Things to Know Before Visiting Australia

So over the past 8 months in Australia, I’ve noticed a lot of unexpected differences between Aussie and US culture, so I decided to compile a list. I’ve found some of these differences to be really confusing! They aren’t always clear, so it makes for some interesting discussions and comical misunderstandings. So, if you’re planning on taking a trip to Oz, these are some things that might be helpful to know before you go.

  1. Let’s start with something simple: root beer = sarsparilla (sahs-parilla), or sars for short. I’m not sure if they have the EXACT same ingredients, but they’re close enough, and they taste the same.
  2. They drive on the left side of the road! So if you’re planning on taking a road trip here, prepare yourself. I constantly have to remind myself to stay on the left while driving. The turns are the toughest part, and it’s so easy to forget for a moment and go to the wrong side. I did this once. It’s not fun, and I felt really stupid. I was later assured by an Aussie that turning into the wrong lane is a REALLY easy thing to do, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous or frightening.
  3. LEMONADE IS FIZZY! I repeat, lemonade is FIZZY. I’m 99% sure that Australia isn’t alone on this either, and America’s the odd one out (as usual). But either way, you won’t be able to find American lemonade here. Carbonated lemonade is good and all, but it’s just not the same.
  4. Australians shorten EVERYTHING. I learn new slang words constantly. Every time I think I learned all the slang, I find a new word! Here’s a brief list of examples:
    • Arvo (ahvo, like avocado) = afternoon
    • Rego = registration
    • Brekky = breakfast
    • Bikky = biscuit (not like dinner biscuits we have in the US, but cookie biscuits)
    • Smoko (smoke- oh) = smoke break = any type of work break even if not for smoking
    • Chrissy = Christmas
  5. Australians love aioli. I don’t see aioli that often in the US. But in Oz, it’s basically a staple with chips (aka french fries). For those that don’t know, aioli is basically a garlic mayo, and it’s super yum!
  6. BACON IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT. I’ve yet to find American bacon anywhere other than in America. If you bring this up to someone in another country, they’ll tell you one of two things:
    • “Your bacon is just like ours, only they cut the good stuff off.” No, no it’s not. If you look at a photo of each type, it may seem that way, but that is FALSE. Bacon in Australia is cut from a different part of the pig, so it’s totally different. American bacon is pork belly, while Aussie bacon, or “rashers”, is pork loin.
    • “Try streaky bacon. It’s the same thing!” DO NOT FALL FOR THIS. It’s all lies. I’ve done some extensive googling on the subject, and although it seems both American and streaky bacon are pork belly, there’s still something off about it. It’s possible that streaky bacon isn’t smoked, and American bacon is, but I’ll probably never know for sure since I’ve already done more research on the subject than I care to.
  7. Arugula = rocket. The US seems to be the only place that calls it this, and I’m undecided on which name I like better. They are both very fun words.
  8. Probably the most confusing thing thus far: our pumpkin = their squash, and our squash = their pumpkin. Americans call the big orange round things pumpkins, Australians call them squash. Americans have various types of squash (butternut, spaghetti, acorn), while Australians have various types of pumpkin. So if you go to a cafe and order pumpkin soup in Australia, it may or may not be the big orange round thing that you make jack-o-lanterns out of (even though they supposedly call those squash). I’ve had various conversations with people trying to fully understand this, but it gets really confusing when you use the opposite words for what you’re each talking about.
  9. Not long after coming to Australia, I discovered ginger beer. It’s similar to ginger ale in that it has ginger flavoring, and they’re both non-alcoholic fizzy drinks. But the similarities stop there. I can only describe ginger beer as a heavenly, sweet, ginger beverage sent from the Gods that everyone needs to try.
  10. In Aussie grocery stores, you might stumble upon bananas with red wax on the bottoms. I’ve never seen them in the US, although they could be there. It’s basically to keep the banana fresher longer, and therefore they’re more expensive as well.
  11. Canned beans on toast! (or spaghetti on toast)… They’re both very common Australian breakfasts. I’ve tried the spaghetti on toast. I was not impressed. I have yet to try the beans, and to be honest I don’t really intend to. To each their own.
  12. VEGEMITE! Okay obviously most people know Australians eat vegemite. I tried it, it’s not bad! For those that don’t know, it’s savoury and salty, so very different from the typical American jam on toast. The trick to vegemite is to put it on toast with a bit of butter. I’ll be bringing it back home for friends to try.
  13. They call dinner “tea” sometimes, and it confused me for far too long.
  14. It’s not just a stereotype, they really do call everyone “mate”. In my experience it’s mostly guys that do it, but women do it as well. It’s similar to the American “bro” or “dude”. A couple Aussies tried to get me to say “mate” once… I didn’t like it. It just feels unnatural! I’ll keep calling people dude.
  15. American appetizers are called “entrees” in Australia. Also, a typical entree is just for one or maybe two people. This likely causes more frustration for Aussies travelling to the US, since they order an entire appetizer for themselves, only to be shocked when it arrives to the table.
  16. Kangaroos! Okay, this is an obvious one. But before I came to Australia, I didn’t realize that kangaroos are to Australia like deer are to America. You can find them everywhere!

Well, that’s all for now, but I’m sure there’s loads more that I’ll realize later. I’ll be adding to this list as time goes on! I hope you enjoyed reading about the small differences between our two countries. 

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