As far back as the soap opera goes in the history of British television, the public has been presented with gritty, hard-hitting, depressing stories, from the likes of Coronation Street, EastEnders and Brookside. Miserable characters, whose lives seem to tangle and twist into ever more obscure and ugly representations of real life, adorn our screens most evenings of the week.
Not all soap operas are this way, however. While Britain is portrayed as grey, depressing and working class, there are wonders to be found in the promised land that is Australia. Other soaps have since taken this cheery vibrant approach, but Neighbours was the forerunner that established in the hearts of the British public a land of barbies, shrimps, utes, surfing and good old Aussie mates!
Neighbours has done more than just brighten our weekday lunchtimes and evenings, though. It has turned Australia from a place for convicts, people who couldn't get work in Britain and unnecessarily good cricketers into a land of optimism, of friendship and of fun.
This Entry concerns itself with what Neighbours has taught us about our friends down-under. Please note that the Neighbours view is not necessarily accurate.
Of course, Neighbours is equally popular back home in the real Australia, beating Home and Away in the popularity stakes. You Aussies will be able to judge for yourself just how close to real life the world of Neighbours is.
In Australia, relative to the size of the country there are few inhabited areas.
Neighbours itself is a detailed log of events in the city of Erinsborough. This is focused around events in Ramsay Street, a small suburban cul-de-sac where everyone gets along swimmingly. Bad people live in places called Anson's Corner and Eden Hills, which as far as the humble viewer can tell are also suburban middle class areas where mostly high-school aged teenagers live. All business which takes place in Erinsborough does so on the Lassiter's complex. Lassiter's is a large hotel, which almost anyone can afford to stay at, but appears to be a fairly luxurious establishment. Around the hotel can be found a general store1, a bar, a hairdresser's, a doctor's surgery and a lawyer's office. Other areas of Erinsborough which are often visited or spoken of include the hospital, the school – Erinsborough High - the garage, the uni and 'the city'. Every Australian has a friend or family member who works in 'the city'.
Erinsborough has a rivalry with a local city2, West Warratah. Should any sports team from Erinsborough be playing a match, they will be playing it against West Warratah.
Sometimes people leave Erinsborough. Occasionally people move to other cities such as Perth or states such as Queensland3. Away from the major cities one can either go to 'the bush' which is basically any countryside that can be found, or to Tasmania4. Should people wish to leave the country5, they have the choice of London or New York.
People who do move away from Erinsborough are immediately excommunicated, and are rarely seen or spoken of again. This is because Australia is such a vast country, populated areas are few and far between. The small-town mentality of Ramsay Street almost refuses to believe anything or anyone could exist outside Erinsborough. Should you ever attempt to return to Erinsborough the punishment is that your appearance must change to that of a complete stranger.
The exceptions to this rule are Scott and Charlene, who left Erinsborough many years ago, but are still remembered and mentioned every time somebody is going on a long holiday.
Work in Australia
In the land of Oz only certain professions are available to the budding workforce. In recent weeks and months an opening has become available for Australia's doctor. Former Dr Karl Kennedy was once the local GP, as well as the only doctor in the hospital, and specialised in everything from gynaecology to hypnotherapy. For a short while another doctor worked in the GP practice with Karl. This was Dr Darcy, however, who only got the job as he was Karl's nephew.
Similarly there is more often than not only one teacher. Susan Kennedy fulfils this role, having taught English and citizenship, and having been school principal at various points in her career. Nobody knows if, or by whom, young Australians can hope to learn any other subjects on a regular basis. Any member of the community, however, can teach on an ad hoc basis on any subject they have a particular interest in or knowledge of.
In the last few years, a lawyer's office has established itself at Lassiter's, and since this, the legal profession has grown steadily in popularity. Other professions which can be followed in the Lassiter's complex include shop assistant, barman/woman, hotelier and general entrepreneur, or hairdresser. Otherwise there are always jobs at the garage or as a builder.
It is perfectly reasonable not to have a job and still get by. You may do this by gambling, doing general running around for other people, or simply by being old.
The population of Australia is only between 20 and 30 people at any given time. Names are rationed, so that no two people ever share a name. This avoids confusion when gossiping and general shouting are taking place.
All Australians smile all of the time. This is because they live in a world of bright colours where they know everyone - and wherever they go they are followed by one of two cheery 20-second-long tunes that they can't hear.
People in Australia are unnervingly obsessed with each others' day to day lives, and just pop in to see people as and when they feel like it, generally just walking into someone else's house, and even helping themselves to the contents of the fridge. Living arrangements are very flexible, with every house being of similar size and housing anywhere between one and eight people.
It is also worth noting that the average age in Australia at any one time is roughly 25, and that there are always an alarmingly high number of attractive people, all of a uniform north-west European race. Most people go through several periods of serious physical injury or illness at some point in their life, which almost certainly won't result in any long term repercussions if they survive. Of course this amazing ability to recover from illness may be due to the fact that almost nobody smokes. Those that do will usually see the error of their ways and give up. Smokers that don't show the inclination to give up are bad people and will show their corrupt nature in various other ways.
Divorce rates are extremely high in Australia, but to balance this out, remarriage rates are equally high. Often an Australian will remarry the person they divorced only a matter of months previously.
Australians do not age at the average rate. Many people remain the same age for many years7, others seem to grow up or old almost instantly. From this we can deduce that time does not pass in Australia as it would in the real world.
Australians drive shiny new cars. Nobody lets their car age, except for those who drive classy vintage models. Should an Australian choose to cycle, they will of course always wear their cycle helmet.
While in many ways Australians can claim to speak English, they have found a unique way of colouring this to make it seem all the more cheery and bright. Below is a list of key phrases and words that you may wish to drop into everyday conversation.
Spiggin' – this is a word that can be used to express intensity. It replaces the word very in Australia. For example, I'm spiggin' tired mate .
Mate – In Australia, as everybody already knows everybody else, they all refer to each other as mate, eg, G'day mate.
G'day – This is an abbreviation of the phrase 'good day'.
Arvo – Short for afternoon. Eg G'day mate, fancy a drink this arvo?
Hufta – A general insult which apparently has no significant meaning, eg, You spiggin' hufta!.
Ute – Any van or small lorry. Thought to be an abbreviation of 'utility vehicle.'
Strewth – An exclamation, equivalent to the English 'Good Lord!', eg, Strewth mate! You've only going and pranged the ute, you spiggin' hufta!.
Spunk – Good looking boy, eg, That Dr Kennedy is a real spunk.
Climate and Weather
It is almost always sunny in Australia. All year round, shorts and T-shirts are sensible attire, and sunbathing or swimming in the back yard8 is a year-round pastime. The only time it ever rains is when something bad is about to happen, especially when someone is lost in 'the bush'.
Eat Your Heart Out, Lonely Planet
So there you have it. Australia, the land of cheery simpletons, one-story, two-roomed houses, and irritating incidental music, is yours to conquer. Why not make the trip?
Well, the price of flights is fairly prohibitive, we'll give you that. Luckily, wherever you are in the world, you will never need to pay that price, as twice daily we can take a look at the day's highlights in a kind of Match of the Day style in the form of Neighbours. Your favourite Antipodeans bid you g'day!