He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich……

Recently someone asked me what were some of the silliest things people had ever asked me about Australia. I didn’t have to dig too deep for the most recent.  A couple of weeks ago a lovely American (bolded because it is relevant to the story) friend had been imbibing some grown up beverages for several hours and came up with

‘If England settled Australia in the first place why don’t you all have British accents?’

I did VERY well for me, because he is really a lovely person and my reply was very restrained.

‘I’m just going to let you sit on that for a while .’

And walked away. Smirking.

Today I was reminded of the VERY best I have ever been asked, if not the best then definitely in the top three.

When I was 15 I went on a semi-exchange to Canada. What a semi-exchange is, because you’re all dying to know, is when you go for 5 months to live with your Aunt and Uncle in Canada and don’t have to miss a school year, because you go over summer and miss all your school holidays instead.  My semi exchange is how I get all my winter street cred, because I did a winter in Saskatoon.  A WINTER in Saskatoon, with temperatures hovering around -40 Celsius, which co-incidentally is -40 Fahrenheit, the magic moment where Fahrenheit makes sense before it doesn’t again, and announcements on the radio about small children and the elderly not going outside while I was trudging to school through the snow drifts. Anyway, that’s how I remember it and you’re not taking that away.

So in my Grade 11 history class we had a circle time where you could ask the Australian girl anything about Australia.

‘Do kangaroos just, you know, hop down the street?’

Of course!

‘Are Olivia Newton John and Elton John brother and sister?’

Not sure how that is relevant.

‘How big is Ayers Rock?’

Do not know. (with all the shame of a 15 year old, none)

It went on and on, round and round and then the time was up. I was off the circle time hook.

After class in the hallway a couple of kids cornered me,

‘Umm, we have one more question’


‘ummm, you know the song by Men At Work?’


‘Well, umm, we were just wondering, umm, is a Vegemite sandwich a blow job?’

Can you please repeat that foreign teen who I do not know very well?

‘Well it says ‘He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich’. So what we thought was, that it was a, umm, blow job.’

No, it’s just a Vegemite sandwich.


Showing all the correct ingredients for a successful Vegemite sandwich. Fresh white bread, butter and the mighty spread.

Canada wins my friends.

What is the strangest question someone has ever asked you about your home country?


13 responses to “He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich……

  1. Love it!!! How are things? Coming through HK any time soon? Xx


  2. I SO love this, Nikki! I don’t think anyone can come close to that in the stupid questions department. As an exchange student from Germany in Mississippi in the 1980s, the question I most commonly got was “Are you from East Germany or West Germany?” Which I found incredibly stupid at the time – how would I have gotten out if I was from East Germany? – but now recognize as pretty intelligent – they would have had to know there were two Germanys, after all, which is already pretty advanced for your typical American teenager, don’t you think? Although the second most question after that was “Do they have electricity in Germany”, so I’m not so sure….
    Then again, I wasn’t entirely worldly either when arriving in a new country so different from my own, judging from the pretty naive letters I wrote home to my parents during that time. You might have read this already – here my blog post on THAT experience: http://www.joburgexpat.com/2013/11/culture-shock-circa-1983-they-have.html

  3. well there’s one I haven’t been asked before 🙂

  4. too funny! I’m an american expat in Australia now and I found your blog…living life through the other side of the lens. Haven’t had too many crazy america questions, but people keep first guessing I’m from Canada!! Too weird.

    • I’m guessing people guess you’re from Canada first to be polite, you never want to ask a Canadian if they are an American, but it’s fine to ask an American if they’re Canadian ;). I look forward to seeing your point of view from the other side. We might speak the same language but it’s a very loose definition of ‘same language’ I have found.

      • Oh too funny. Yeah didn’t bother me at all to be thought Canadian 😉

        Yes I’ve already stuck my foot in my mouth a few times with the language here. I love it but it will definitely take time to feel at ease with it!:)

  5. Caitlin Foster

    Hi Nikki

    I stumbled upon your blog and subscribed to it just now (6:30pm AEDT in South-East Queensland, Orstraya; no daylight saving for us because the cows and curtains don’t like it, lol). I’m dreaming of leaving Oz for a coupla years to live somewhere with beautiful beaches I can have all to myself and all modern amenities to which I am accustomed which costs AUD one dollar a day. (I DID say I was dreaming!).

    I had one of the weirdest questions ever when I was 25 (30 long years ago now) and staying for a year with my aunt and uncle in Newmarket, an incredibly ugly town in England. Its only saving grace was that it was an easy 20-minute drive to Cambridge (TOO wonderful; I could wax lyrical about it for ages but that would take us both ‘off topic’) and an hour train ride to London. I escaped from horrible aunt and uncle who were NOTHING at home like they had been when they had stayed with my family in Sydney the previous summer. (That, too, is another story.)

    Anyway, they took me to a really nasty pub to meet all their boring mates. One woman looked me up-and-down (she had clearly never met a dinki-di Aussie before) and asked me “Do you have shops in Sydney?”. I thought for a while, straining my memory banks, then brightened and replied “Yes! I DID see one once”. Talk about walking away smirking, lol :). I wish I’d added “I noticed it because a kangaroo was hopping down the street and it drew my attention to that one shop I’d never seen before”.

    So thought I’d answer your question with my little story. If I NEVER go back to Newmarket in this incarnation or any future incarnation it will be too soon. I was SO happy to arrive home from a detestable year in February 1986 to go to uni to do my second degree (I’m a masochist; I actually did another degree after that one; three strikes and I’m all out of studying), I practically ‘did a Pope’ and kneeled to kiss the airport tarmac at Kingsford Smith. Oh, home! The best place in the world. For everybody, no matter where it is.

    IF you ever find the country which meets my very specific requirements, please DO let me know, lol.

    Keep up the funny work. Cheers from Caitlin Foster in farway Oz.

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