I think everyone has committed the sin of Having Expectations for Travel, myself no exception. I try not to have any preconceived notions of experiences in new places, but I think it’s human nature to do so. There must be some defense mechanism in our brains programming our new territory in a way that we can comprehend – or so we think. Anyway, I am guilty of having some erroneous theories about Australia and I would like to share them with you.
10 Myths About Australia
1. It’s always sunny and warm in Australia. I mean, yes, the part of Australia that I’m living in is very warm year-round. We’re talking 70s-90s all year long. I live in Cairns, which is a north-eastern city best known for its nearby access to the Great Barrier Reef and identifying as the tropics. Most other populated areas of Australia (i.e., Sydney to Melbourne) are actually NOT warm. In fact, they can be colder and rainier than Seattle! Lots of people travel here with the hopes of a Maui-istic paradise only to find the shock of being in a normal, seasonal climate. *The HORROR!* The main difference between Australia and Northern Hemisphere lands is the seasons are reversed, which is a bit weird.
2. “Australian” is a completely different form of English. There have certainly been some moments where I’ve had to ask, “What??” more than twice. Aussie accents can be quite difficult to understand if that person is, say, from the Outback. However, most people living here are very easy to understand with the occasional slang term in need of translation. Common examples I’ve come across often include: arvo = afternoon, capsicum = bell peppers, sanga = sandwich, entreé = appetizer, smoko = 5 or 10 minute break, bathers = swimsuit, brekkie = breakfast, mozzie = mosquito, lolly/lollies = candy, and more. Of course, you’ve heard “G’day” (Hello) and “How you going?” (How are you?) from my previous posts as well.
You can find more fun Aussie terms HERE.
3. There are giant animals and bugs ready to kill me everywhere. While you may have a point here, as there are a number of deadly and venomous animals native to this country, I have only been lucky enough to spot a few outside of a zoo. (Notably, giant spiders!) It seems as though most animals, no matter how deadly, try to stay away from humans because – well, face it – we’re the assholes of the animal kingdom. So unless you’re a new Steve Irwin seeking out the craziest, most dangerous creatures, you’re probably going to be alright here in the great land of Oz.
4. Australia isn’t THAT big… Is it? When I first got here, I didn’t know that Australia was SO vast. Obviously I’ve seen it on maps, but when I thought of Australia I didn’t think it was nearly the size of the United States minus Alaska! That really put things into perspective when I arrived. The population is under 22 million – whereas in the U.S. there are nearly 320 million residents. It really goes to show how much more space there is here – more room for activities!!
5. Toilets flush in the opposite direction. Sorry, Simpsons episode from twenty years ago. Toilets do NOT flush in the other direction here. They actually just flush… down. Australia is the driest continent on earth and water levels are much lower here, which evidently contributes to this phenomenon – or lack thereof. I’ve disappointed a lot of people who have asked me about this in the past eight months!
6. I won’t find any familiar U.S. products while living here. When I lived in Costa Rica and China, I missed American products a lot. The food, my shampoos, etc. While there are certain things I miss from back home (Butterfingers, the variety in ice cream flavors, and fat steak fries from Red Robin) I was surprised to find a LOT of familiar products here in Oz. I was even more surprised to find out that more than half of said products are actually made by Australian companies! Who’da thunk it?
7. All Aussie dudes are amazingly sexy. And they all surf. Boy, was I wrong about this one. Sorry to burst your bubbles out there, ladies. I think we all had some sweet dreams about shacking up with a tanned, beach-body surfer Aussie dude at some point. But the truth is, they’re pretty much the same as guys back home. Big guys, small guys, guys who climb on rocks – the whole shebang. You’ve got your nerds, rednecks (Outback boys), surfers, athletes (rugby players instead of football), bar douchebags, etc. I was actually really let down by this one. (I’ve got my German guy now, though, so there’s still hope of international romance!)
8. Kangaroos are roaming the streets. While kangaroos and wallabies are abundant here in Australia (note: they’re pretty common roadkill on back roads) they’re not hopping around in my backyard right now. I’ve seen them on hikes and long drives and in some parks, but that’s about it. Think of them like deer. You might see them crossing the road sometimes but you’ll more likely come across a group of them in a protected area, field, or forest. And yes, kangaroo is eaten here. I’ve even tried kangaroo steaks from the grocery store and they were alright!
9. Lots of Aussies live in the Outback. The Outback is the least populated area of this country. There’s a lot of farmland but a whole lot more of nothing. Most of the population resides on the east and west coasts, where resources are more ample. Like I mentioned before, Australia is very dry, so it’s better and more popular to live near the water.
10. Most of the people I will meet in Australia will be Australian. One of the first things I noticed about Australia is how hard it was to meet Australians in Sydney. My taxi driver was Indian, the people working at hostels and restaurants were European, and the salesmen at the stores were Canadian. I was very surprised to learn how international this nation is! Especially as a backpacker, most of the time I was surrounded by foreigners or immigrants. It wasn’t until I was off the beaten path working on a farm in Mornington that I finally met some true Aussies. Since then, I now live with all Aussie share mates (save my German boyfriend and an Austrian fellow), work with an Aussie, and have since met heaps of locals.
In closing I should say that I won’t have presumptions for future experiences (next on the list: New Zealand, August through October 2015!) but I do. I suppose part of the excitement of traveling is learning to expect your expectations to be debunked! And what fun would it be if life were predictable?