An Australian Encounters English Condescension

Jill Ker Conway (added by GPL)

I resented their air of superiority toward Australians. I wasn't used to being patronized by people less well read than I, nor to having the history I knew so well explained to me as though I could not possibly know anything about it. I came to wait for the ultimate compliment which could be counted on by Sunday breakfast. I knew the confidential smile and the inclination of the head would be followed by "You know, my dear, one would hardly know you were not English." I couldn't control the irritation produced by such accolades, and would usually begin to tell preposterous stories about life in the outback to emphasize how different I was.

Australia's class system seemed harmless enough when one observed British snobbery and class consciousness at work. I chuckled at overhearing one friend my mother made on shipboard tell her proudly about the dinner party at which she and her husband had been guests the night before. "My dear, we were sixteen sitting down to dinner, and Freddy and I were the only ones without a title." But it was not so funny to see the very intelligent child of the caretaker of our flat taken from school at fifteen and sent to work, so that he wouldn't get ideas above his place.

-- Jill Ker Conway, The Road from Coorain, New York: Vintage, 1989).

Postcolonial Web Singapore OV Jill Conway