“Texas is the way we Australians like to think of ourselves.”
There are places in the world where being a Texan is a disadvantage. When I worked in New York or studied in Boston, I encountered people who would assume Texans were less intelligent or permanently armed. Friends in California often assume a massive gap in political beliefs.
Almost everywhere, we have a reputation for having a state pride that borders on the extreme. Some find this endearing, but many find it off-putting.
But I can happily report that Australia is one of the places that enthusiastically embraces Texans. Had I known this in advance, I might have worn my cowboy boots and Stetson.
The quote that I started with came from a newfound friend named Kim who is half Fijian and half Australian. He is a clothing designer who makes loud, outlandish designs for jackets, shirts and shorts who is a lifetime friend of Bruiza and the other Aussie we went on the boat with. [Note: these shirts are really bold and loud. They speak my language. So, yes, I did get a few.] He was unable to join us on the boat because he just opened a second shop and is dealing with the Christmas rush.
But we’ve had a couple of long chats with him about life, clothing and Texas. He and his wife attended a wedding in Texas of two mutual friends, Hunter and Amanda Follett. They are the common link that is bringing Team Baskin into this circle of awesome Aussies. Hunter and Amanda have what the Silver Fox calls the “gift of friendship”. They find intriguing people who they value and interact with regularly. I have heard at least a dozen stories that sound like this, “I got a call from Hunter saying he was in Thailand and wanted to meet us in Bali” or “Hunter was in Jakarta and popped down to Perth for a weekend”. These friends also come to the US to see him.
I will not attempt to describe the intricate web of events that brought them together, but I will share the rough outline.
- Kim met some women from the University of Texas while they were at his family’s resort in Fiji.
- Kim and Bruizer show up unannounced to visit these women months later. They live in a women-only dorm and cannot offer a place to stay.
- The women call Hunter to ask if they can stay with him. He says “of course” and offers up his bed and sleeps on the floor.
- The circle began there, but it continues to grow.
Susie and I found our way into this august group because Hunter and Amanda wanted a camp wedding (Camp Follett has since become a thing of legend). They looked at Camp Champions, but needed a site with grandparent-friendly accommodations, so they went to an Episcopal camp instead. But while touring Champions, our retreat coordinator heard that Hunter hosts case competitions at the UT business schools and is always looking for judges. He recommended Susie and me to Hunter and we soon found ourselves to be FOF’s: Friends of Follett.
But I have become intrigued why so many of Hunter/Amanda’s friends are Aussies. My chat with Kim helped organize my thoughts, but I have been noticing a kinship since arriving. Here are my theories:
- Both places value independence. It is not unusual to see Aussies going on “walk about” for 3-12 months. A walk about is a time of travel that typically goes before or after time at university or between jobs. The Baskin family is on walk about right now. Typically, Texans do not travel as much, but they dearly value their independence. While New Hampshire’s state motto is “Live Free or Die”, it is more applicable in Texas.
- Both also stress personal responsibility. If you get hurt slipping on a sidewalk, it is your fault, not the fault of someone who did not sweep the sidewalk.
- Both cultures are just a little bit crazy. After all, both Texas and Australia had inauspicious births – many early Aussies were criminals (Australia was an English penal colony) while lots of early Texans were individuals with “colorful pasts” who came to the area for free land.
- Both groups embrace long drives. When a friend from New England says something is a “long drive”, they usually mean something 150-200 miles and 3-5 hours. A long drive in Texas or Australia is often 8-10 hours covering 400+ miles.
- Colorful colloquialisms appear everywhere. We might say “get another kiss at the pig” or “that dog won’t hunt”, but they can respond with “put a punt on the dish-lickers” (make a bet on a racing greyhound) or “fancy a ramble?” (want to go for a walk?).
- We have both made important and instantly recognizable contributions to the English language. Texas (and the South) gives us “y’all”, a phrase that clears up the ambiguity between the second person singular and second person plural. The Aussies give us “G’day”. Notably, but words seem to only work when uttered with the proper accent. Adam DuBois (Doobie) can only say “y’all’” like a Texas despite his otherwise deep Aussie accent. Similarly, we all say “G’day” like we are from central Australia.
- The people are really friendly. I have had visitors from New York and Europe comment that Texans are so friendly that they found it almost off-putting. Similarly, Aussies regularly come up to us to offer assistance or advice, especially if we are on the street looking at a phone/map. “Where ya going, mate?” might as well be the National slogan. One of my favorite writers, Bill Bryson, comments that, “the friendliness of Australians - all of it quite sincere and spontaneous, as far I could tell - never ceases to amaze or gratify. I never had a motelier pump my hand before or act so pleased that fate had thrown us together.” Our experience with Doobie was exactly like that. We are a friend of a friend. Yet he rearranged his life for days to show us what he loves about his country. On the day the parted, he commented that our separation would “sting”. Susie commented that it did not seem completely amazing to her - after all, she spends time in Texas.
- There is no subtlety. Hats are big. Boots are big. Stories are big. Heck, the people are big. In most of Europe and Asia, we are a tall family. Put us among the average Aussies or Texans and I am below average and the boys are just normal at 5’11’”.
We look forward to having Bruiza, Doobie, Kim and company visit us in Texas (Australia East) soon!