Australia has seen a massive spike in tourism over the past few years. With places like the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Opera House, there’s plenty to see and do in the Land Down Under. If you’re unsure of yourself when visiting, here are some do’s and dont’s of visiting Australia from some Aussies themselves.
35. Coffee That Inspires
It’s not socially acceptable to drink Starbucks. People will laugh at you because there are a ton of mom and pop places that serve awesome coffee. No one except kids eat at McDonald’s again awesome mom and pop sandwich places. One thing I didn’t see mentioned on driving is that not only is it far but the highway system is probably more like something you would find in Mexico rather than the US. Many places narrow, windy, and beat up.
34. Name Of The Game
Don’t be offended if people start calling you by a nickname. Male or female, any background, doesn’t matter. Johnson becomes “Johnno” . Smith becomes “Smithy”. McAnything becomes “Macca”, Mohammad becomes “Mo”. Most Chinese-Aussies adopt an English first name, even that becomes a nickname. So Kevin becomes “Kevvy” for example. If you’re a red hair male you will probably be called “Blue”. If you have a hyphenated sir name, you’ll probably be called “Two Dads”
33. Drop The Hook
Don’t drive in the Melbourne city center. You WILL crash. The hook turns will mess you up. That, and us driving on the correct side of the road will completely do your head in.
Nobody except Melburnians understand hook turns and even we’re not entirely sure about them. Or why we have them.
32. Will It Give You Powers?
Check your boots if you leave them outside, don’t poke your hands about in holes or under logs and check your cars sun visors, because when your cruising at 90 and a HUNTSMAN SPIDER falls into your lap you then know what fear is.
31. On The Road Again
You need to respect the tyranny of distance and realize just how big and sparsely populated Australia is. Perth to Sydney is not a day trip but is in fact nearly 4000km via road. One does not simply drive across the middle of the outback without making extensive preparations and taking precautions.
30. Bite To Break Skin
We do have stuff that bites. Sometimes even the cute harmless looking things. My advice – just don’t get bitten. Assume that whatever it is, it has a way to mess you up that you don’t expect, so don’t touch it, step on it, don’t attempt to swim with it or feed it. If you do get bitten by something gross looking, or something that has a sneaky leg spur (looking at you platypus) go to the hospital immediately.
29. Fall On Deaf Ears
Never, ever yell Aussie!, Aussie!, Aussie! In the expectation of all the Aussies yelling Oih! Oih! Oih! I’m not sure if it’s the same across Australia. But where I’m from only Aussies are allowed to yell this and get a response. If a tourist says it trying to be cool, everyone just stays quiet and they look dumb.
28. Grade A Service
In Australian Retail & Food: Hi How you going? – the only answer to this is “good” or “good thanks”. (maybe if you know them really well and chat every day like in a cafe you can elaborate but really the shop assistant is just acknowledging your presence and saying “i’m here if you need anything” without them saying it.) In the US I feel like you guys need to be walked through the whole ordering/buying thing every time you go in a shop. “Hi my name’s Tammy I’ll be your server for the evening we have blah blah and blah blah on special, just let me know if you need anything” OH my god.. I KNOW! I can read! Here we’d just say “Hey guys, here are your menus I’ll be back in a minute to get your order”.
27. No Haughtiness Allowed
I would like to add “Don’t be up yourself.” Bragging is not appreciated in Australian culture. Likewise, drawing too much attention to yourself. We have a thing called the “tall poppy syndrome” which basically means that if you stand out too much, you will be cut down.
26. Good Old Friends
Don’t make fun of the kiwis (a person who is from New Zealand). That’s ours, and we won’t share. Also don’t comment on our making fun of the kiwis, we like most of them, except for the fact that they kick 90 shades of brown out of us when we play rugby. Also, they have decent internet, which is a source of quiet, impotent fury whenever someone reminds us of it. Like now!
25. Bless The Ocean Road
The heat will mess you up. If it’s over 30c (which is a very common occurrence), do not do any kind of hiking without telling others of your destination, route and expected arrival, and carry several litres of water. I once hiked part of the Great Ocean Road with a german backpacker in the peak of summer. She thought 2 litres was enough. She was wrong.
24. Melt Your Face Off
Because we are in the southern hemisphere our seasons are the opposite of yours. Don’t expect to go skiing on the mountains around Xmas, like the dumb but excited Americans I met in an Irish backpacker hostel did.
