Bogans and Utes: Is Australia a Country of Hicks?

2011 Holden Commodore VE Series II Redline SSV Ute

2011 Holden Commodore VE Series II Redline SSV Ute

When I first saw a “ute” on a Melbourne street, I thought (and apparently said out loud), “What on earth is that ugly thing?” Theo’s reaction was as if I’d committed blasphemy. He threatened I might not be able to continue living with him.

Here’s a terrific blog entry on utes and bogan culture in Australia from Smuggling Budgies.

Australia has been going through some soul-searching since President Obama came out in favor of gay marriage. The media here has been stating that Australia is the only member of the OECD in which the leaders of both major parties do not support gay marriage. This response is demonstrative of, what people have told me, a deep-seated lack of national confidence, a worry that Australia and Australians are more backwards (‘bogan‘ using Australian slang) than their counterparts – namely Britain and the United States.


Are Australians really bogan? In their hearts, are they a little more hick?

The Ute in its native habitat (Flickr: Westius)

This is an impossible question for an American to answer but why not have fun trying, right? We Americans have our very own styles of backwardness that, I think, help make our country great or at least more interesting. In fact, I’d say that one of the things that makes Australia great, unique, and interesting is its bogan nature.


The rest of this post is a not-so-anthropological look at a piece of Australian culture that we, as Americans, may find humorously behind the times: the large number of Utes on the road. An American who visited Australia extensively in the 1980s once told me that, during that time, ‘Australia was like America in the 196os’. And since Utes in America disappeared almost 30 years ago, are they a sign that Australia is still humorously behind the times?

Read the rest at Smuggling Budgies.

Update: Unfortunately, it looks like Smuggling Budgies is gone. We’ll have to ponder this question some other time.




  1. You know, I recently met a girl who had immigrated to Perth. She told me she liked it, but she said, “It’s like a village. People don’t wear shoes.” I didn’t respond to that because I couldn’t understand what she meant. I imagined people walking barefoot down the driveway to get their mail – like, I imagined maybe a barefoot perimeter of 20 ft around the house. But then I saw the evidence: photos of people walking around in barefeet, like, everywhere. Ha…I don’t know if we Americans are uptight – to me that just seemed unbelievable! I mean, I never understood the need for signs over restaurant doors requiring shirts and shoes here, it just seemed so obvious. So if some folks really go around barefoot to the store and all there…that’s a difference I can’t even understand the motivation for that. But it makes me laugh 🙂

    • That’s funny. I think it’s a country mouse versus city mouse kind of thing. I took a road trip with a good friend of mine some years ago through much of the southern U.S. (Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, I’m sure I’m forgetting one) and we saw some of that and then some.

  2. Australians are just great people… I formed a lasting relation ship with an Ozzie friend in 1967 in Australia. He met a yank girl in Sydney who lived only 30 miles from me here in Texas. They came over here to Texas and were married. He went to Texas A&M and got a PHD! Lived all over the world and just a few years ago retired and settled about 230 mile from her home town… Which is just 15 miles from where I now live… Such a small wonderful world…

    • Call me an optimist, but I think people in general are pretty great, especially travelers who have such a curiosity for the world and an openness about them.

  3. When G came to America, he often commented on the huge pick-up trucks that everyone drives, especially in the rural midwest. Australians certainly don’t have a corner on hickness. Instead of utes and bogans, we have pick-ups and rednecks. Same difference, I reckon.

    • Absolutely. That was basically my conclusion. Utes are akin to pick-ups and bogans are the cousins of our rednecks.

  4. Hi Cosette — Thanks for re-posting our entry! Love your blog!

  5. As an Australian this blog is highly entertaining to read.

    Basically, the further away you get from the CBDs of the three main cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane), the more “bogan” it gets. I drive for two hours to visit my extended family and it’s like an entire different species.

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