10 Things I Never Realised Before Coming to Australia

By on September 3, 2015 in Australia, Musings with 22 Comments

10 Things I Never Realised Before Coming to Australia

Hardly classified as being ‘off the beaten track’ in terms of backpacker tourism, I was pretty sure I knew most things about Australia before I got here.

I mean english-speaking, part of the Commonwealth and similar, culturally and economically, to the UK, what could I have been in the dark about?

Turns out quite a bit!

Here are 10 things I never realised before coming to Australia.

1. That Winter Exists Down Under

That’s right, not only do winters exist here, they are cold too.

I know, cold, in Australia!

This is especially true down in Victoria or South Australia where daytime temperatures can sometimes hover below 10 degrees. Brrrr!

In fact, this year saw records being broken with snowfall in both New South Wales and Queensland.

Moral of the tale is don’t expect Australia to be the permanent sea, sun and surf image they sell you in the tourist brochures.

Bring jumpers and be prepared!

After all, where do you think Ugg Boots come from?!

ugg-boots

2. That You Can Snowboard Here

Talking of snowfall, did you know that you can ski or snowboard in Australia?

No, neither did I!

They keep that one quiet in the European tourism adverts too!

Turns out the Snowy Mountains, (never too mysterious in their naming of places Australians) down in New South Wales, get a decent chunk of the white stuff every year.

When they say Australia is a whole continent in its own right I guess they’re not joking.

3. That Fishing is Big Cheese

fishing-ropes

Along with snowboarding, the other secret hobby Australians don’t tell us they love, is fishing.

That’s right, the old rod, line and tackle number.

Generally fobbed off in the UK as the sport of rather weird old men, turns out fishing in Australia is wildly popular and strangest of all, sort of cool.

I say this, because even the kids are getting in on it down under and not in an ironic way either.

Spend your weekend dangling a bit of string in some water? Sure I’d love to.

I blame the fact that almost always large amounts of beer is involved.

This also applies to lawn bowls, which is another decidedly older generation sport loved by the hip and trendy young things of Australia. Weird!

4. That Everyone Has a Tattoo

So in stark contrast to the conservative and rather drab, dusty image of fishing and lawn bowls, you might be surprised to learn that the tattoo gets a huge look in here in Australia.

Yes, that’s right, this symbol of rebellious youth and artistic anarchy is loved by almost everyone.

Find me someone in Australia without a tattoo and I’ll give you a dollar.

Or how about a Chinese symbol that I think says “hope”, but probably says “chicken” instead.

5. That Hipster is Massive

Yes, it used to be jungle, but now it’s hipster.

In keeping with the tattoo theme, let me tell you that the hipster is at large and loose in Australia.

Spot them looking like wizards with beards and funny hats at craft beer pop-up bars or vintage-esque coffee shops.

Especially prevalent in Melbourne.

6. That I Didn’t Know How to Make Coffee

Coffee

Despite having been a barista for over 2 years, turns out that I didn’t know how to make coffee when I got to Australia. (Those hipsters have got something to answer for!)

Coffee is like another language here, it’s all flat whites and double ristrettos, so be prepared if you’re planning on ordering anything beyond a tea when you visit a café.

Also schooners – they smaller than pints, but larger than halves if you’re planning on drinking something stronger than coffee.

7. That Barramundi is a Fish

When I first arrived into Australia and went in search of some sort of veggie snack to munch on, I came across a café with a barramundi burger on the menu.

Thinking it might be some sort of falafel-type substance I asked the waitress what a barramundi burger was.

Looking at me in utter disbelief and semi-disgust she said, “It’s a burger made of barramundi”.

Turns out it’s a fish. A white fish.

It’s ubiquitous.

Expect to see it on every restaurant, café or bar menu.

8. That Magpies Can Be Highly Dangerous Animals

magpie

From unfamiliar fish to strange birds, let me tell nothing is quite what it seems in Australia.

You are probably are aware that the spiders can be pretty nasty here and you’re definitely aware that the sharks and snakes can, but let me warn you that dangerous predators in the land Down Under are not confined to the reptile or insect worlds.

No my friends, one of the most violent animals in the whole of this country is the neighbourhood magpie.

Despite appearances suggesting these black and white birds are exactly like their harmless European counterparts, come springtime (when they are protecting the nests of their young) these common flyers become vicious attackers.

Often cracking people’s skulls open with their beaks or occasionally taking peoples’ eyes out with their swooping pecks, these dangerous birds are certainly worth watching out for.

9. That Towns with Only 4 People Exist

gregory-downs-pub

While I suggest you keep your eyes peeled for magpies, you also want to make sure you don’t blink too often in Australia, especially if you’re on a road trip.

This is because you’re likely to have missed the last town for the next 1500 km.

In a country where a ‘town’ can consist of only 4 people (Cooladdi, QLD) and where one shop can act as the supermarket, post office, gas station, motel, cafe and bank, it’s worth keeping your eyes open!

