To all of the people who have said to me, “You’re so lucky you’re in Australia! I’ve always wanted to go there. What’s it like?” I have decided to point out a small list of attributes I find unique to this vast country in Oceania. First, some fun facts that you may or may not know about it here: Australia is nearly as big geographically as the United States. However, unlike the US having fifty states, Australia only has SIX: Western Australia (WA), Northern Territory (NT), South Australia (SA), Queensland (QLD), New South Wales (NSW), Victoria (VIC), and the island of Tasmania (TAS). So far, I’ve visited Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.
Although this country was originally a colony of convicts, the crime remains relatively low nowadays. People immigrate to Australia from all over the world – Europeans and Asians being notably prominent. One of the first things I noticed when I came here is that most of the people I met were not in fact Australian but English. In regards to its founders, Australia’s cuisine, motorways, and certain parts of language are almost identical to the UK. I have driven both manual and automatic cars here, and it was definitely a bit of an adjustment having the steering wheel on the right-hand side of the vehicle. Something that always happens to people adjusting to this change (including myself!): turning on the windshield wipers when attempting to operate the turn signal! I also found that it was easy to drive on the freeway and busy roads, but I was confused when old habits (driving on the left side of the road) kicked in as I entered parking lots or smaller neighborhoods.
Australia is considered to be the sports capital of the world – with an estimated 70% of its population partaking in weekly sporting events, and if you simply look around, you will notice that athletics is something that is taken seriously here. There are all types of fitness activities accessible to everyone here: outdoor gyms at most parks, countless areas for exercise around even the most crowded of cities, plenty of advertisements for upcoming sporting events, and gyms everywhere. I observed that while the athletic side of things is noteworthy, supplements and health foods still have a long way to go to catch up to the US.
WEIRD, LITTLE-KNOWN FACT: Australia has the most obesity in the world as of 2012! With a 26% obesity rate despite being a sports-loving nation, I was surprised to know that they surpassed the US.
A few other things I’ve personally noticed are:
– There is wildlife EVERYWHERE. Parrots and flying foxes (the world’s biggest bats) fly overhead constantly. It’s gotten to the point where bats with meter-long wingspans are so commonplace nobody even looks up! Wallabies and kangaroos are widespread and live in parks the way deer do in the US. Giant wombats (a meter long) are common roadkill along with kangaroos. Dolphins jump from their aquatic homes playfully as sea turtles swim by in all of the beaches. Jellyfish, giant insects, snakes, and an incredible array of spiders make appearances daily and always leave one questioning if it’s the last one they’ll see. (Some of the most poisonous animals live in Australia.)
– When hanging out in the surf or on the beach, helicopters consistently sweep by, as they patrol for sharks. Sharks are spotted very frequently in many beach areas here.
– Australia goes to great lengths to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Most items in the grocery store are made from recycled goods. Water bottle fill-stations are everywhere, making it highly impractical to purchase more bottles.
– This country is very, very scenic.
Australia is certainly a place I would recommend to travel. As I personally love wildlife, diverse flora, and beautiful beaches I have found this place to be somewhat paradisiacal. I’m currently traveling up the east coast, so who knows what else I’ll see while I’m here? Only time will tell!