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Saturday 3 November 2012

Growing up Italian Australian Memes

There is something about growing up as an Italo-Australian that is utterly unique.

Unless you're an Italo-Aussie (someone who is born in Australia to Italian-born parents) you may think the in-jokes and Italo-Australianisms are kinda weird, and perhaps not all that funny.

But if you're a 'wog', every single anecdote about how Italian parents and nonni act is absolutely hysterical - it's a whole world of hilarious stories where the punch line often involves poking fun at the people who left Italy to make a new life in Australia: our grandparents and parents. We've turned their unique struggles to assimilate into this fantastic country into jokes at their expense. Thing is: they don't mind at all (they secretly love it, and laugh along with us).

You've likely grown up on a diet of Joe Avati, 'Wogs Out of Work', a tarantella at a wedding, and a five course meal at your mum's house.

Italians in Australia were 'greenies' before the term was even coined (saving and scrimping, and turning off lights, and re-using ice cream containers for homemade sauce and margarine containers for homemade olives).

You were a tad awkward when your Aussie pals laughed at your huge panini filled with melanzane and coteletti at school, but always have a little chuckle now when the whole world raves about the food that was standard daily fare for you.

You'll know that Sundays in summer mean making 'sarsa' with the tomatoes your folks haul home from the markets, and Easter equals morphing red grapes into this year's batch of lovingly made vino.

You catch yourself saying bastardised words like "fridge-a", "shower-a", and still be baffled why long distance calls to the motherland have to be so darn shout-y.

Yes, the world of an Italo-Aussie is a curious one, but gosh we love it. It's a never ending in-joke.

So, it was fantastic to see a Facebook page set up by an Italo-Australian featuring memes that are scarily spot-on.

I interviewed the enigmatic person behind the hugely popular Facebook page - it was only created on October 10 and within two weeks had over 30,000 'likes' - for 'Josie's Juice' blog and was given an insight into the funny world Italo-Australians know and love (also scroll down for the too-good memes created by this Italo-Aussie... each and every one is so fantastically accurate): 

  • What gave you the idea to set up this page?

    As most social networkers would know, the meme phenomenon has taken Facebook and the internet by storm, and I had noticed recently that a number of cultural or ethnically-based meme pages had started to crop up on Facebook. I was having a little look through Facebook one night, and thought to myself, “Surely someone must have created a Facebook page about what it is like to grow up Italian-Australian!” To my absolute surprise, I could not find a single page on Facebook dedicated to this, despite the great number of Italo-Australians in Australia. I thought for a minute and realised that I knew plenty of ‘in-jokes’ and funny anecdotes about the Italian-Australian way of life, and figured why not give it a go? I suspected there would likely be a great number of Italian-Australians who could really relate to all of the similarities between us, although I certainly did not expect the page to escalate so rapidly to over 20,000 likes in literally a few days! I guess I successfully tapped into an as-yet-unexplored market.

    What is your own experience of growing up Italian Australian?

    My own experience was visiting i Nonni e la famiglia every Saturday and Sunday night practically since birth (Dad’s family on Saturday night, Mum’s family on Sunday night), and enjoying a multiple-course meal and a laugh and conversation with i cugini. It was hearing my family speak a combination of dialect and English, to the point where I could understand just about everything that was said to me in Italian, but couldn’t string together more than a few words. It was enjoying our culture’s delicious food, watching Nonni make the salami, wine and tomato sauce once a year, attending festas of the patron Saint of my family’s town, listening to Italian music both old and new, and much, much more. The Italian culture is so rich, and I believe that in many ways it has been further enriched through its integration into the Australian setting.

    There are lots of memes related to the old nonni in our lives - tell me about your own nonni.
    My Nonni are a real treasure. They have always been so endearing, loving and supportive, and are an integral part of some of my most wonderful childhood memories. My Nonni have been inspirational, through their stories of agricultural village life in Italy, World War II, and the voyage made on the ship coming to Australia in the early 1950s, forging a life for themselves in a country they knew nothing about. They have also been a source of simple life wisdom and hope, and enormous contributors to the passing on of the Italian culture within my family. Over the years I have loved watching my Nonni continue the traditions of making wine, sauce and salami. I hope that one day I can continue to pass on the culture in the same way that they have done!
    What is it about the Italian culture that makes them [us!] so hilarious?
    That’s a good question! I don’t think there is a clear-cut answer for that one. Maybe it is simply funny to see how Italians have integrated into the Australian way of life, and the interesting ways in which we have attempted to preserve our culture in a new context. What I always find funny is how the characteristics and mannerisms that I witness within my own immediate family, I see imitated exactly in every single other Italian family I have ever met! It is almost as if all of the Italians are just one big extended family (perhaps we are with the amount of cousins we all have, haha!). It is indeed hilarious, but never in a negative or patronising sense. It is hilarious because it is so endearing and so wonderful to see the warmth of the Italian culture through the common experiences found in just about every family. I think that is what has made the Facebook page so popular.
    What do you want to 'achieve' with this page, and what would be a dream amount of 'likes'? And which famous Italo-Aussie would be your ultimate 'liker'?
    The famous Italo-Aussie who would be my ultimate liker is Joe Avati, because of his success in making a name for himself simply by talking about the common experiences shared by Italian-Australians across the country in a comedic way. Believe it or not, though, Joe has already liked the page! He had stumbled across it within about a week of the page’s opening, and even posted two pictures of Italian activity in Canada.
    As for what I want to achieve with this page, I would like to continue to achieve exactly what is already occurring: for many Italian-Australians of all ages to be able to relate to the page and enjoy some light-hearted humour about our own unique brand of being both Italian and Australian. I have received many messages from likers of the page who have described how the memes have reignited memories of their childhood, and how they feel united to other Italian-Australians through our common experiences. I have also received messages from Italians living in the USA, Canada, even Italy, who also say that they can relate to just about everything on the page (bar memes that are exclusively Australian). I don’t have a dream amount of likes, I just find it truly wonderful to know that there are so many individuals worldwide who have had the exact same experiences as one another, and it is a pleasure to put a smile on their faces and further develop the cultural bonds that already tie us together.

To follow the hilarious meme madness, click 'like' here: 

For more hilarious memes, scroll down:

Just brilliant, right?

Share with your fellow Italo-Australian amici. And everyone else - most of these memes transcend cultures and I reckon they'll all get the joke.

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