If you visit around Xmas its the wet season up north, so expect to sweat constantly due to the humidity. But if you go south to escape that, expect to burn in the sun due to lack of ozone layer. You can spot a newly arrived tourist in summer, they look redder than a lobster
23. A Women’s Revolution
Australia is described as a “man’s country” and a “worker’s paradise”, both are pretty much true. Wages are high across the board and tradies (tradesman) can do extremely well. During the mining boom it was not unusual for FIFO (fly in fly out) tradies to make close to $200K. Even now, lots of skilled tradies can make six figures. Note, though it is termed a “man’s country” don’t think for a second the women come second. From my perspective, most Australian women are firmly in charge of the men…
22. Cultures All Around You
Asian people are a huge part of Australian culture and cuisine. Go to a restaurant in Ashfield on a Friday or Saturday night and eat handmade noodles where Chinese people go to eat noodles. Enjoy some Duck Pancakes in Chinatown. Find some quality local Thai. Then visit Momofuku Seiōbo or Longrain to see how Asian and European influences merge into top shelf Modern Australia cuisine. Contemplate the wonderful things that have come from a European/Asian melting pot.
21. Walk In The Park
We have national and state parks. They’re really good. The facilities are bad, but the park is really good. If you decide to visit one of these parks, do not be dumb and remove some pretty flowers or plants, because if every person does that there won’t even be a park.
Parks. Look at them, walk through them, enjoy them. Don’t take them home with you. And if you do decide to take some of the park with you, I won’t care if the specimen bad happens.
20. Tip Of My Tongue
Really can’t express enough how weird it is to tip here. Not only do people not understand it, but some will also even get quite irritable about it, telling you all this stuff about their company policy and how they cannot accept gifts from customers, making you wish you’d never offered. You’d probably only get away with it with wait-staff in a restaurant or workers that you pay in cash, like builders or electricians, who all have a victim mentality because they think they’re horribly underpaid for what they do.
19. The Joke’s On Me
A lot of Australian humor is self-deprecating, and insulting people can be a sign of being comfortable or trying to be comfortable with them – try not to take offense, particularly if the people you’re with are making fun of themselves as well as you.
18. The Reef Song
As someone who has worked on the Great Barrier Reef (as a marine biologist) all these see it before it goes statements (for lack of a better word) are false. Yeah it’s in trouble but it’s not like it is going to disappear any day now…it’ll be centuries maybe even thousands of years before its a rubble wasteland devoid of life…
If you come to australia see the GBR while you are young, I can’t tell you the amount of American tourists I saw daily that had diving licenses but hadn’t dived in decades and had heart/lung conditions or diabetes now…this means that without a doctors referral they cannot dive and even then certain medications make it a straight out no, doc referral or not…
17. The Dismemberment Plan
Cassowaries are absolutely terrifying and dangerous. They might look like cute and cuddly emu-saurs but they will disembowel you in a heartbeat, without warning. Don’t get out of your car and take photos of them. If you do come face to face with one, don’t turn and run, it will run you down in seconds and tear you apart. Make yourself look as large as possible, back away slowly and keep your eyes on the animal.
16. Surf Wax America
If you’re surfing, please know how to surf and general etiquette. Plenty of places will happily teach you (for a fee), but just remember to get to the back of the board, unless you want to nosedive. Also, ask a local/online about good surfing spots. If you’re in Sydney, try Bondi or Maroubra – waves there have a long break and are easy to catch. Don’t try surfing in Coogee – the waves there may look good, but they’re shore-dumpers and you may break your neck.
If you do get caught in a rip, don’t freak out, it happens to everyone at least once. There are three pretty simple things you need to do. The first is to stop swimming against it. You won’t beat it, so you’re better off letting it take you out – it won’t take you more than a hundred so meters out from the shore. Second of all, don’t panic. You’re likely to tire yourself out, swallow water or injure yourself, plus if someone does need to rescue you, you’re going to make it harder for them. Finally, figure out what you’re going to do. If you’re a strong swimmer, try swimming parallel to the shore for a while, before heading back in. If you are weaker, wave your hand above you’re head while treading water – we should have noticed you’re in trouble anyway, but it lets us know you need help
15. I Can’t Drive 55
Don’t rely on Google Maps for navigation. Most of the time you will have no reception between towns (at least in Queensland), and it can be somewhat unreliable at the best of times. Purchase a road atlas from a tourist info center or a news-agency or something similar.
