I don’t know whether it is an advantage or a disadvantage to be a ginger. We represent such a small percentage of the global population, that much of the world sees us as quite unique. There are only a handful of countries where we redheads are born. You might think it would be easy enough to say that gingers are treated the same in Australia as they are in Canada.We are after all two of the few countries that have redheads (largely thanks to our Irish and Scottish ancestors who emigrated in the masses). Add on to that the liberal belief that all citizens are equal. Surprisingly, we gingers are different in Australia than your average citizen. Here’s why:
1. It’s Ranga, not Ginger
Australians are renowned world-wide for their use of strange lingo. They develop slang like no other nationality, and their terminology for gingers is no different. Words like arvo perplex me, and I just politely smile and nod when people ask “how are you going?” (often leading to confusion when I say “Fine, thanks, and you?” because it really only means “hi”). In North America, my people have traditionally been classified as “redheads”, but, of course, the British term “ginger” is increasingly popular (hence the name of this blog) in the advent of “Kick a Ginger Day” and South Park. In Australia, they reached new levels by comparing us to apes. You see, Ranga stems from Orangutan. Given, the colour of their hair and mine, I guess it’s not that much of a stretch, but really? An Ape? (Should I maybe take solace in the fact that it was at least a Great Ape, instead of a mere monkey?) And since it’s Australia, they of course have to shorten it, so it’s “Ranga”.
Few people called me this, with one notable exception being my friend Corey. We lived out near Kalgoorlie together, and he charmingly referred to me as a “Ranga Poodle” one evening. That was also the night, I was nearly lit on fire…twice.
2. The evil Sun
The second part of being a Ginger, or alternatively, ‘Ranga’ in Australia has to do with the sun. This might seem like a detail that applies to many countries, and regions. In theory, it’s just as easy to get sunburnt in Vietnam (and I most definitely did in Halong Bay), or Canada as it is in Australia. I thought this too before one horrible afternoon at Scarborough Beach in Perth. I was currently unemployed at this point, and trying to find ways to waste time. The girls decided on the beach and it sounded like a good idea. Really, we were in Australia, it seemed blasmephous not to . I maintain to this day, that I applied liberal amounts of sunscreen, both back and front. But apparently I slipped up somewhere because after two hours at the beach, I received the worst sunburn of my life. On the sunburn scale, I probably reached “slightly pink” 15 minutes into the beach time, and had well surpassed “lobster” by the end. I somehow managed to get my front and back burnt. The next day I couldn’t pull myself out of bed because it hurt my burnt stomach too much to sit up. I ended up having to roll myself sideways off the top bunk. But not only had my tummy got it bad, my butt did too. No, I wasn’t at a nude beach or any such thing, but the bikini obviously doesn’t cover all the way to the knee. I, therefore, also had a butt so burnt I couldn’t sit down.
Let me recap this one for you: I couldn’t lie down, and I couldn’t sit. This was also the weekend we went on a road trip to Margaret River, three hours to the south. It was the most painful three hour car ride of my life. I only enjoyed the fabulous beaches entirely covered from shoulder to knee, with that wide-brimmed hat you see above.