about this, "she deserved it"? Or this, "they're all terrorists anyway".

  • Al Baydough

    There’s a lot of America you apparently haven’t seen. We have amazing pubs. Being too lazy to seek them out is your problem.
    And the fact that Australia has a higher per capita incidence of forcible rape than the US doesn’t say very good things about how they treat their women.
    The US certainly has its issues but let’s keep in mind that one of our worst ones is an Australian: Rupert Murdoch, a man hell bent on shredding our Constitution and tearing the nation apart.

    • Zed

      Higher amount of REPORTED rape, yes. I’d say there is more rape committed here, but that woman don’t feel they may come forward without negative consequences for themselves.

    • ashwyn

      Please, spare a moment and look at how dim witted, clueless and downright dumb some of your senators are. Not to mention the lack of health care, and social benefits. As the article put it, America really does see every person as a lone wolf, especially in terms of social security. Where every person is left to fend for themselves if they fall into illness or injury.There leaves a lot to be desired in the so called “golden land.”And whilst Rupert Murdoch may be the one of least desirable men to ever have a presence, he controls only a part of the media and news. Any one with 3 brain cells is able to realise his ridiculous views would never fully take over all of Australia. The person more so at fault is Gina Rinehart, who has equal influence as Murdoch, but much more outlandish ideas. But il spare all readers the torture of her.

      And at that i leave you, as my kangaroo arrived to picky me up so I can go and buy a new Boomerang (the last one didn’t come back) and scull so VB tinnies with my tradie mates who have been working in

  • Doomdude601

    I personally love both the USA and Australia. Regardless of they’re faults or virtues!!!

  • Petiibp

    Um, I’m an Australian and I think America is a great country. In fact they have inspired alot of Australian culture.
    Every country has faults and this is an exaggeration of them.

  • Bill

    Aus-trail-ia,    Ya, never been there, but every day, “G’day mate”, comes out of my mouth, without thinking about it, or It’s your wave, mate.
          So, let it be:
    Aloha, and Mele-Kaliki-maka

  • Tsgarlin

    I’m not so sure quoting William S. Burroughs on the subject of morality bolsters your argument. I mean, come on, they guy did shoot his wife…

  • Dbone

    I like the part where it says that violence is for the footy field, not the steets. Pure BS, I felt safer on the streets of South Africa after leaving bars in the early morning than I ever did living in Australia- The amount of random, unprovoked violence on the Sunshine Coast was staggering. 

  • selector1

    america and americans stand proud! australians are too busy idolizing and wanting to be like americans they fail to stand on their own two feet and see just how good their got it.. for example a holden is a good car but a chevy is a great car and if all you can afford is to buy is a holden then rip the lion off and rebadge it as a chevy. cause what every australia’s got is not half as good as what the USA has.. and thats the Australian culture to idolize and be like americans. 🙁

  • Roofed

    Quite the dramatic Steven King ending. I love the friendly competition between Australia and the US. This California wave rider hopes to one day go visit our brothers and sisters Down Under some day.

  • Digitalsupe

    You mad bro?

  • Steve

    Haha. And not a mention of surfing. Seems about right considering how big of a sh*t show this blog is.

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