This is a guest post by my good friend and critique partner Lucy Morgan-Jones on an Australian tradition that I love the sounds of.
The yell echoes across workshops, through office buildings and across dusty shearing sheds all over Australia. Workers put down their tools, their pencils, or their shearing handpieces and grab a cuppa and a biccy (cup of something hot, and a cookie), or other snack of choice to enjoy a 15 minute break. And we do this twice a day. 10am and 4pm. Plus, we have a long lunch in-between. Is it any wonder that Aussies are known for being laid back?
Pretty traditional image of railway workers enjoying their smoko. Note the guy on the left rolling a smoke…that’s partly where the name ‘smoko’ got its name from—a smoke break. —Photo credit—
The smoko tradition started way back in the 1860’s by Australian sheep shearers, or the British Navy (one probably started it and it quickly caught on, that’s my theory!), and has continued until today, finding its way into government documents, workers compensation disputes (cos workers need their smokos, right?), and in practically every household in Australia.
Also known as “smoko-o” or “smoke-oh” this was one of my country’s traditions that I missed the most when I travelled to the US last year.
I attended a writers conference, and around 10am (pretty sure it was during a workshop) I started to get a little restless. You know the signs…fidgeting in my seat, tilting my coffee cup to check if it was still empty, daydreaming of Anzac biccy’s…that sort of thing. I checked my watch and sure enough: it was smoko time. Smoko is so engrained into me that my internal body clock knew when it was time for a break even if the country around me didn’t. I tamped down the urge to yell “Smoko!” and head for the closest coffee shop, cup clutched in hand, and instead soldiered on in class. Didn’t want to scare everyone, plus I was pretty sure only one other person (a fellow Aussie) out of the 600+ people there would know what I was on about. 😉
My parents have turned the smoko tradition into a way to connect with their customers. They run a caravan park in outback Queensland, Australia, and mainly cater to the ‘grey haired nomads’ who are ‘TAAOTCI’: Traveling Around Australia On Their Children’s Inheritance. As soon as my parents brought the Longreach Caravan Park, Dad decided to host smokos for the travellers twice a day. And they love it! The grey haired nomads, the backpackers, the holidaying families—they all grab a mug and a biscuit and form a circle to chat about where they’ve been, where not to go, and all sorts of other things. Sometimes someone will bring out a guitar and sing and everybody goes home happy. International visitors have been known to ring up once they are on the road to say: “It’s 10 o’clock and we’re just pulling up for smoko.”
See? It’s catchy!
In the below pic, that’s my nephew enjoying his biccy, and my mum in the floppy hat.
Smoko time at my parents caravan park in Outback Queensland. Photo credit thanks to my sister, Sherry Morgan.
A travel magazine has even done an article on the smoko’s in their park.
So, I suggest you pull up a stump (seat), grab a cuppa, and snack of preference and chillax for 15mins.
Cheers mate! Have a great day.
She enjoys meeting new people from all over the world and learning about the craft of writing. When she can be separated from her laptop, she is a professional time waster on facebook, a slave to the towering stack of books on her bedside table, and a bottler, preserving fruit the old fashioned way so she can swap recipes and tips with her characters.
Her home is in country Victoria, Australia where she does not ride a kangaroo to the shops, mainly because four children won’t fit.