When driving make sure you have a good spare tire and the means to change it. The further inland you go, the less seal there is on the roads, and you’ll find yourself driving on gravel sections quite frequently. This wears your tires a bit faster than normal, and if there has just been a flood event the roads will be rough and hard to drive on.
Try to get where you’re going by around 6:30pm. In the west, most restaurants will close their kitchen by 8:00pm. If you can, book ahead, and they might stay open a bit longer if you get held up by something. Some roads are single lane bitumen only. Move half your car off the road to let another car past, get as far off as you can for caravans or trucks. Be careful approaching bridges and floodways on this type of road.
14. Tips In Surviving Nature
Don’t touch the wildlife, especially kangaroos. They can and will gut you with the savage claws on their legs. Don’t leave enclosed shoes outside at night, especially if you are camping – snakes and spiders may decide your shoes are a comfy sleeping spot. Lift the lid of a public toilet before using it if you are near bushland or a natural reserve – again, checking for snakes and spiders. Be cool if you see a brown snake but get out as soon as possible, if bitten it is fatal. Look for signs regarding jellyfish at less popular/ non tourist beaches, especially in north Queensland. Bring a bottle of white vinegar to the beach with you – if one of you is stung by a jellyfish it will be agonizing and you will need to splash the vinegar on the wounds straight away. Many, many tourists have gotten lost hiking in the bush, mountains and more rural areas so stick to known hiking trails and go prepared with water, sunscreen and a first aid kit.
Do ask for help if you need it. Most of us are pretty nice people and locals are pretty much always happy to give directions to nearby attractions. I’ve lived in Sydney for 5 years now and don’t mind giving tourists directions to the main attractions like Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, Luna Park, etc.
13. Perfect The Lingo
Brunch is an institution (particularly in Melbourne) and happens around 11 am at a number of very very good cafes. If you’re in Sydney or Melbourne, get yourself onto the broadsheet website.
Learn some Australian Slang. Devo (devestated), Smoko (smoke break), Rego (Registration). We really do shorten as much as possible, we’re lazy. Stone the crows, fair shake of the sauce bottle, sweating like a gypsy with a mortgage, going off like a frog in a sock. Etc etc.
Don’t confuse us with New Zealanders. It’s like confusing Americans and Canadians. We’ll sound similar to you but expect to insult someone if you get it wrong. Hint, their vowels are different.
12. A Simple Greeting
If you’re a woman, don’t feel awkward about the hug and kiss on the cheek men give you when you’re greeted. A handshake is more business formal and not personable. When I first moved here from the states, it took me like two months to feel comfortable being hugging and kissed on the cheek by complete strangers. Now I prefer- it’s so welcoming.
Also, don’t feel embarrassed to ask people to repeat what they say or if they ask you to repeat what you say. For some weird reason, I just assumed because both countries speak English that it would be the least of my worries.
11. Can’t Find One Named Jack
Don’t expect to see any kangaroos in (most) suburban areas, or anywhere really, unless you go out into the outback and find some, which, in that case, good luck.
I live in one of the suburbs of Melbourne, and I’ve barely seen a kangaroo in my life. The only times I have were in a zoo or when we go driving out camping in the outback/ to places like the Murray river which are basically in the middle of nowhere.
Also, please don’t go in assuming that all Australians are that dumb stereotype you keep hearing about. Because, despite what most Australians on Reddit (jokingly) say, it really isn’t the case unless you go out of your way to find them. Or go to Frankston. Or Perth. Or basically anywhere that aren’t near “civilized” suburbs/cities.
10. Castles Made Of Sand
In Melbourne, you’re not gonna get killed or eaten by anything unless you decide to crawl through a dark, dirty patch of bushes under a tree in the middle of the bush (THE bush. aka. forest with Australian trees). Grey Kangaroos will just bail if you get close to them, they won’t try and beat you up. Also, there’s no jellyfish in the water around here (mostly) and people aren’t drowning all the time because tourists don’t come to Melbourne for beaches (unless you want to do some surfing and you drive down the coast). Also, Melbourne and it’s surrounding suburbs don’t have long stretches of random desert where people break down and die either. So, unlike most of the other posts are saying, you’re not going to die if you’re unprepared when adventuring.
