35 things you should know before visiting Australia

I've lived in Australia for about 14 months now. To be honest, overall it's wonderful. I have a great job, I'm surrounded by a lovely family, the coffee is top notch and there's no ice on the road in winter. There are many other great things, but those are my highlights. However, lately I've been thinking about all the slang, food, places, and swear words I've come across since living here. These things are mostly familiar to me now, but to a lot of visitors (my family especially, since they plan to come out) these things might seem a little crazy. Also, when I told people in the USA that I was moving here, one of the most common things I heard was, "Oh, I always wanted to go to Australia."

So, to prepare you if you ever decide to come down under (P.S. no one here really says that), here is my master list of things you should know before you visit Australia:

1. If you're a woman, you will probably never hear a man call you a 'Sheila'. Outback Steakhouse lied to us.

2. There really aren't poisonous spiders and snakes everywhere. Promise. Although this guy did decide to visit my wall a few days ago. He owns our house now.

Things you should know before visiting Australia

Things you should know before visiting Australia

3. They have an ice cream bar called Golden Gay Time. Do not ask me why. Also it is delicious.

4. If you want milk in your coffee, you have to ask for milk in your coffee. Nobody says cream. Better yet, order a flat white to fit in.

5. Aussies gleefully shorten words by adding 'o' to the end of them. Examples include devo instead of devastated, povo instead of poverty (used like, "Oh man, that house is so povo"), and arvo instead of afternoon.

6. On a similar note, Aussies abbreviate professions by adding 'y' on the end or giving them fun nicknames. A carpenter is called a chippy, an electrician a sparky, and a bricklayer a bricky.

7. Aussie money is plastic, colorful, and goes up in size based on the value of the note. There are no pennies, so everything is rounded to the nearest five cents. Also, as with most other countries, the tax is figured into the price listed on the item, so there are no nasty surprises at checkout like you get in the USA.

8. There are these cookies ('biscuits') called Tim Tams. They will change your life.

9. Australians work for the weekend. None of this working-just-to-afford-to-be-able-to-work business. People save money, but they save it for something, and then when they have enough, they buy that something and start over. It's a very healthy way to live.

10. Contrary to popular belief, some Australians do have guns. But most of them are in the bush (what Americans call 'the Outback') and are used to shoot dangerous animals.

11. There are speed cameras, police cars, and other traffic controls everywhere. There are also booze buses, which is a line of police cars that stop random drivers and have them do a breathalyzer test. There are also constant ads on TV and radio, as well as billboards on the road, giving often graphic warnings about the dangers of drinking or doing drugs and driving.

12. If you ever see a bunch of flowers or a cross on the side of the road, it's because someone was killed in a car accident there. It's a sober reminder to everyone to be safe on the road and not take stupid risks.

13. Last safe driving fact: You're not even allowed to touch your phone while you're driving.

14. You will see kangaroos. They are the Australian equivalent of America's deer infestation. There are kangaroo crossing signs, and you will often see a group of them early in the morning or late at night if you happen to pass a field near the edge of a forest.

15. In Melbourne, the weather can literally change in a matter of minutes. The temperature has been known to drop 30 degrees in the course of an hour or two. Last week I had the air conditioning on one day and wore my winter coat outside two days later.

16. There's a bird here called a kookaburra whose song sounds like a demonic clown laughing.

17. People are allowed to swear on TV after 8:30pm.

18. Like, everyone has at least one tattoo. And it's no big deal.

19. Tanning salons are illegal and people get busted for buying a tanning bed and letting other people pay to use it. Speaking of that, there's a hole in the ozone layer here, so always wear sunscreen if you're outdoors for more than an hour.

20. Really, honestly, truly -- you probably won't get eaten by a shark if you swim in the ocean. But the ocean is dangerous, so always swim between the flags and never swim alone.

21. There is graffiti EVERYWHERE. And some of it is awesome. I took these a few months ago in an alley in Melbourne:

graffiti collage

graffiti collage

22. People actually do say "G'day", but not everyone does. "Mate" is used constantly.

23. There is a huge international population here. It's not unusual to hear people speaking in languages besides English on the street or in the store.

24. Aussie news makes fun of the Prime Minister just as much as American news makes fun of the President.

25. There are different levels of healthcare. You can go to certain doctors without paying any money, or you can pay a small amount and then have the healthcare system refund most of that money to you if you want to choose your doctor.

26. Women can generally have their jobs held for them for 1-2 years of maternity leave and there's paid leave as well, varying in amounts. Men also can have unpaid paternity leave and their jobs will be held for them until they come back.

27. Many Aussies show great respect toward Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, acknowledging them as the original owners of the land on which they live. They even pay their respects to them verbally before certain meetings and events.

28. They drive on the left side of the road and there are so many tourists in certain areas of Australia that there are signs announcing this.

29. Did I mention the coffee is amazing? It's so good you will be hard-pressed to find a Starbucks. When they opened them up a few years back they were so unsuccessful that most had to shut down soon after.

30. They call it tomato sauce, not ketchup; chips, not french fries; an appetizer is called an entrée; candy is generally called lollies; and as previously mentioned, cookies are called biscuits.

31. If someone says they're going for a 'smoko', it means they're having a break, even if they're not smoking.

32. Speaking of smoking, all cigarette packages are plain black with horribly graphic pictures of diseased lungs, feet with gangrene, and blaring warnings that smoking kills people.

33. Australia is HUGE. You can't just drive from one end to the other, and you can't even get around a state in a day, usually. Factor in some driving or flying time if you want to visit multiple cities.

34. Queensland for beaches, Melbourne for music and art, Sydney for tourists and traffic.

35. The median house price in Sydney right now is about $1 million. Melbourne isn't much better. In general, everything is more expensive here. However, minimum wages in most places is between $16-$18 per hour.

Keep those 35 things in mind when you visit Australia, and you'll be just fine. Well, probably. Watch out for drop bears. Don't know what drop bears are? Google it. You'll thank me later.

Special thanks to my sexy Aussie husband for helping me compile this list.

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