If you take a trip to Greece, you might see the Parthenon. If you vacation in Italy, you will probably try fresh-made pasta. If you go to Australia, you can see the biggest and deadliest spider you’ve ever seen in your life, right from the comfort of your bedroom! Vacations should definitely be an adventure, but if you visit Australia, you might find a little more adventure than you had bargained for. From homicidal traffic laws to snakes and frogs in the toilet, these people told their Australian vacation tales of shock and awe.
35. The Standard For A Big Spider Is Much Higher
There was a big spider in a construction site I was working on. Like, big enough to drop a magical sword if you kill it. I asked my boss about it. “Nah leave her alone, it’s the house spider. She’s not dangerous!” When I asked whether “not dangerous” meant those kinds of spiders aren’t venomous, he answered, “Nah we’d still have to drive you to the emergency room. But like, not as fast as we’d have to with other spiders.” Ok thanks, Boss.
34. Beverages Are Way, Way Too Expensive… Except For Certain Boxed Ones
“Yay, I’m in Australia. Let’s party!”
“Time to get a beverage…” Checks the price. “Oh… nevermind…”
…and that’s when I began my relationship with Goon.
33. Frogs Hang Out In The Toilet
Frogs in the toilet was another surprise, increased numbers of frogs when flushing was a bigger surprise. You couldn’t see the water through the frogs.
32. It’s Even Hotter Than You Think Down Under
Before I arrived in WA I knew it would be big and hot. However, I wasn’t prepared for it to be this BIG and this HOT.
31. The Flat Land Makes An Endless Sky
I moved to Australia from New Zealand at age 14, and of all things, I remember being astonished at how huge the sky seemed because the land was so flat and vast compared to where I’d come from. The horizon just stretched on forever!
30. No One Is Flirting, They Are Just Nice
I went in to buy more appropriate footwear in my first few days, and I was convinced the shopgirl was flirting with me. I bought something else in another shop, and more flirting. Another shop and the same thing.
Turns out they weren’t flirting. They were just naturally being really friendly. They were smiling and being interested in me for no other reason than because that’s just how you do things.
I ended up taking a job going door-to-door selling things (backpacking, yay!) and I was amazed how few times I was told to get lost.
29. The Colors Actually Feel Brighter Somehow
I remember getting off the plane and just noticing that the colors were all different. It felt like the sun was brighter and the sky bluer. (It might have been because we left Germany in winter and arrived in summer.) Also, the silvery green of the Eucalyptus trees is a color we don’t get here.
28. The Coffee Is Even Better Than Italy… Seriously
The coffee. The coffee served here, including those flat whites, is better than anywhere, sorry San Francisco and Italia. True, many Aussies have no concept of how to wait in line to order a coffee (the true difference between your British cousins), but I can almost excuse their manners based on the object of their desire.
27. Kangaroos Are The Deer Of Australia
The biggest shock to me was driving around and seeing a (presumably) kangaroo corpse. Now it makes perfect sense when I think about it but prior to going to Australia the only time most people ever see a kangaroo is in a zoo all safe and in an enclosure so you kind of figure it’s like that all over the place.
They’re kind of like deer, just running around and getting hit by cars.
Bonus (totally unrelated) story: I couldn’t believe you guys sell and eat kangaroo. I guess it goes back to my previous point about kangaroos being like deer.
26. The Pedestrian Crossing Noise Is Really Jarring
The noise that the pedestrian crossings make. I think its really funny.
25. People Are Really, Really Into Ice Cream
In Sydney, there are so many ice cream shops. It seemed like at any given moment of the day, you could spot someone walking around eating ice cream. I remember running down to McDonalds early one morning to use the WiFi and, sure enough, someone was walking out eating an ice cream cone at eight o’ clock in the morning.
24. Turns Out They Have Camels, Too
I’m a big city California girl currently visiting a small country town in rural Queensland. The biggest shock to me so far (I haven’t ventured much outside of airports and the town) is the camel I saw on a farm. CAMELS. The only time I saw a camel before this was at a carnival when I was a kid.
23. Ibises Are Real And Australia Has Them
On my second day in Australia, in Sydney, I went to the park near Sydney Uni. I went to throw something away in a bin and out jumped a Ibis. I had never seen one before and so I freaked out and ran.
22. There’s An Insane Amount Of Roadkill
Do not drive at night. The amount of roadkill we saw driving the highways in the morning was staggering. Australian wildlife is mostly nocturnal and mostly dumb. I later learned that “land transport accidents” is one of the top two causes of accidents for Australians under the age of 44. While this includes other types of driving accidents, it’s surprising how dangerous it is to drive inter-city roads at night.
