The Land Down Under, as Australians refer to their southern hemisphere homeland, is a special place full of weird and wonderful things.
Being so far away from the rest of the world, Australia has developed quite distinctly from other places and is really quite unique in many ways.
Here are a few that I have noticed:
English is the official language of Australia, but not as we know it. Aussies love to confuse foreigners with their accent but also use different words.
The news reports that someone was ‘bashed’. The cheddar cheese in the supermarket is defined as either being ‘mild’ or ‘tasty’.
Then there are phrases like “I was flat out like a lizard drinking” which once you’ve thought about it is a very colourful way of saying “I was busy”. I have noticed Queenslanders especially saying ‘but’ at the end of sentences (where you might say ‘though’) An example might be asking someone to go buy something from the shops and the reply being “I went already this morning but” I keep thinking ‘but what?’.
Australians are supposed to be laidback…but they’re not
Australia likes to portray itself as a country where people do jobs they love and head down to the beach for a bbq and a beer in the sunshine. The reality is that many people, while friendly, work long hours in stressful jobs. You don’t see that on the television do you?
Australia also has many strict rules that invite accusations of infringing on civil liberties. You can’t have an open container of alcohol in the street, even if you are sober, keeping it to yourself and not causing any trouble. Permitted blood alcohol limits are lower than in many other countries and a system of double demerits applies to the accrual of driving offences on public holiday periods (meaning if you are caught speeding for example you get double the negative points on your licence). Not so laidback afterall.
You probably won’t be killed by the wildlife
Another thing Australians enjoy promoting is their wildlife. Much of Australia’s wildlife is unique to Australia, so it is indeed something to boast about, but many Australians also seem to delight in striking fear into foreign visitors with stories of sharks, funnelweb spiders, snakes, blue-ring octopus, box jellyfish, and even a few less likely sounding creatures such as drop-bears and hoop-snakes.
The reality is that most people live in urban areas and do not come into contact with any of these creatures frequently.
Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale technology is essentially the ability to pay for something with a card rather than cash. It’s just a credit card machine, but when you pay with a card in Australia you are asked to choose between cheque, savings or credit. I feel very virtuous saying savings, but it is really just your bank account.
It is expensive
Australia has a healthy economy so if you are earning here you should be paid fairly decently. If you have a skill on the Australian shortlist then get in on their labour shortage and make the most of it.
At the same time however, it is an expensive place to live. Rent, food and fuel are all expensive. Hour-long domestic flights can cost $700.
Cars are pricey too. Forget the ready availability of second-hand cars found elsewhere. Buying a decent old banger for a couple of hundred dollars is extremely unlikely here. Think in thousands and you might get something that won’t leave you stranded by the (hot and empty) roadside (it will be 15 or more years old though).
Australians don’t tip. If you are the sort of person who panics about leaving a ‘fair’ tip then this will be a huge relief to you. However the unfortunate result in Australia is that customer service more often than not is appalling, as there is no incentive to provide good service.
Aside from indigenous people, Australia is a land of immigrants. Most people derive from another nationality only one or two generations back. This makes Australians pretty quick to accept foreigners into communities.
Of course there is lots of poking fun at other nationalities, but that is considered to be part of the fun and is usually only a means of friendliness.
One example of how accommodating Australia can be to foreigners is the television channel broadcast in Australia that broadcasts programs in foreign languages. For non-English-speakers it must be an enormous comfort, so long as your specific language is at a convenient time.
I have noticed German news on at 7am (which is too early to practice my German!), followed by Italian programs. Turkish news broadcasts at noon and French programs are on in the afternoons. They are a good way to practice languages too.
It can be cool
Buildings are designed to keep the Australian sun out. For large parts of the year this is a very worthwhile exercise, but Australia has an oft-unspoken-of winter.
On the south coast there is a significant winter where night time temperatures hover around freezing for four months of the year, which to my mind is cold enough to warrant some central heating and double glazing, and yet many buildings have neither. They are all designed to be cool so take a sweater.
It’s a bloody huge place
If you got out maps and compared the size of Australia and just about any other country you would come to the conclusion that it is an enormous place.
Australians will say they’re just heading up the road when what they really mean is they will be driving for four hours. They take nine-hour drives in their stride. This is all down to a difference in perception. To anyone from Europe you are probably crossing several countries in that time; in Australia you sometimes haven’t even crossed one State.
It sounds obvious but the sheer size of Australia is easily underestimated.
What surprised you when you visited Australia?
Travel tip shared by Worldswaiting