The other day, one of my co-workers remarked that they couldn’t believe ‘people are actually born in Adelaide’. I tried not to take offence, it makes perfect sense – why would anyone in Melbourne care about their city’s seemingly less-vibrant neighbour, with a population one-fifth its size? In all honesty, however, I was hurt by this. Not because I envy the people who got to spend their teenage years in Melbourne or because I did make the choice to leave my hometown 6 months ago. I was hurt because most Adelaide folks view their city in the same demeaning way. Locals tend to describe their hometown as ‘boring’ and ‘unexciting’, and complain about the shops shutting at 5pm. In my visits back home, people haven’t hesitated to tell me how ‘lucky’ I am to have left and how they long to do the same. In truth, I miss dear old Adelaide, and I relish every moment I get to talk about it, to explain our collective inside jokes and our ‘posh’ accents. Take this as your unofficial guide to Adelaide, from a very very homesick expert.
I acknowledge the traditional owners of Tarndanya/Adelaide, the Kaurna people, and the traditional owners of the neighbouring hills and riverland regions, the Peramangk people. I pay my respects to elders past and present, and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded. I also understand that as a white settler, my ‘hometown’ was stolen, and I will always only be a visitor. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.
Adelaide, and South Australia as a whole, has earned itself a number of different titles, for better or for worse: the Murder Capital, the City of Churches, the Festival State. Despite all the name-calling, Melburnians at large don’t seem to know much else about what’s happening on our side of the border. When it comes to ranking the world’s most liveable cities, Adelaide has historically always closely followed Melbourne. A lesser-known title of Adelaide’s is that we are the only city in the world where a milk drink outsells Coca Cola. Which milk drink you might ask? It’s very specific – Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee. It’s typical to see people wearing FUIC merch out and about (I myself own a branded bottle opener). It’s a cultural icon, a downright obsession, and an integral part of the South Aussie way of life.
The Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee is part of a greater collection of cultural phenomena in SA, reflecting a core part of the Adelaidean identity. Everyone in Melbourne is ‘too cool’ to ever jump on a bandwagon and really get behind something (besides puffer jackets, of course). But in Adelaide, everyone is so self-deprecating that there’s no shame in anything, and we have a number of local cult classics that we’re fiercely proud of: FruChocs (Malteser-sized apricot and peach balls covered in chocolate), frog cakes, yo-yo biscuits, and kitchener buns (which, prior to writing this article, I had no idea were exclusive to SA!).
A more divisive Adelaide delicacy is the pie-floater, a meat pie submerged in thick pea and ham soup, with a healthy dollop of tomato sauce on top. Some (understandably) aren’t a fan of the soggy texture, but hey, it’s ours. We also give some ‘common’ foods slightly unusual names- the deli meat ‘devon’ or ‘baloney’ is called fritz, and the humble HSP (Halal Snack Pack) is called an AB (what it abbreviates is murky in origin, but urban legend states it’s either ‘abortion’ or ‘afterbirth’) on our side of the border.
But the Adelaide dialect doesn’t end there. The most infamous and recognisable tidbit of South Aussie slang is the phrase ‘heaps good’ (because apparently ‘great’ just doesn’t cut it). We also have our own accent which borrows certain pronunciations found in ‘Queen’s English’. While Victorians say ‘chahnce’, ‘dahnce’ and ‘plahnt’, South Australians say ‘charnce’, ‘darnce’ and ‘plarnt’. In fact, it’s typical for us Adelaideans to get asked whether we’re from the UK because of how we speak.
Adelaide is also home to a number of landmarks, like Rundle Mall’s silver balls (that’s ‘malls balls’ to locals) and bronze pigs, the Big Scotsman statue mounted on the front of Scotty’s Motel, our world-renowned vineyards, and the pandas at the Adelaide Zoo (which, after a decade of experts trying, still refuse to breed).
But not all that glitters is gold, and some Adelaide icons are quite frankly eyesores. Invented by a graduate of my high school back in the 1920s is the humble Stobie pole, South Australia’s specific electricity pole that’s both fire and termite resistant. Some councils have opted for decorating their Stobie poles in colourful murals, but more often than not they remain in their original, unappealing brown-and-beige state.
During my last trip home, I was reminded of the blessing and curse that is Adelaide’s miniscule size. You can get practically anywhere in Adelaide, from the hills to the beach, in 20–30 minutes. What this means, however, is that wherever you go you are bound to see someone you know. And I’m serious when I say wherever you go. If you have a long-lasting social battery, this can be heaps good on a night out. But on days when you just don’t want to deal with any form of spontaneous human interaction, it’s hard to catch a break. People in my parents’ generation are also aware of the age-old ‘Adelaide question’, which is of course, ‘what school did you go to?’. As opposed to Melbourne, where people ask what suburb you live in, this really highlights just how tight-knit we are.
I couldn’t write about Adelaide without praising our local music scene. From recent Triple J Unearthed High winners, Teenage Joans and George Alice, to icons like Paul Kelly and Cold Chisel, there’s something in the water down our end of the Murray (which tastes like garbage to those who aren’t used to it).
With all the quirks our humble city has to offer, I’m proud to have grown up there. Too many misguided Adelaideans and Melburnians alike believe that if you’re not in a ‘major city’ on the East Coast, you’re not doing it right. But that’s just not true. Adelaide has a unique, off-beat personality that other cities wish they could cultivate, but can’t due to their obsessions with staying on-trend.
If you ever happen to visit, please give my love to Adelaide. Oh, and while you’re there, grab me a bag of FruChocs.
Article written by Charlie Stamatogiannis
Image courtesy Isaac Urban
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