9. Hospital Roll Call
Medical care costs vary depending on where you’re from. If you’re from New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, or Norway, you’re automatically covered (although only for public hospitals and medicines you weren’t already on prior to your visit. And not GP visits, if you’re from Ireland or NZ). If you’re from Belgium, the Netherlands, or Slovenia, you’re covered until the end-date on your European health insurance card. If you’re from Malta or Italy, you’re covered for six months. Student visas are slightly different – check the appropriate information resources if you’re a student.
The reason there’s a limited list of countries whose citizens are covered is that the coverage is reciprocal with the universal health care systems of those countries. If your country doesn’t have universal health care, or doesn’t have a reciprocal international agreement hammered out, you ain’t getting it here.
8. Don’t Look For Taz
Do not, and I really do mean this. Come down to Tasmania and make inbred jokes when you’re anywhere away from an Urban area. We have a disturbing number of disappearances most years on our East and West Coast. Do not travel/backpack/hitchhike across big empty parts of Australia by yourself, its not just the wildlife that wants to kill you. Also if you come to Tasmania, what we give up in scale (you can drive from one end of the state to the other in one day) we make up for in unpredictable weather, without shelter you will die in the Tassie bush less than 5 ks from civilization.
7. Struttin’ With Some Barbecue
Barbecues. The “barbie” is a big part of Australian culture and if you get to know locals, you’ll most likely be invited to a fair share of them. It’s customary to bring along beer or a bottle of wine for your host and you may also be asked to bring some meat.
6. The Bourne Pronunciation
You’ll get a lot of flak for pronouncing names wrong and there are a lot of ridiculous names. For a lot of the regional areas they have aboriginal names and it can be worth asking if you don’t know. More common ones people get wrong is stuff like Melbourne, yes we’ve all heard of the Bourne movies, yes they are spelt the same but you know the English language doesn’t work like that so don’t play dumb. It’s basically pronounced mel-ben/mel-bin depending on your accent.
5. Sittin’ At A Bar
If you end up going in to the outback in WA, and find your self in Kalgoorlie here is a PSA.
The Wild West Bar is the 2nd most violent bar in the state. The most violent is some bar in Boulder or Northridge Perth- followed by the bar across the road the Gold Bar in 3rd place.
Yes the top 3 bars tend to be in Kalgoorlie. But there is a couple of dumps in Northridge (Knifebridge) Perth that gives it a run for it’s money but generally its Kalgoorlie.
Now – these bars are so dangerous that they are banned from serving doubles or shots. Also with the recent riots, there has also been a ban on take away alcohol sales so there is that.
For goodness sake do not get written off and rock up expecting to kick off. If you say something moronic like “I’m from [insert place here] I’m here to party” the locals will beat you up and leave you bloodied in the back alleys of Hannan Street. Mate – I’ll telling yah don’t do it.
4. Wait For The Drop
Drop bears are a legitimate threat to your wellbeing, and you need to be adequately prepared. A number of Australian studies have concluded that putting a dab of vegemite behind the ears is an effective deterrent, as they hate the smell of fermented yeast, and the head is closest to the tree height that they will drop from.
THIS COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE.
3. The Amber Nectar
Don’t expect to find Fosters….anywhere. I swear I’ve only seen it in Australia once in my entire life. If you insist on drinking classic Australian lagers, it’s XXXX Gold, VB, Tooheys New and Carlton. But on the other hand, please don’t drink these, they’re terrible and mostly drank by bogans that don’t care and just want to get wasted a watching footy all day. If you want to try some good Aussie beers, at the very least make it a pale ale like Coopers Green or 150 Lashes (by James Squire). Then you can get into the craft beers market too. There are some bloody good ones.
2. State Of The Art
Please be extremely discerning if buying indigenous art. A lot of art is created in China, others are made in Australia but the original artists make very little from the sales. There is ethical art available but it may be harder to find. Stay away from souvenir shops and look for art galleries instead.
1. Merry Go Bye Bye
If you are going to see lots of things take planes. You could go to a reef and rainforest for a few days or a week in north Queensland and then TAKE a plane to south Queensland for some theme parks. Planes are the key to traveling. Australia has a bay bigger than some European country’s and huge farms the size of Israel so do not underestimate the size of Australia when traveling around it.