Fed up with being called a backpacker? Want to blend in and make friends with the locals while http://www.tntdownunder.com/article/2437918549.html[Down Under]? Easy as, mate. You just need to learn to surf, stop speaking like a drongo and grow a mullet. Here’s our Johnny foreigner-friendly guide to being an Aussie. Mate.

How To… Grow the perfect mullet

No one – and we’ve asked various mullet-ologists – can quite pin down when and where the mullet came from. But we’d put a wedge of silly-coloured Aussie cash on it originating somewhere in the general Australasian region. Most likely Rockhampton (where arm-wrestling is considered a form of foreplay by the “ladies”). All the great Aussies, from Steve Irwin to Jason Donovan, not forgetting Craig McLachlan and everyone in Queensland, have sported one in their time. So if you want to blend in like a local, you’ll have to throw away your scissors and good taste, and grow one of your own. It works in four stages…

* Take a good look at yourself – it’s the last time you’re going to look normal for a while. Console yourself with the positive points though, like no more cold necks, or having to waste money on girlie styling products. There’s not much more you can do at this stage except start thinking long hair thoughts.

* Four-six weeks later. Hmm. It’s that awkward between styles stage. Resist all temptations to start hacking bits off the back, although a little trim at the front to start getting that all-important shape wouldn’t go amiss. Invest in a good hat.

* You’ve done it! Business at the front, party at the back. You now have the ideal look to take you from a day on the building site through to a night on the tinnies, without anyone suspecting that you’re anything but a true blue ocker Aussie (mate). Especially if you go blonde. A singlet and thongs will complete the look, although there is one last step you can take for the ultimate Aussie hair transformation.

* Is it a beard? Is it a confused moustache? Who knows? What is important is that this is the “must have” facial hair accessory among Australian men – both traditional, yet timeless. Class.

How To… Cook an “awesome” barbie

Aussies, especially the male versions, take enormous pride in their barbeque skills and the piece de resistance is the steak. Cooking your slab of dead animal just right is a big must if you want to earn Aussie points. Make sure the barbie is really hot before you chuck on the meat, and use a little bit of oil on the grill to help it cook. Leave it to cook for two to three minutes – don’t touch it – to seal in the flavour. Then flip it over and cook it for the same time, trapping in the natural juices from the other side. Now cook it on each side for another minute, but no longer. The meat should be slightly pink in the middle and full of juice. It should be tender enough to cut with a normal knife. Before you drench it in Tommy K though, taste a piece. We guarantee you’ll never cook it any other way again.

How To… Drink

Okay, the actual drinking isn’t too tricky – just swing you neck back, open wide and pour. Thing is, Aussies are bizarrely tribal about their beer. Each state has a different beverage, of which they’re fiercely proud and loyal, and a different size/shape beer glass to go with it. Ask for a pint of XXXX in http://www.tntdownunder.com/article/2441563055.html[Perth], or a midi of Cooper’s in http://www.tntdownunder.com/article/2437943559.html[Queensland] and you’ll have “not from round these parts” written all over you. It’s too complicated for us to explain (ie. we’ve no idea what the difference is between a pot and a midi), so to be safe just point to the local beer and say “beer (never lager), please, mate”. If you haven’t worked out the local tipple, ask for VB – the only drink to have traversed state borders (though it’s the cheapest for a reason).

How To… Enjoy/tolerate Aussie rock

By now you should have enough to succeed as an undercover foreigner, in most scenarios. But when the AC/DC cover band or “exciting new band” that invariably sounds exactly like AC/DC (and remember, they should always be referred to as “Acca-Dacca”) is playing, you must fight the urge to guffaw loudly and say “why can’t you lot get past this dinosaur-rock dirge” (not to be confused with “the Gurge”, another much-loved band). Instead, try hard to imagine a tune amongst all the racket, do “the horns” (extend index and small finger) and “rock out”. If your mullet is at full strength you may be able to sneak your iPod in under the hair and simply gesticulate wildly to an alternative tune. Don’t ever dare suggest that generic rock-obsessed Aussie music is still living in the early-1980s. This is a major faux pas, which could result in a traumatising wedgie. And if you want to get into an Aussie chick’s pants, tell them you love Shannon Noll.

How To.. Dress for the beach

Another crucial test – and a tricky one. See, some Aussies still parade themselves along the beach in their Speedos, or “budgie smugglers”. These are still acceptable in remote areas of Australia – it goes well with the mullet. Get to Bondi, however, and this will be a fashion disaster. Go with “boardies” (board shorts), “thongs” (flip flops to normal people), “sunnies” (sun glasses) and an Aussie flag towel. Also remember to “slip, slop, slap” – the Aussie way of saying protect yourself from the sun. With the glorious climate, you have ages to work on that tan/skin cancer, so why rush. The locals love a good chortle at a Pom who’s been burned the colour of an embarrassed lobster.

How To… Be a bad loser

One more crucial aspect of the Aussie psyche is how to respond when various laughably-named national sporting teams, such as the Socceroos or the Matildas, lose. In a word: badly. You see, for many years Australia didn’t lose at anything – nothing at all – not even badminton. But they do now (did we mention the rugby?) and nowadays they are the undisputed world champions at bad losing. When their cricket or rugby team next capitulate, simply follow the example of the team captain and complain indignantly about the referee, stamp up and down a lot and repeat “It’s not fair! It’s not fair!”

Then sulk for a week and support every other team that plays the team that knocked Australia out. If a kangaroo or suitable substitute (preferably a Pom) can be found, simply ascertain and strangle rigorously. To avoid giving yourself away, file the words “Jonny” and “Wilkinson”, along with “convicts” in the folder marked “do not use unless want bloody nose”.

How To… Surf

Usually I’m happier just soaking up the sight of the tanned, lean (and – sorry – quite often shorter than northern hemisphere blokes) salty bodies teasing waves and great whites. But I decided it was time to catch a wave so I humbly signed up for a http://www.tntdownunder.com/article/2445705296.html[surfing class].

The Australian surf culture is not Bondi on a pink Briton-packed Saturday. It’s packing up the sandy terminator-style 4WD with good food and drinks (plus, when not accompanied by surf teacher, some traditional “leafy appetisers”), and driving till you find the perfect beach with the perfect wave. We soon found ours – a deserted beach near Cronulla (Sydney).

We ran through the four steps of surfing (chest, ass, legs, and surf – it makes more sense when you’re in the water). Then after begging Mother Nature not to drown me and feeling intensely sexy in my wetsuit. I jumped on my board. Amazingly, I did the steps and found the elusive “sweet spot” instantly. I was standing all the way back to the beach. Woo-hoo! I’m the best!

Drat! I’m the worst! Seems it was a cruel example of beginner’s luck. As the others in the group make wave riding progress, I stutter, stumble, crash and burn. After numerous waves pick me up, fling my board around and callously drag me along the sand, I feel decidedly un-Australian. I had to finally throw in the wetsuit.

Lesson learned: surfing is definitely hard work when you lack muscles and fear tsunamis and great whites. I was left with the feeling Norwegians can’t surf; kinda like white men can’t jump – leave it to the professionals.

The damage: $79 for a one-day surf trip (or$499 for a five-day trip from Sydney to Byron).
The details: Visit http://www.wavessurfschool.com.au/[Waves Surf School], or Freephone: 1800 851 101