21. Parrots Are Super Loud And Super Friendly
How ridiculously loud the birdsong is in the morning. (Cockatoos and magpies, your angry squawking eventually grew on me.)
Also, the fearlessness of all the parrots. The vivid colors and apparent lack of a fight-or-flight instinct made me think: these parrots must have no predators. Rosellas (in Canberra) and rainbow lorikeets (in Sydney) are just plopping down beside me and eating out of my hand. It was magical.
20. The Price Of Food Is Way Higher
The price of food, especially produce, was exorbitant. At first, I thought it was because so much would have to be imported, but the vast majority of produce I bought was from Australia. I discussed this a bit with some Australians and Americans and we wondered if this was the real cost of food, if you pay everyone in the chain an actual living wage, instead of depending on underpaid migrant workers.
19. You Don’t Need A Dryer When You Have The Australian Sun
Aussies don’t use dryers when doing their laundry. But I found out why: the sun is crazy strong. If you hang your laundry out to dry in Queensland, you’d better bring it in after 45 minutes because the sun will actually start to bleach the color out of your clothes!
18. BBQ Is Free For All In Public Spaces
Free BBQ grills everywhere. In city parks, national parks, rest stops both in cities and in the middle of nowhere. There’s probably more BBQ grills than public toilets in Australia.
17. It Goes From Remote To Remoter
All the vast, wide open spaces. We were going into the most remote setting I’ve ever been in and my (Australian) travel mates going, “Oh, THIS doesn’t count as remote.” Also, there are more animals there than anywhere else I’d been before. Not even the kinds of new animals, but the general animal density. And they poop EVERYWHERE!
16. They Seem To Have A Big Version Of Everything
All the random big things. Big banana, giant mango, giant prawn, giant kangaroo Matilda…
15. Something’s Up With The Moon
Astronomer here: the moon is backward!
To explain, in the northern hemisphere when the moon is waxing, it fills up from the right side to the left, then when it wanes it goes from the same direction. In Australia, on the other hand, the waxing crescent starts on the left.
It took me a moment to realize what exactly I was seeing, and I was absolutely tickled pink once I figured out why it was the way it was.
14. The People Without Homes Population Are Super Friendly
Two old men without homes who saw us taking pictures in downtown Sydney invited us to come to meet their “friend named Wombat who was more reliable than their substance dealer.” They took us to a tree in Hyde Park with a hole in it where there was a ring-tailed possum sleeping that they had befriended and we could pet. They introduced us to “Wombat”, told us to have a nice day, smiled, and walked away without asking for a thing. I’ve never seen such well-intentioned, healthy, happy men. America needs to get on that.
13. Even The Trash Is Cleaner There
We were in the park that is part of the Geelong Botanic Gardens. A pickup truck with a small trailer rolled up and they started emptying the trash cans and then power-washing them. The trailer had a rack designed to hold the empty trashcan horizontally so that it could be sprayed completely, inside and out.
I was amazed. Public trash cans in America always stink and are often dirty and leaking.
In general, I was impressed with how clean Melbourne, Geelong, and the stops along the Great Ocean Road were.
12. It’s A Lot Like San Francisco, With Just As Many Hipsters
How similar Sydney was to San Francisco in terms of weather, look, feel, and culture. However, the really weird thing about that feeling is I felt like it was actually San Francisco in the early- to mid-1990s. Styles were from the 90s; music was from the 90s. Even their Economy (at the time) was surging as ours did in the 90s… before the dot-com crash. If you thought SF was full of Hipsters, Melbourne puts them to shame… I started referring to Sydney as Bizarro World where everyone spoke in funny accents in the first few months I lived there.
11. Everything And We Mean Everything, Has Beets On It
I went to a McDonald’s in Brisbane and had a quarter pounder with beets on it. Like, every sandwich had beets on it. I ate kangaroo, had these awesome honeycomb/chocolate things, got peed on by a possum and a koala, but those sandwich beets really gave me a pleasurable twitch. Good job with that, mate.
10. There’s Something Called A Hook Turn, And It’s Terrifying
Hook turns. We visited both Syndey and Melbourne and in the latter, we needed a car. Nothing was more unexpected and terrifying than my first hook turn in morning rush hour traffic in the middle of the city. I thought driving on the wrong side of the road would be pretty easy once you got used to it, but we had no idea they would be throwing brand new traffic maneuvers at us.
