A ustralia would seem to be one of the world's premier tourist destinations for the year 2000. Perhaps you are coming for the Olympic Games, either as a sports fan or one of the thousands of crew involved in the television coverage. Maybe you're reading this en route to the Entech 2000 trade show or touring through here with a production, or you may just be coming to visit for the sun, sand, surf, scenery, or the Sydney Mardi Gras. We have gone to enormous lengths to entice visitors to our land and then confuse them with our language and culture which feel superficially familiar. I have been a willing participant in this, but have decided to speak out.
I know I risk the ire of my countrymen by revealing this, but I feel a sense of obligation to other members of the lighting profession; besides, I'm sure you won't reveal the source of your information once you realize its sensitive nature. Oztralia (that's how the locals pronounce it) is a land of dark humour and a complete disdain for outsiders, which is brilliantly camouflaged by its reputation as one of the world's most multicultural nations. Certainly we're a cosmopolitan amalgam of more than 120 cultures, but that doesn't affect our suspicion of outsiders--especially Americans.
The local term for Americans is "bloody Septics," and is usually spoken of them, rather than to them. This name has its origins in the London Cockney rhyming slang brought to Oz by its first European settlers--the criminal classes of England's big cities. Septic is a truncation of "Septic Tank," the rhyming slang for Yank, which of course is a slang term in its own right. The relationship of the term to sewage treatment is not lost on those who use it.
Every northern winter, planeloads of experts and consultants attempting to avoid the cold weather in their homeland descend on the expert-deprived southern hemisphere. They come to dispense wisdom in the form of long Powerpoint presentations with snappy animation and long reports liberally sprinkled with colour charts and pages of bullet points. They are able to produce their reports, presentations, and recommendations back home before they even visit Oz: a task made more difficult by the different mains voltages and electrical safety codes, video standards, legislative and legal frameworks, cultures and languages, and even the side of the road we drive on. It is truly humbling to consider. Although you may work on a stage or in a studio every day, solving the problems of the productions as they arise, and dealing with the shortfalls and failures in the equipment, someone who has never seen your operation can intuitively recommend exactly the right equipment and work practices from their office in another hemisphere. It's easy to see why experts and consultants with American accents are highly valued in Oz (for their pelts).
If you are visiting to work with local crew, you will have to watch your language very carefully. Although English is spoken by the vast majority of the population, there are some dangerous misunderstandings which can arise because of the apparent similarities between dialects of English. Lighting equipment and terminology in Oz is sourced from both the US and Europe. A lighting template could just as easily mean the device used for drafting lighting plans (light plots) as it could mean a metal plate for a profile spot (ellipsoidal/ ERS). The term "gobo" will generally work to describe the object in question, but the crew may also confuse you by calling it by its European name, decal.
In the land of Oz, PAR cans usually travel in pairs, linked by a series twofer to split the local 230/240V supply to feed two 115/120 PAR lamps. Requesting a single PAR can cause quite a bit of consternation if the dimmers don't have a 120V limiting mode. In Oz a twofer is designed to link two instruments in series to split the voltage. The local piggy-back plug, which is fitted to most instruments and patch tails, allows for easy grouping without the use of any additional devices, so don't confuse the crew with talk of twofers, fourfers, or sixfers, just tell them how you want your instruments ganged. But don't use the term "ganged" because you may just get a blank stare: try "grouped" or "patched." Then, of course, you should remember that a dip is a pocket, an RCD is a GFI, a footcandle is 10.76 lux, a utility is a pickup truck, and a beer is a damned fine thing on a hot day when you're done.
There are a few things that you can do to make your stay a little easier: 1. Speak with a French-Canadian accent to avoid being mistaken for a Septic. The Canadian disdain for their southern neighbours is well known in Oz. 2. Keep quiet about how cheap Leatherman multi-tools are back home. 3. If you want to contact a local via their cellular telephone, ask for their "mobile" phone number. 4. Bring some coffee with you. The coffee in Oz is European in style and usually made fresh. You'll find it really hard to find the kind of stewed, bitter brew you're accustomed to. 5. Never, ever open Powerpoint on your notebook computer. In fact, to avoid being mistaken for a consultant, remove the Powerpoint icon from the desktop entirely. The response of some locals to Powerpoint slides can be both unpredictable and very ugly. 6. Take a valuable lesson from NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter team--learn the difference between feet and metres and indicate which you are using at all times.
Ordinarily, the editor would change "colour" to "color" and "neighbour" to "neighbor," etc., but in this case, decided to leave his Septic hands off it.