Things people don’t tell you about Australia

If you’re already living here you may already have discovered these fun facts by now. They’re the sorts of things you tend to find out for yourself and, of course, there will be many more interesting observations that you’ll make along the way. Here are just 10 of them.

The weather is very changeable. Depending on what state you are living in, the climate will vary considerably. Here is a quick run down on the eastern states:

  • Queensland: The climate ranges considerably from subtropical and tropical towards the coast to grasslands and desert inland. If you are based in Brisbane, it’s warm most of the year so summer clothing is mostly what you’ll beed but you may need a light jacket in the cooler months (June, July, August). 
  • NSW: A temperate climate (coastal regions) and grasslands temperatures inland and desert climate in the west of the state. If you are based in Sydney, it’s hot in summer [25-40 degrees]; winter can be quite cold [8-18 degrees] and we tend to wear a jacket of moderate thickness as well as scarves but not so much gloves and hats.
  • Victoria: Mostly a temperate climate and is cooler than NSW all year round, especially Melbourne, being so far south. In winter, you will need a thicker jacket, scarves, gloves and maybe a hat (or beanie) of some sort.

The sun is intense no matter where you are. You will need a lot of suncream (also known as sunscreen, sunblock, sun tan lotion). The Australian sun really is much harsher and stronger than many other parts of the world. You will want to avoid sunburn so get into the habit of keeping some sunscreen handy as well as a hat, in spring, summer and probably even autumn.

A lot of leisure time revolves around water and water sports. Australians are educated from a young age about water safety and you should also get familiar with what you should and shouldn’t do. If you do not know how to swim, it is a good idea to learn. If you are planning to swim in the surf (beach) or in rivers, it is essential that you learn some skills for water safety as, sadly, there are many avoidable drownings each year.

We drive on the left and walk on the left. You’ll quickly work out that we have many rules and laws in Australia. We are mostly pretty relaxed but we do like order – so walking on the left side of the footpath [pavement (UK); sidewalk (US)] and escalators is adhered to and we don’t like it much when people disregard this. 

There is lots of wildlife to see. Australians find it funny to hear that visitors imagine they’ll see kangaroos jumping around the streets but if you find the right places outside of the city, it’s actually true. We also find it amusing when visitors are scared that dangerous creatures lurk around every corner. While it’s also true that crocodiles, sharks, spiders and snakes exist here, it’s really only when you venture into their territory. So no need to worry. Much. Just don’t go swimming in Far North Queensland. Or places where you find box jelly fish.

We love our coffee even more than vegemite. We are obsessed with coffee and there is a huge cafe culture in all cities. We now boast about making the best coffee in the world – sorry, Italians and other coffee loving countries. If you need to know how and what to order when you fancy a  coffee (because it can be very confusing if you haven’t learnt coffee lingo!), see this guide with pics. Vegemite comes a close second in terms of a must have ingredient to hand. Here’s how to use it. Yes, this also has to be learnt!

We also love every kind of Asian food. Many students are surprised to find so much Asian food here – but we are, after all, part of the Asia Pacific region. You can find all types of Asian cuisine here in restaurants and food halls – it may not be original and authentic but we can’t get enough of it. Our national dish is probably originally Thai, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Malaysian or Vietnamese – or one from each of these.

Pad Thai Noodles

Sport is everywhere. Whether you like sport, play sport, watch sport or hate sport, you can’t escape our obsession with it. There’s always a very important match, competition, tournament, championship, ‘open’ or ‘cup’ playing on any given day. Yes, we can’t blame you if you get sick of hearing about Australians and their sport.

We call them thongs, not flip flops!

We love wearing thongs or nothing at all. I am talking about our feet here. Thongs (aka flip flops to some, usually British) are a wardrobe staple and some people even love going barefoot. Why? No-one knows. If you ask an Australian, they won’t know. You can try asking but don’t expect any sensible explanation whatsoever.

Australia is big. As in HUGE. If you wanted to drive from Melbourne to Cape York (the northernmost tip of Australia) for example, it would take 59 hours of driving. Just short of 4000km. So when you plan to travel you may want to take distances into account! I’ve had one overseas visitor say that they were planning to drive from Sydney to Perth for the weekend. Probably best to do a bit of research.