As some of you already know, because Terry and I never really grew up and left our student days behind us, the absolute highlight of our day is the daily broadcast of Australian soap opera, Neighbours.

(Look, don’t judge us until you’ve tried it and you, too, find yourself lying awake at night troubled by such questions as, “Who will buy number 26?” and “Will Steph EVER take off her leather jacket?”)

Anyway, like the Famous Five books I wrote about last week, it’s come to my attention that there is many a life lesson to be learned from soap operas, isn’t there? Lessons like…

50 hings we learned by watching soap operas

01. One doctor is more than enough to cater to the medical needs of an entire community.

02. Most suburban homes have an unlimited amount of bedrooms, so even although from the outside they look like they have four bedrooms max, they will comfortably accommodate two, sometimes three families, plus random  visitors from out-of-state and any foster children the family happen to have staying with them.

03.  This is lucky, because most of them actually DO contain two or three families.

04.  Still only one doctor, though!

05.  If you ever decide to talk about someone behind their back, they will almost always turn out to have been standing just behind the open door, listening.

06.  When you walk into a house, it is absolutely fine to just leave the front door wide open, by the way. Nothing bad will happen because of this. (Well, other than that someone will almost certainly be hiding behind it, obviously…)

07.  No, the real threat comes from fire, plane crashes and minor explosions, so watch out for those.

08.  Lucky you’ve got that doctor on hand, eh?

09. In every suburban street, at least two people will be suffering from memory loss at any given time.

10. Often, this is due to a brain tumour.

11. Don’t worry about brain tumours, though: they are rarely fatal, and the operation to remove them will leave you with only one small sticking plaster on the side of your head.

Oh, and memory loss, obviously.

12.  Your brain tumour will be removed by the same doctor who delivered your baby, amputated your leg (which you lost in the last major explosion) and treated your head cold.

13.  Not the same doctor who prescribed you the drugs you ended up getting addicted to that time, though: that was just a fake doctor.

14. If you ever wish to move out of the house you’re sharing with two other families, you must wait until another property becomes available on the same street: if you decide to move even one street over, you will not be allowed to see your former friends, family and neighbours ever again.

15.  Each new neighbour who moves into the area will have some kind of deep, dark secret,

16.  You will find out what this secret is by listening at the open door of their house one day.

17.  If  your new neighbours have twins, the dark secret is that one of them is evil.

18. All sets of twins are governed by this good/evil rule.

19. This makes life really, really difficult, because identical twins are SO alike that not even their parents can tell them apart. Seriously.

20.  So if a twin ever stars doing Bad Stuff (and a twin will, trust me), you should work on the assumption that it is the OTHER twin who is actually responsible.

21.  But listen at their open door anyway, to be sure of this.

things we learned from soap operas

22. When your children decide to leave the quiet, yet intensely interesting, neighbourhood in which you live, you will never see them again, ever.

23.  Not even if you get a brain tumour, have to have something amputated, have another child, re-marry, or die.

24.  All of these things are likely to happen to you, so again, it’s a good job you’ve got that doctor on hand.

25.  Don’t worry, though, because most children don’t move out of the neighbourhood: they just move into one of the houses next door. (See rule 2: unlimited bedrooms, and 14: movement between properties.)

26.  If they don’t do this, and actually do chose to leave the area altogether, don’t worry: give it a few weeks and you will soon have a bunch of totally new children living with you, that you just took in out of the kindness of your heart.

27. Most suburban families are happy to take relative strangers into their homes, even if there are lots of them, plus animals.

28.  Speaking of animals, though, don’t worry too much about these either, because if you DO decide to get an animal – a sheep, say – you will hardly ever have to see it.

29.  This is also true of babies and small children, interestingly enough.

30.  Sometimes your child will go away for some reason (school trip/ visit to brother or sister who moved out of state / kidnapped by evil twin, etc) and return with a completely different face.

31. Say nothing about this: and be aware that it may happen again at any time.

32. Speaking of kidnapping: it can happen to anyone, and often does.

33. The kidnapped person is always returned safely to their family (although sometimes with a different face), so if the kidnapped person is you, try to chill.

34. All kidnapped persons are taken to a caravan in the bush.

35. Although this experience is traumatic, you will get over it pretty quickly – like, within a day or two.

36. Most very traumatic experiences will happen on either a) Christmas day or b) at someone’s wedding.

37. If someone is missing, presumed dead, they won’t be.

38. They will always turn up again years later, so if the missing person was your husband or wife, and you remarried in the meantime, that’s going to be awkward, huh?

