14 things I wish I knew before I moved to Australia
Despite how ubiquitous Aussies are -- try and travel without tripping over at least one on the hostel floor -- the outside perception of their country hinges on 25-year-old commercials about putting shrimp on the barbie, kangaroos, and scenes from Nicole Kidman’s homage dud, Australia. Actually, nobody really saw that last one.
Having recently moved to Australia, I knew bars were referred to as hotels and no one actually drinks Foster’s (I have yet to see a place where it’s sold). But the Crocodile Dundee persona we’ve come to know and love has somehow prevailed despite more than 8 million residents spreading the good word abroad last year.
So in an effort to dispel some of those ridiculous stereotypes, here’s a list of things to keep in mind on your next visit Down Under.
Entrées are appetizers and mains are entrées
This is important to distinguish when you sit down for a meal. Ordering an entrée means you’ll likely end up with a $25 plate of two or three scallops or a small salad. Head straight for the main dishes, my friend.
Everyone is in a gender ambiguous relationship
Aussies universally refer to their significant other as a “partner”, making it difficult to separate business partners from, well… pleasure partners? Never refer to your girlfriend or wife by her gender or you’ll immediately reveal yourself as a foreigner, and no one wants that.
Coffee is life, the rest is just details
Aussies take their coffee seriously, and we’re not just talking Flat Whites. Weekends are often occupied by café hopping, usually at places called Fleetwood Macchiato, Ground Zero (apparently they didn’t get the memo) and C U Latte. And if you mention Starbucks, you'd better GTFO.
The Australian bar scene is not as wild as you think
The depiction of derelict Aussies is not entirely true. In fact, Australia didn’t even make the top 10 of world’s heaviest drinkers. That could be due in part to the gatekeeper role bouncers play. They can deny you entry if they believe you’re even slightly inebriated, and sometimes even if you’re wearing shorts (which typically denotes that you’ve been day-drinking). Of course, this differs across the country, but Sydney cracked down on the bar scene earlier this year. A new law prevents anyone from entering a bar after 1.30am, limits last call to 3am, and tightens minimum sentencing for reckless behavior. It's like they're trying to ruin their worldwide reputation for having fun.
Quality television basically doesn't exist
Forget about Netflix. Welcome to a world where “The Voice”, “Master Chef”, and the likes of Aussie soap operas like “Neighbors” dominate primetime television. If you’re still resistant, you can opt for shows like “A Current Affair” (that still exists), or infomercials about the Nutribullet and the iRobot Roomba. But you have to admit, that robot vacuum is pretty cool.
Illegal streaming won’t fix that. Broadband is not always unlimited
Relish the fact that you can access free Wi-Fi in most public places like bars and restaurants in the U.S. Not only is free Wi-Fi scant in most cafes, it’s limited in Australian homes as well, based on your cable and Internet package. Heed this warning when you’re trying to binge-watch shows online, which will not include Netflix, Hulu, or pretty much any viral American comedy show clip. Expect to see “this video is not available in your country” more often than the actual footage you'd want to watch.
Thong races are not what they sound like
On Australia Day, sandal maker Havaianas sponsors a thong challenge. But this isn't an extended Sisqo video, akin to the Santa Speedo Run in the States. Instead, it involves masses of people racing with giant inflatable flip-flops. That’s right; thongs are code for flip-flops in Oz. That makes it way less sexy, right?
Budgie smugglers are a real thing
Aussies love them some speedos, which they call budgie smugglers. The shapely manner in which a man’s package is displayed is said to resemble a type of bird, known as a budgie. I kinda hope that's an endangered species. But speedos are for everyone, including the manliest of men; just ask Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Footy is not just soccer
It can refer to Australian rules football, rugby union, or rugby league. Basically, it’s whatever you want it to be, except probably those disposable socks at shoe stores. So learn the difference and make sure you know what you’ve committed to watch the next time you’re asked to come out for the footy game.
Aussies don't grasp how analogies work
Aussies have a penchant for abbreviation, and apparently that includes not finishing analogies. For instance, if you wanted to say, “that’s sweet as candy”, you’d actually just say, “that’s sweet as…” What? WHAT is it sweet as? TELL ME.
A pokie is not a throwback Facebook term
Gambling is incredibly popular in Oz, and so are poker machines. In fact, Aussies lose up to an estimated $12 billion AUD ($11.2 billion USD) each year to poker machines. So when someone asks if you want to hit the pokies, get your head out of the gutter and watch your wallet.
C U Next Tuesday is not an offensive term
That’s right. The derogatory word c**t is pretty common in dialogue, and has a variety of connotations. Aussies use it as an endearing term with friends more than a vulgar insult. Instead, watch out for the word “root”, which means having sex. Avoid phrases like “rooting for my team” or “root of the problem”. Conversations can get weird quick when people think you're boning because you like the Yankees.
Don’t be fooled by the drop bear myth. It’s made up for people exactly like you
If you haven’t heard of a drop bear, go ahead and Google it now. The idea that vicious koalas are looming overhead, waiting to attack you, is just downright ridiculous. Do not let anyone begin to feed you this silly tale.
Do not – I repeat – do not say "g’day mate"
Unless you are in the Outback, do not mention this cliché term. If we’re going to quell one of the worst Australian faux pas, it’s "g’day mate". Still inclined to speak like a local? Use “how ya goin”. But even then you might be taking it too far. Just talk like a normal person and you'll be fine.