Monday, March 5, 2012

Aussies and Kiwis-- what is it with us?

Do you ever wonder at the ‘love-hate,’ ‘hot and cold,’ yet strangely close relationship between Aussies and Kiwis? Perhaps you just write it off as something unique about the Trans-Tasman neighbours. Perhaps you wonder what the hell I’m talking about, if you are observing from afar—that is form outside the two countries. Of course there are many Kiwis and Aussies who live and work in other countries and then the relationship takes another turn--- you would think we are ‘brothers and sisters.’
The Colonial period of our history drew us together in ways that have lingered and grown. Before the Treaty of Waitangi (A founding document that still brings about a great deal of debate in NZ) New Zealand had political ties, via the Government of New South Wales. There was quite successful trading between Maori tribes, especially from the Waikato area, and the bourgeoning Sydney Town.
Gold Rushes provided another excuse for the two fledgling nations to mix their aspirations; however it was World War One that our mixed blood was spilled on the battlefields of Europe and the failed Gallipoli Expedition.  Since then the ANZAC spirit has gained in its almost mythical underpinning of the relationship between the two sovereign nations.
The talk of ‘bothers in arms’ has since trans morphed into something quite unique. Perhaps it had its origins on the muddy and bloody fields of Europe, during a lull in proceedings and someone suggested a ‘friendly’ game of rugby. A shared stubbornness and a love of sport made damn sure that these early encounters were taken seriously. Thus was born a long history of sporting rivalry. For the uninformed observer at any Rugby, cricket or any other sports encounter between the two nations, there would be a mixture of amusement and con fusion. They would go home wondering why these two proud nations take a ‘game’ so seriously. I suggest they attend a game between Wales and England, and they will find equally high levels of emotion.
There is more to this special relationship than those links based on history and sports. There has been a mainly one-way flow (although for few times in our histories, it has been Aussies moving to NZ) of Kiwis into Australia, chasing greener pastures; both economically driven and for a sense of seeking a more exciting lifestyle. Once in Australia, mainly younger Kiwis (My definition of ‘young’ is quite wide) attract what most would say is fairly good-natured ribbing and ‘taking the piss.’ However such barbs are not always taken without some sort of response. Of course there is once again a varied response to such encounters, depending a good deal on the ability of the recipient to give back in kind.
Some of the reaction from Kiwis is perhaps fed by the sense that they are treated like ‘little brothers,’ a feeling that they are being patronized. FACT--- Kiwis don’t like that! And Aussies are simply amused by the experience. They even admit to a certain ‘fondness’ their Kiwi siblings.  They may level the accusation that Kiwis suffer from a feeling of inferiority. There is no doubt that Australia is much bigger geographically and that they out preform us in most fields. It is on the sports filed that Kiwis feel that they can take Aussie down a peg or too, perhaps redressing the balance a little.
This all changes when we are overseas. There is a natural gathering together when we are in a much bigger lake. Just go to a pub in London in some area and note the camaraderie between Kiwis and Aussies, albeit with that underlying hint of ‘big brother is watching over his Kiwi mate/sibling.’ Sometimes we are comrades in our behaviours. Many ‘older’ compatriots are more than slightly embarrassed by the drunken behaviours their offspring at overseas festivals, particularly in Europe. Both nations are known for their ribald and unfettered out lettings. It seems that once we are away from imagined restrained homelands, we just ‘go for it.’
 It is then that any sense that ‘someone has it in for us,’ drives us closer together than our formal ‘economic relationship that is increasingly making us like a Tasman Nation. Yes, we both need one another, but like any family; we have our petty little squabbles and jealousies. At its worse it can be ugly; like when a crowd at Eden Park (Auckland’s premier stadium) does not stand for the Aussie national anthem. This is balanced by the definite acceptance by the huge majority of both peoples that they will be there for one another when the chips are down; in times of war and natural disasters. Who was there in the Australian bushfires and Christchurch earthquakes? The response from both nations to jump in was immediate and unquestioned. There was an expectation that when one of us needs the other, that help will always be there.
The future--- Who knows? I am sure of the fact that we won’t be pulling apart any time soon. If anything, we are being driven closer together, economically and in our shred destinies. OH--- and don’t forget that even geographically, we are moving ever closer--- by about one centre metre a year!

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