I wrote my original `Welcome to Australia’ piece back in 2021, when Dad and I started doing our trips and I made the decision to blog them. So, why the update? Well, it’s two years on. Things change in time, so it’s time for a revisit.
Coming to Australia
Just imagine you’re coming to Australia. It might be for a holiday or for life, who knows. Before I came to Australia in 2005, I had never been here. Yep, you heard me right. I had never been here. Yet, I made the life changing decision to emigrate. On 9th February 2023, I celebrate 18 years of calling Australia home.
Did I know what to expect when I got here? What would I face? What did things cost? What was the housing like? Well, to be honest….no. Apart from a few odd comments and emails from my Mums cousins who lived in Paddington and down in Melbourne, I was naïve. Now, I can sense you’re all raising your eyes at me, but that’s not naïve in a bad way. I had a plan. If I was emigrating overseas, I wanted to go full immersion. I wanted the whole experience without anyone else’s thoughts and opinions colouring my judgement. So, with that in mind, what can I tell you.
Australia is massive.
It’s huge. To put a number on it, think 3,000,000 square miles. To put it another way, if you were to put a map of Europe over the outline of Australia, there would be room to spare. My brother had the best way of explaining the size of Australia. He said, “I got on my Brisbane to London flight. I had a meal and a few drinks. I watched a movie and had a nap. I was still over Australia.”
Dependant on where you live in Australia, you can go from experiencing four seasons in one day through to snow and high tropical temperatures. In Brisbane, you are blessed with pretty good temperatures all year. While spring, summer and autumn range from 24-30 degrees and higher at times, winter sits around the very low 20s or high teens through the day and can hit single figures at night. I know that you’re all reading this thinking ‘nothing wrong with those winter temperatures.’ When you acclimatise to the temperatures, life changes. You find extra blankets overnight. You wear socks that you haven’t worn all year. The long trousers come back out and so on. If you travel to Melbourne, you are gifted weather that is commonly known as ‘4 seasons in one day’.
What’s outside the cities?
Around 90% of Australians live in or around the cities. But that’s not all Australia has. More than 500 National Parks are calling your name. Get out of your comfortable air-conned car occasionally and go for a walk. Sydney gives you the Blue Mountains & The Three Sisters, that’s just two. Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa can be found in the Red Centre, in the Northern Territory. Lamington National Park, The Great Barrier Reef and The Glasshouse Mountains National Park are hosted by Queensland. There are many more, but of course it all depends on what you’re looking for.
Questions and myths about Australia....
Is it true that chocolate tastes weird?
Yep. That one is true. An additive is placed in the chocolate to ensure that it doesn’t melt while sitting on the shelf in the supermarket. It’s necessary but does change the taste slightly. You get used to it though. My mum always swore by cooking chocolate here in australia and said it was the closest thing to UK tastes. You do find shops that import British food but you will be hit for higher prices due to importation taxes. Still every now and then it’s worth it.
Is it true that there is always beetroot on burgers?
Yes, this is true a lot of the time. While this divides even the most devoted Australian, it’s fair to say that most UK visitors just don’t get it. Visitors have been heard sharing their shame at the culinary pairing of beetroot and burger. However, to add fuel to the fire…one bite and that beetroot slides right out.
Is it strange experiencing a hot Christmas?
Some people just adore the heat at Christmas. Some feel it’s just such a novelty to be able to experience that in place of the cold Christmas that they are used to. I may be in the minority here and I’ll accept that, but I dislike it. It’s wrong on so many levels. I’ll keep it simple. Christmas should be cold. Sweatpants on. Mulled wine. Cooking full dinner. Snowing outside. Everyone with me so far?
So imagine how it is when the temperatures in the 30s. You are dressed in shorts, singlet and flip-flops (thongs in Oz) as everything else makes you too hot. The shops are blasting out the Christmas songs but because you’re in shorts and not a warm coat and scarf, it feels wrong. This is one that I’ll always struggle with.
