January 26 is Australia Day, aka, their version of the 4th of July, when the country commemorates the arrival of the first fleet of British ships to dock at Sydney Cove in 1788. While Aussies will spend the day celebrating themselves, Americans can appreciate Oz’s national holiday by recognizing all of the wonderful things the land down under has contributed to the world.
Sure, you know that the Didgeridoo looks and sounds cool, but be prepared to be astounded and amazed by this bevy of facts:
- It's traditionally made of eucalyptus tree trunks and limbs hollowed out by termites.
- It's thought to have originated a whopping 40,000 years ago.
- A study in the British Medical Journal found that learning and playing the didgeridoo helps reduce snoring and sleep apnea.
- It's also one of the most popular souvenirs tourists visiting Australia purchase. Baggage fees, be damned!
Apparently, as of 112 years ago, kids had to carry a bunch of loose sheets of paper to school every day. Thankfully, in 1902, a stationer in Launceson, Tasmania (FYI: it’s an island state in the commonwealth of Australia) reportedly became the first person to bind together multiple sheets of paper and sell them. Trapper Keepers came way later.
Yep, turns out we have the Aussies to thank for gifting the world with a medical machine that gives us a sneak peek at fetuses in the womb and about-to-burst appendixes! Researchers George Kossoff and David Robinson developed the device in 1961. Lifesavers … literally.
Speaking of fetuses, the world’s first test-tube twins were born in 1983 in Melbourne, and the first frozen embryo baby followed a year later, paving the way for advances in in vitro fertilization and "Jon & Kate Plus 8."
Though you probably never heard of UGG boots until the early 2000s when reality show darlings like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie made the shoes must-haves for every American female, the sheepskin boots were actually created in the mid-'70s. It was then that American surfers started bringing the shoes home from visits to Australia — where they were introduced to the after-swim staples by their Aussie wave-riding peers. In 1978, Australian Brian Smith, then living in Santa Monica, California, became the first U.S. distributor, but it took decades for the boots to actually take off. Recently, the company has tried to market to men by tapping New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as a spokesman. Apparently New York Giants fans mean nothing to its execs.
The Aussies are crazy about spreading this stuff (invented in Melbourne in 1922 and made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives) on just about anything — kind of like how the rest of the world treats Nutella.
Can't decide between a burger and a pastry? You can kind of have both now that the Aussie chain Pie Face has brought the hand-sized snacks to the States. If minced meat and gravy isn’t your thing, apple and cherry are also available.
It's pretty obvious why Tim Tams have a cult following among Australians: The treat is composed of two layers of chocolate malted cookie and separated a light chocolate cream filling, and coated in a layer chocolate. Our choice over Vegemite or Meat Pie any day.
Foster’s may have a global reputation for being the quintessential Australian beer, but, according to The Oxford Companion to Beer, the brew is “curiously less popular in its homeland than it is around the world.” Ironically enough, two Americans living in Melbourne in 1886 created it.
Koalas may look cute and cuddly but it’s best to buy and pet a plush souvenir instead of touching the actual animal — the indigenous Australian marsupials are more aggressive than they look. And no one wants to be the person who blames a recent hand injury on a sweet little koala.
Steve Irwin is has become a true national treasure Down Under. The Crocodile Hunter died in in 2006, but his daughter, Bindi, has stepped in to fill his shoes and educate the world about Australian wildlife and make sure the popularity of the term "blimey!" never fades.
A beautiful musical genius. And Wolverine. And Leopold. And Jean Val Jean. OMG he’s in everything amazing.
She's tall, beautiful, talented, is the keeper of many secrets about Tom Cruise, and has managed to make the world forget she ever starred in the film version of "Bewitched." So what if she was born in Hawaii? Australia has claimed her.
The greatest gift that Australia has given us this decade thus far: Gale and Thor. There’s a third brother but America would melt if the media knew about him.
Sure, by the time your kid is 8 you want to jump out of your moving car to avoid having to listen to one more feel-good song. But there's a reason the group of reportedly failed rock musicians has made a fortune as “The World’s Greatest Pre-School Band." Like it or not nearly every kid in the Western world is familiar with the lyrics to “Get Ready to Wiggle” and “Do the Monkey.” Just as those genius Wiggles planned it.
Tell me about it, stud.
And, last but not least...Kangaroos!