(asked by Megan from Brisbane)
As an Australian myself, I am curious as to how the French generally perceive my country and our culture. What do French people think of Australians and Australia? Do they just perceive us as another group of English-speaking barbarians or do they see us in another way? Also, how do the French regard our culture, with regard to our films, artists, literature, gastronomy (or lack thereof) and so forth? It does not seem that Australia is a popular tourist destination for many French people but I would like to know what your countrymen think of us (both the good and the bad, so be totally honest!)
Well, the French don’t really know Australia and Australians, so there aren’t that many preconceived ideas about the country and its people.
Generally speaking, I guess the French have a roughly positive opinion about Australia. The country is perceived as one of the last remaining “natural” countries, where nature laws still prevail in most places. Australians are perceived as well spirited people, a little rough around the edges, but generally nice and fun. I want to say that this stereotype was most likely created by Crocodile Dundee as it in –in my memory- the first mainstream incursion of Australian culture in France. On a more geopolitical level, they appreciate that Australians are not imperialistic like Americans, also Australians are perceived as leaders in environmentalism.
The French don’t really know anything about Australian culture (and I admit that I seriously lack knowledge in that field myself). The only two Australian films French people know are the aforementioned Crocodile Dundee and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (and maybe more recently Baz Luhrmann’s Australia). Famous Australian actors are Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman (yes, I know Russell Crowe is half New Zelander, but most French people don’t).
On the music side of things, the only famous Australian bands are Midnight Oil and AC/DC (very recent stuff as you can see). Oh, and Kylie Minogue! She’s Australian, right?
Actually, one of the main problems Australian artists have in France is that most people don’t even know they’re Australian. I mean, I think I know English-speaking culture quite well, and I often have serious doubts of the nationality of most famous Australians, so you can imagine French people that don’t know much about Anglo culture.
I don’t think any Australian writer is famous in France (I even wonder if I have ever read one).
Australian gastronomy? Is there such a thing? I mean, apart from kangaroos?
I guess this previous line is a typical French response to the words “Australian gastronomy.”
Australia is not a big French tourist destination simply because it’s very far and most likely one of the most expensive destination from France to go to (I’m talking air fare here, although I’m not really sure, but the only place in the world further from France than Australia is New Zealand). I have the feeling that most French people would love to go to Australia, although most of the ones that say this will never even try.
So all in all, French people don’t really much about Australia, but they have a roughly positive -yet blurred- image of the country and its people. I guess that sums it up.