Do they drink Fosters in Australia?
You can ask for it, but be prepared for the bar staff (and probably the rest of the pub too) to laugh. They won’t be laughing with you, it’ll be ‘at you.’ Great marketing from the 80s and the irrepressible Paul Hogan did its job well. The world was convinced that Fosters was the Australian beer of choice. It isn’t.
Is it true that you eat kangaroo?
That one is 100% true. Not only that, you can also find emu and crocodile on the menu. I can speak from experience having eaten all three. Lots of people struggle with this one. After all, kangaroos are those cuddly things that hop around right? An online review site talked of a man from the USA who was having a conversation with his tour guide. The American could not understand how Australians eat ‘one of their own’, their ‘national animal.’
Is it true that wildlife in australia can kill you?
Yes it can. Can’t deny that one. There is an assortment of wildlife here and a large amount of it, but an even larger number of misconceptions. The most deadly spider in australia is the Sydney Funnel Web Spider. There have been no fatalities since 1981. Anti-venom has been made.
Stingrays have only killed 17 people…..ever. One of those was Steve Irwin of Australia Zoo.
What’s the deal with magpies? Is it true they chase people?
Oh yes. The magpie is aggressive. I bet you’re laughing aren’t you. Quit laughing and live the experience!! Come back to me when you’re living here and been part of the magpie action! For around 6-10 weeks in the spring, they are out to get you. That’s it in a nutshell. While they are nesting and protecting their young, anything, anyone, can be dive-bombed. Magpie hotspots are known and signposted. These birds can target from up to 80km away and mean business. Everyone finds a way to ‘deal’ with them. Some put cable ties on their bike helmet so that when the bird dives in, he is put off. Some use sticks, google eyes on their helmets. All make you look an idiot, but I say better to look an idiot than to have a magpie attack and come off your bike.
Is it true that aussies have a barbecue on the beach?
Some do and again, it is personal preference. First things first though…..forget barbecue….you’re coming to australia…get into the lingo. It’s a barbie. They’re a rite of passage really. Communal facilities everywhere that are clean and ready to use. The barbie on the beach can be a reality. If someone invites you to a barbie and says ‘bring a plate,’ it doesn’t mean that they don’t have enough crockery. Checkout the section on sayings.
What’s the story on Vegemite?
Ok, here’s the deal. The old ‘love it or hate it’ – that’s 100% true. There really is no in between. I’m firmly in the ‘love it’ camp, unlike other people I know. Vegemite was invented in 1922 as a replacement for Marmite that was from the UK. Marmite is better by the way…..MUCH better.
Vegemite is an archetypal part of Aussie life. I’ll give you this little tidbit for free though. If someone says that you have to eat a spoonful of Vegemite (without grimacing or vomiting) for your Aussie citizenship test…..they are (in Aussie speak) yanking your chain!
Learning the Lingo.
As a general rule, everything becomes shorter. Afternoon = arvo. Ambulance = ambo. U turn = yewy. Fireman = firie. Get it? Keep it short and sweet! There are some others that you need to remember. Flip-flops are thongs – that one usually gets the most laughs. If something is broken, the thing is “cactus”. If you are called a “bogan” or a “drongo” it’s an insult.
The Lingo that doesn’t translate
Someone who had recently emigrated to Australia recalled being invited along to a neighbour’s house for Saturday lunch. When she asked what to bring, the neighbour said, “everyone’s just bringing a plate”. Unfortunately that didn’t translate, and the newbie turned up with an empty plate, thinking that the host didn’t have enough crockery to go around. Bring a plate means bring some food. Its an aussie saying that just doesn’t translate well.
To round up, I hope that I have put to bed some of the myths and questions that you might have had. If I were to offer some advice……its simply this. Accept the culture. Laugh with the jokes, even if the joke is you. Go and see the Australian sports, even if you have no idea what’s happening. Go drink the Aussie beers. Have a barbie on the beach and enjoy life.
You only get one life and this is not a bad place to live.