Cities here only have a couple of million people at best, sometimes more like a few hundred thousand, and often what you see on maps aren’t villages, but peoples’ houses.

In other news, Australia has farms the size of European countries. I drove past one in the Northern territory. It was the size of Wales.

10. That Half the Country is Populated by British People

marmite

That’s right, Australia is actually full of British people, and I’m not just talking ancestrally.

In some suburbs almost 50% of people seem to have emigrated directly from the UK in this lifetime and pommie accents, products and people fill the streets and shelves.

What a delightful thought!

So those are 10 things I never realised before coming to Australia. Don’t say you haven’t been warned!

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About the Author

About the Author: Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a budget travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie backpacks the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile .

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There Are 22 Brilliant Comments

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  1. David Daniel says:

    I have to agree on the winter thing! I moved to Perth and realized it had a REAL winter! (Although it doesn’t snow there. According to local lore, it did once but no one can seem to remember EXACTLY when!)

  2. Andy says:

    But did you also know that the hipster movement originated in regional New South Wales, not Melbourne or Sydney? Find out how we know this here: http://www.bridgesontheroad.com/2015/10/the-original-hipster-towns/

  3. Alyson says:

    Never been so cold in all my life as in Australia!
    Yep, right on all counts, but I don’t like their coffee at all, give me British or American please.
    ( we lived in Far North Queensland for 6-7 years, I’m a Brit, my husband is Australian)

    • Steph says:

      Ha ha, I know the deceit of Australian winter gets us all – although I can’t believe you were still cold in far north Queensland too?! Whereabouts were you based? We’re on the Sunshine Coast at the moment, but will be venturing northwards when the summer is over here. Be great to know any spots you loved

  4. Without a doubt the magpie was the scariest animal I came across in Oz! I can’t count the amount of times I daren’t walk down a street while I was working for Aussie Farmers because of these horrible critters. Oh and it does get blummin’ freezing in Oz! In Canberra it could be minus 2 in the morning but then by lunch I could happily be wandering around in my shorts 🙂

    • Steph says:

      Tell me about it Emma – I feel your pain! Have now developed a real aversion to magpies anywhere, anytime – scary! I’ve also managed to largely avoid the cold by basing myself in Queensland, but my trip to Melbourne was an eye-opener!

  5. Emily says:

    Re: coffee, tell me about it! I was also a barista who had to re-learn quite a bit, but I’m happy that I did. I loved how easy it is to find good coffee in most parts of Australia. Definitely not the case here in Europe (though there’s certainly great coffee to be had here–just takes a bit more searching sometimes!)

    Also, love the fish burger story.

    • Steph says:

      I’m worried I will never be able to enjoy coffee again after Australia Emily, so thanks for your reassuring words! The bad thing about Australia coffee is that it makes you a snob!!

  6. Sarah says:

    I have to say…great insight. I had no idea winter cold hit Australia or that coffee was king!

  7. Shandos says:

    All so true, although I disagree on the tattoo thing – I don’t have a tattoo and I know of plenty of people who don’t have one. Although they’re probably more common with younger people than people my age (in our 30s).

  8. Jess says:

    Haha love this! I went to Australia and learnt what a barramundi was fairly quickly! I’ve also heard that Melbourne can get really cold and that they are massive coffee snobs! So interesting! 🙂 x

    • Steph says:

      Melbourne has the weirdest weather Jess – when I was there 12 degrees one day, 30+ the next. no joke! Need to pack for all seasons that’s for sure!

  9. Hahaha I love this post, it’s true I went on a road trip and on the map some towns look big but they really are tiny

    • Steph says:

      Glad you enjoyed Andrew – the maps are certainly deceiving. In the Outback, I went to what I thought was a town and found out it was just a farm!

  10. Karyn Jane says:

    As an Aussie, I’ve been sitting here chuckling. Yes, it’s all true. Especially the coffee thing. I feel like since I started travel blogging two years ago I’ve constantly been saying to everyone, “….but, Melbourne coffee is better!” lol. And tattoos – yep, I have to agree. It’s rare for people from about 35 under not to have at least one.

    • Steph says:

      He he, so glad you enjoyed the article Karyn and that you found it accurate! Melbourne coffee is a lot better, although some places near where we are in Noosa don’t fair badly either! Either way, my caffeine habit is seriously going to suffer when we leave OZ!

  11. Paula Morgan says:

    Glad you have warned people about the magpies, they can be a huge nuance, especially if you have curly hair! I disagree about tattoos though. I think they are popular among certain demographics, but I don’t know that many people who have them. None of my kids or their close friends have any – that are visible anyway 🙂

    • Steph says:

      The magpies are the worst Paula. I literally could not believe how vicious they were when I got here. Do they go for curly hair more? Or do their beaks get stuck in it? Either way – eeek! Interesting about the tattoos too – not sure which circles I’m mixing in! 😉

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