39. Although not really, because the missing person will undoubtedly have suffered memory loss – or you will have.

40. And most people marry four or five times in their lives anyway, so like plane crashes and brain tumours, it’s no biggie.

41. If you ever happen to faint, you’re almost certainly pregnant.

42. Don’t worry, though: the symptoms will pass as soon as you realise what’s happening, and you’ll have a fast (like, a few weeks, probably), trouble-free pregnancy, followed by a baby you will rarely have to see. (See no. 29)

43. Beware of psychiatrists – they always turn out to be crazier than the people they’re treating.

44. Normally because they’re not actually real doctors (There’s only one REAL doctor, remember?), but psychiatric patients pretending to be doctors.

45.  Almost everyone has either a child or sibling they didn’t know existed. (Obviously if your surprise sibling is a twin, you should be worried, because it will be evil. Unless, of course, YOU’RE the evil twin? You’re not… are you? Which one are you again? We’ll never know…)

46. If there’s a friendly bar or coffee shop that everyone in your neighbourhood likes to congregate in, it will at some point be threatened with demolition or closure. Probably more than once, actually.

47.  All of the major dramas of your life will be played out in this coffee shop or bar.

48. Don’t bother to order coffee/wine, though, because if you do, you will always have to leave seconds after it arrives.

49. Normally to go to the hospital, which everyone in your street will have reason to visit at least once every week.

50. So it’s a good idea to get to know that friendly neighbourhood doctor!

If there are any I’ve missed (and I’m sure there are), feel free to add them…

12 Comments
  1. Is Carl Kennedy still the only doctor in Ramsey Street?? I stopped watching after he had that stupid affair with his medical secretary, years and years ago.

  2. I have just finished watching today’s episode of Neighbours! I’m so pleased you still watch it too. I got sucked back in by all the old cast coming back for the 30th anniversary last year and kept watching (loving Hilary Robinson popping up every now and then!). And you’re right – around half of those things are happening right now though I don’t think either Josh or Imogen are particularly evil (maybe because they’re not identical?!). x

  3. Brilliant analysis told in your light-hearted style, as ever. Made me chuckle and I haven’t watched it since my kids were teenagers and watched it religiously

  4. 51) In any given community, there will only be one person with each name. You never find two Daves. So if you, Dave, rock up at a new street and find there’s already a Dave living there, you might as well turn around now.

  5. Perfectly done. I gave up soaps when I started uni but this describes much of what happened that I remember. Now I’m reassured that this is still happening. The safety of Neighbours relies on it

  6. I think I know why there’s only ever one doctor per community. Here in NZ we have a nightly soap opera called Shortland Street, which is set in a hospital, and one of the things you can guarantee is that any given moment several of the patients in the hospital will be staff members. So, there’s obviously a shortage of doctors available to serve the community because they’re all in hospital!

  7. Where’s the wealthy mogul who flip-flops between being the evil puppetmaster of the suburban town, and being this wonderful, misunderstood man who is reformed by the elegant woman-with-a-mysterious-and-probably-slutty past-with a heart of gold? She always starts as the mogul’s enemy, then makes him over into the guy everybody loves, leaving his son-from-a-previous-marriage, seething with resentment, ready to step into his father’s place as Rich Suburban Enemy No. 1?

    Or is this only the American soap operas that have this?

  8. I think a good one to add is that your teenage daughter will most likely get pregnant. And it’s most likely going to be a troublesome pregnancy or a sick baby. And the father will probably be a drug addicted tattooed bad boy.
    Oh, and your teenage child will probably become addicted to some substance, be bullied, or both. School shootings are a common thing, too (thank God for that doctor AND that friendly police officer that seems to always be on duty with his shiny badge).
    On the topic of teenagers, your child will probably start and affair with the child of that family you oh so much hate. An affair that will end in an scandalous teenage pregnancy, of course. To make things more complicated, one of the two will be that weird, brooding dark teen that’s actually (or has the possibility of turning into) really kind and loving and only needs the help of the right person to fully bloom. If it’s a boy, he’ll most likely also be the drug addicted tattooed bad boy.
    And to end this list of leasons, gay people don’t exist. If they do, it’s going to be that one that no one ever suspected because they worked so hard to keep appereances- bonus points if they’ve been having an affair with that one other person that no one ever suspected. Either that or a teen/young adult child, that will be kicked out of their house and rejected by their whole family, but will be taken in by another family who accepts them as they are. They’ll then start and affair with one of the kids in said family, who didn’t know they were gay until this happened

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