The Bogan in You

Chatting with some new friends the other day, the topic was summer holidays. Here in France, EVERYONE ditches the city in summer.  One couple are off to party in Ibiza. Another to their holiday house in Mallorca, and another to visit family in Italy.  One of the girls stated bluntly that she wouldn’t consider a holiday that doesn’t include meals, bed-making and babysitting. 

Cue me. “We’re going camping!”

Cue silence. 

Then, “You what?” “Why?” “Camping?” “Why?” 

 Image by Michael Perkins via The Daily Telegraph

Image by Michael Perkins via The Daily Telegraph

This crazy concept of “camping” appeals to our family for a few reasons. (By camping I mean staying in a fairly flimsy onsite cabin. Australians call it "glamping" but in France you're definitely roughing it). The main reason is we like it. Another reason is that it doesn’t cost the earth.  We don’t think the kids will mind if the sand comes with a hefty price-tag or not. Sand is sand, the sea is the sea. I fondly recall my own childhood summer holidays - often in a borrowed or rented caravan with an annex. I remember the thrill of sleeping in a different kind of bed (a squeaky fold up, or a mattress on the floor), with different kind of weather and different sounds to wake to (waves crashing, thongs flip-flopping and tent zips zipping). Mum and Dad were generally in happy holiday moods. We had all the time in the world - all day everyday - to plant our bottoms and heels in the sand and watch the tide creep from toes to tummies, then shift back a few metres to repeat the process. Add to that; breaky on the barbie, daily ice-creams and endless rounds of card games. I even relished the daily trek to the shower cubicles to queue with the other sandy campers with peeling noses and beach hair.

 Why would any one want to stay in a place like this? Image from mrandmrssmith.com

Why would any one want to stay in a place like this? Image from mrandmrssmith.com

 Because sand: Hazel waist deep 

Because sand: Hazel waist deep 

I predict that there will be some “work” attached to camping with 2 toddlers. They’ll have to adjust to a different sleeping environment and we’ll have to make sure they are not wandering off exploring the Mediterranean alone. But I know that life for 2 weeks will be simpler. I will not be huffed at for stopping on the footpath to fix my son’s hat.  I will not have to glare at drivers who REALLY DO NOT WANT TO WAIT FOR YOU TO CROSS THE ROAD EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVE A GREEN MAN AND A TINY TOT ON A SCOOTER. I will not have to push a pram up a hill in the rain. I will not have the frowny school door-lady looking at the clock then looking at me then looking at the clock. Nope. For starters, all of THOSE PEOPLE will be on a much needed break themselves, hopefully turning sunbeams into kindness and empathy for the poor non-French women who have heart-attacks every time they cross the road or are late for school. And WE will be at the beach, turning sunbeams into feisty and swiftly-delivered French comebacks. 

Anyhoo I digress. Back to the convo about camping why on earth would anyone do such a thing. I said, “Maybe it’s the bogan in me, but we don’t mind roughing it every now and then.”

And then this:

“The what in you?”

Um. “The bogan.”

"What’s a bogan?”

Well that IS a question, isn’t it?

Put on the spot, I floundered. “It’s kind of like a “ned” in England.” 

“You mean a person with a learning disability?”

“No.” (Clearly my UK stereotype slang needs some work). 

“Do you mean like a houso? (UK)” 

“Sort of.” 

“Like white trash? (US)”

“Um yeah! Kind of. But more endearing.”  

“You shouldn’t talk about yourself that way!”

“Oh but really, it’s not so bad I mean it’s funny, it’s not NECESSARILY an insult. I mean I’m proud to have some bogan in me. I grew up on the outskirts of Melbourne, I yell bloody murder at the footy, I drink beer and swear. Sometimes.”

Silence. I think I lost them at outskirts. 

I said look it’s kind of hard to explain I think I’ll write about it, to clarify for you. An Austrayan education, if you will.  

 The TV show Upper Middle Bogan explores the concept in a hilarious way on abc.com.au

The TV show Upper Middle Bogan explores the concept in a hilarious way on abc.com.au

It got me thinking. Bogan is a word with humble beginnings. I first became aware of it as a child in the early 1980s.  It was explained by my Dad, who by chance has a fair bit of bogan in him. He said, “A bogan is a person who wears black ‘heavy’-metal t-shirts (ACDC, Metallica, Def Leppard) and skinny jeans. He/she is likely to sport a fullsome mullet and is always wearing moccasins (slippers)."  In our local area, bogans were also known as “Doveton Shufflers.” This term referred to the inhabitants of a nearby suburb on the wrong side of the tracks. Doveton-ites pretty much wrote the rules on the afore described bogan uniform. Humour me please - place-related insults are definitely not PC but they do exist, even today.  

 The quintessential and much loved bogan, "Poida" (Eric Bana). 

The quintessential and much loved bogan, "Poida" (Eric Bana). 

