Before heading to Australia, although I had heard and read about the typical Australia stereotypes, I didn’t expect to find too much about the Aussie culture that would surprise me. They speak English and are a part of the developed world, so really, how different could it be from America? Coming from my winter spent teaching English in Ukraine, I couldn’t picture a better place to travel to that could provide me with the missing comforts of home than down under.
It’s been over a year now since my flight to Australia, and I must say that there have actually been a number of shocking discoveries in respect to my American expectations. Here are the five that top my list.
1. Lack of Mexican Food – Recently on Twitter, a group of American travelers arrived in Sydney and were in search of a good Mexican meal. I laughed. I responded. Then, I laughed some more. In all honesty, I hated to be the one to break it to them, but out of respect for fellow Mexican-loving taste-buds, I had to inform them that Mexican is one of the cultural delights that didn’t quite make its mark on the Australian people. Sure, you can find the best Asian food, and you can find a superb coffee, but a good taco, quesadilla or chimichanga is few and far between. And, to prove my point, I’d like to talk about the time I ordered some nachos from a cafe I normally enjoy. I received chips with spaghetti sauce on them. Tip: forget your homely comfort foods and try one of these iconic Aussie foods!
2. Lack of Free Wi-Fi – For being such an advanced country, Australia could definitely be classified as a bit backwards when it comes to the Internet. Monthly packages that are dependent on Gigabytes of usage? Please, that is so 1999. However, that is the way it works in Australia, often resulting in very few locations providing free Wi-Fi points for travelers to connect to. If you’re used to being connected 24/7 back in the States, be prepared to pay for it in Oz.
3. Lack of Late-Night Dining & Shopping – A funny thing that happened recently was the announcement of a local Kmart shopping center extending its shopping hours to midnight. Coming from a culture where 24-hour Wal-marts and restaurants are the norm, I couldn’t believe that something quite like that would be news. The truth is that a lot of Australia shuts down in the evening, and even though that’s definitely not a bad thing, there have been times where I just wanted to sit down late at night with some friends and a snack instead of going to a club. The conveniences provided by a get-what-you-want-when-you-want-it culture are easily missed when that is something you’ve been previously accustomed to.
4. Open Use of the C-word – So I’d heard rumours about the funny Australian slang and accent, but I was surprised to hear the frequent use of the C Word! If there was ever a word that could make me cringe at its sound, it would be this one. For some reason Americans seem to hold the C-word as one of THE bad words – the type of word you wouldn’t even let cross your mind when in the same room as your mother. The Aussies, on the other hand, will often toss it around when talking to one of their best mates!
5. The Language & Accent in General – Yes, they are speaking English in Australia, but the part that will leave an American in confusion is the amount of slang running through their conversations. Cut-off words are just a small reason Arj Barker, an American comedian, joked that the responsibility for understanding what has been said in an Australian conversation is simply left up to the person listening. The person talking, on the other hand, can make up words as he goes and is never expected to explain himself along the way (or so it may seem).