9. The Bats Are Huge And Everywhere
Bats. Bats are everywhere in Sydney, scared the life out of me one day while I was walking on the street and a big one flew from one tree branch to the next tree which was by my side as I passed it. The branch dropped down and swayed by about a meter with the weight of it. The durrie fell from my mouth and I had a small heart attack with the fright when I saw what it was. Being Irish, I probably never saw more than two in my entire life before spending a year out there.
8. Australians Think It’s Big, Too
The other thing that surprised me on our trips to out-of-the-way places (Red Centre, Monkey Mia, etc.) was how many Aussies were seeing these places alongside us for the first time. People from Sydney, Brisbane, etc. were embarking on seeing their own country’s wonders in Middle Age. They’d been up to Hong Kong and Bali or Papeete a dozen times or more, but never seen Uluru. My God, your own backyard is incredible… how could you miss it?
7. Australians Get Inebriated On Scorpion Poison
I was studying abroad in Australia and one story always sticks out in my mind. My neighbor at the uni housing was outside hanging his laundry while we were talking about stuff when all of a sudden he yelped in pain. We both look down at his foot to see a nasty black scorpion with its tail jabbed into the top of his foot (he was barefoot at the time). He yanks that sucker out of his foot and tosses the scorpion. I go into emergency mode asking him where his keys are so I can drive him to the hospital and he says, “Nah mate, this is nothing. The poison will probably make it even better when we party later tonight.”
My jaw literally dropped and I just stared at him.
“No worries mate, it’ll hurt like a mother for a few hours but I’ll be right by tomorrow.”
Sure enough, he had a grand old time partying that night and by the next day, he was fine after several extra hours of sleep. That’s the day I learned scorpion poison makes you even more inebriated than usual.
6. Australians Get Fiesty When They Party
I was actually really surprised by the party culture. They stop serving drinks after a certain point and you can only get certain, less heavy drinks. (In the US everyone starts slamming around the last call.)
People also tend to get very inebriated and rowdy. While I was visiting some of the smaller towns I was told to watch out for fights and be aware of my surroundings by locals. Having lived in Cleveland, I kind of laughed it off. It was no joke. Aussies really like to party and get in fights.
Also, there was a lot of anti-substance sentiment which surprised me. This was quite a few years ago so attitudes may have shifted.
5. Kids Don’t Outgrow Strollers, Apparently
For me, older kids in baby strollers were very strange… I think it is because adult Aussies are taller than Brazilians on average, but here, if a kid is older than four or so, their parents take their hands. I often spotted six- or seven-year-old kids running around and when they got tired, they returned to their strollers and their parents pushed them home. A friend of mine also thought it was weird how often men took care of the kid. Here, they are always with the mother and Aussie men seem to participate more in their upbringing. We are both in our late 20s, so maybe we’re just going baby crazy.
4. People Fist Fight The Police
Ok, this blew my mind: on two separate occasions in Surfer’s Paradise over a span of a month or so, I saw regular inebriated blokes get in fist fights with police officers. Like it started by them just yelling back and forth for a bit, then eventually led up to the inebriated guy saying something like, “You wanna go, mate?” and then the officer put up his dukes. Unreal. You would never see that in the US. They would duke it out for 10-20 seconds before stopping. I saw some crazy stuff over there but that blew my mind.
3. They Have Outback Steakhouse, Too
As an American who spent all my life assuming Outback Steakhouse was a tacky cash grab founded in the late 80s in Florida to capitalize on the Crocodile Dundee craze. I now know Outback Steakhouse is a tacky cash grab founded in the late 80s in Florida to capitalize on the Crocodile Dundee craze with some actual locations in Australia.
2. In Medicine, Money Isn’t Everything
A friend and I got beaten up by a big wave and had to go to the doctor. Being from the US, I was really panicking about the money because I hardly had any. But after treating us, they just smiled and said, “Oh well, you can’t get blood from a stone,” and let us go for free! Being American, I fully expected to get soaked for a few hundred dollars, at least. In America, they’ll admit you to the ER if you’re bleeding to death, but they will not treat you for minor stuff in a doctor’s office without seeing your insurance or getting paid in cash.
1. It’s Got Way More Biomes Than You’d Think
I guess at the time I didn’t quite grasp how vast it was. We went in August 2004, for three weeks, with time spent in Sydney, Adelaide, Cairns, and Port Douglas. Having to get on a plane between the first three of these was pretty weird. Also, going from Adelaide—where the locals were wrapped up in thick coats, hats, and scarves like it was the depths of winter (while we were doing fine in light jackets)—to Cairns—which is within the tropic circle—was an odd change. From mild spring/autumn weather (to us) to the hottest summer weather we’d ever experienced, in the matter of a few hours’ flight, in one single country.