Since the '80s though, the word bogan has evolved, as have the people it describes. It means different things to different people. The effect of it’s use depends on context, tone and the number of swear words it’s sandwiched by.  It’s a word that can be loaded with hilarity, pride, and affection - as well as hurt, anger, shame and judgement. 

I argue that we are all a bit bogan. On some level. If you’re Australian, I’m telling you it’s there. If you’re French and you wear slippers outside then - ahem - bogan - cough. Even if you have a top notch education, an exclusive address and have been raised by a governess and a butler - there is bogan in you. So my question is, where do you land on the bogan spectrum?  If ANY of the following statements apply to you, you can tick your bogan box. Beware of the “double whammies” - they’re worth 2 of the same (obviously). 

  • You think The Castle is a really uplifting movie, and Kath & Kim remind you of your next-door neighbours. 
  • You smoke cigarettes. Double whammy if you have ever talked out of the side of your mouth while your ciggy turns to ash.
  • You have a tattoo.  Double whammy for dolphins, foreign script and spelling errors. 
  • You have EVER used the “c” word (whispers and spell-outs included). 
  • You’ve worn UGGs or moccasins outside the confines of your home.  
  • You are generally not a fan of multiculturalism EXCEPT when it comes to KEBABS, DIM SIMS, PIZZA, SPRING ROLLS AND VINDALOOS. 
  • You love footy (all sorts).  
  • You have ever called an umpire a “white maggot.”
  • You consider your “flanny” your “good” shirt. 
  • You consider the “F” word an adjective. Double whammy if you don’t know what an adjective is. 
  • You can eat a meat pie in 2 bites. You would never eat a pie without a truck-load of tomato sauce. 
  • Your favourite song is Khe Sahn by Cold Chisel (one of those true cliches). 
  • You have a spoiler on your car, mag wheels or a personalised number-plate. 
  • You’ve ever bothered to have a Ford v Commodore conversation.
  • You’ve holidayed in Bali.
  • You’ve ever had dread-locks (sorry hippies - there is bogan in you).  
  • You think it’s worth having streaky orange hands and a dirty looking jaw-line for that sun-kissed/sun slapped look. 
  • You think a bit of sunburn is healthy. 
  • Balayage (i.e. the unwashed/ dark roots look) - even Kate Moss is a tad bogan and she’s not even Australian.
  • This: 
 The Melbourne Cup often brings out the bogan in the best of us. 

The Melbourne Cup often brings out the bogan in the best of us. 

  • You pronounce China like “Choyna.”
  • You’re from Queensland.
  • You barrack for Collingwood.
  • You don’t mind if your guts hang out of the bottom of your t-shirt. 
  • You consider your “coin slot” a good thing to show to people standing behind you.
  • You call that gaping hole above the rear of your pants a “coin slot.”
 All the boganisms conveniently rolled into one.

All the boganisms conveniently rolled into one.

  • You have ever done a burnout.
  • The floor of your car doubles as a rubbish reservoir for McDonald’s.
  • You’ve drank VB from a can and loved it. Ditto UDL cans.
  • You’re not shy of tail-gaiting and road-rage in general. 
  • You’ve been blind drunk and obnoxious at Gallipoli on Anzac Day and dared call it a sacred experience. 
  • You think “Wicked Campers” are good value for money. 
  • You own a jet-ski. 
 Wealthy people can be bogans too. We call them CUBs (cashed up bogans), demonstrated here by Bogan Prince Shane Warne. 

Wealthy people can be bogans too. We call them CUBs (cashed up bogans), demonstrated here by Bogan Prince Shane Warne. 

  • You choose camping in a tent or caravan/annex as opposed to paying €€ place where your linen is washed for you. 
  • You have ever referred to your place of residence as your “joint”. 
  • You and your friends address each other by nicknames you’ve had since creche days. For example (and this is just my inner circle) Buddy, Juddy, Warney, Booney, Farnesy, Barnsey, Moresy, Kenno, Robbo, Kezza, Wezza, Dazza, D-Boy, Doughnuts, BK (Bad-Knee), Peanut, Little-Head, Hoppy, Pikey, Pilly, Pinkie, Chewy, Chappy, Crooksy, Macca, Barks, Tubs, Doodle and Sauce.  You do not remember their “real” names (Andrew? Sarah? Tim? Who’s Tim?).
  • You have a sticker on your car that says “F**k off we’re full.” Note: sticker or not, if this sentiment is lurking somewhere in the corner of your mind you are 100% fully-fledged bogan even if you meet none of the other criteria. This is one of those times when the word bogan becomes less funny and endearing, more sinister and shameful.  

Sorry to leave you on that sad note but it had to be said. Bogan is a word with breadth of meaning. Low scale bogans are funny and full of loveable Australianisms. High-end ones not-so-much. 

I have so many questions to ask you:  What is your town’s equivalent to the “Doveton Shuffler?” What’s your idea of a great holiday?  What is your nickname?  

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