There are many facts about Australia that have questionable levels of truth.
Is the country crawling with dangerous animals? Will drop bears fall from the trees while I’m camping in the wilderness? Will I be greeted with G’Day Mate every time I meet a local? Does everyone just hang out at the beach all day?
Throughout my years of travel I’ve had countless people ask about whether Australia is as scary as it sounds with all the sharks and crocodiles and whatnot.
I’m going to tell you what you can actually expect, and why you shouldn’t be afraid of visiting this rather large and sunburnt country.
1. Yes, there are dangerous animals everywhere
One time when I was camping on the east coast of Tasmania, I saw a snake slide past our tent, had a redback spider (tiny but quite venomous) crawling up my jeans, and saw another large and nasty looking black spider making its way along the beach just metres from our campsite – all in the space of 12 hours.
These kinds of animals are in fact so common that we’ve been desensitised to feeling afraid. What’s that, there’s a Tiger Snake in your backyard? Meh, whatever, seen it all before.
Don’t worry – it’s rare to actually get poisoned/attacked/bitten. You won’t immediately get mauled by a shark as soon as you swim in the ocean. In fact, you’re more likely to get struck by lightning or drown in your own bathtub.
A common concern that I hear from foreigners is that Australia is not a ‘safe’ destination because of the reputation the dangerous animals have given it. I think that’s entirely untrue! Check out these tips on travelling safely around Australia and know that Australia is just as safe as any other modern country.
2. But there are friendly animals, too
I can’t say I’ve spotted a wild koala, but I’ve seen plenty of kangaroos, cockatoos, kookaburras, possums, echidnas, lizards… even the occasional wombat. On the same camping trip where I “almost died” from the surrounding snakes and spiders, I also had a friendly wallaby (kind of a small kangaroo) come and say hello.
To find these critters in the wild you’ll have to get out of the cities, or visit a wildlife sanctuary to see them in captivity. I’ve put together a list of places where you can see awesome Australian animals.
3. If we say g’day mate, we’re probably putting it on
There are some people who have g’day as part of their regular vocabulary, but it’s not all that common. If you have someone say it to you, it’s probably just to see your reaction.
The Australian sense of humour is generally sarcastic so you should take nothing we say seriously. If anyone tells you about the mysterious “drop bear” that falls from trees onto camper’s tents, disregard anything that has just come out of their mouth. Or you could play along – we’ll love you for it.
4. Travel can be expensive
Depending on the exchange rate, travel to Australia can be expensive. So expensive, in fact, that many Australians choose to fly internationally instead of travelling within our own country as it’s cheaper that way.
Last time I looked at doing some budget travel through Western Australia and Northern Territory, I actually discovered it would be about half the price to fly to Bali and stay in a luxurious room with it’s own personal plunge pool. It was an obvious choice.
Even though it’s expensive, Australia is still worth visiting – take a look at my list of budget travel tips for Australia to see how you can see this country for cheap.
5. We don’t drink Fosters beer
Despite what you may think of this “Australian” branded beer, it’s not really sold here. Frankly, most of us think it’s kind of gross and would much prefer to drink any of the other beers available in Australia.
6. We have an obsession with ‘big things’
Big Pineapple, Big Macadamia Nut, Big Wine Bottle… you get the picture. Apparently everything that we can make into a ‘big thing’ we have, and it’s popular among tourists to seek them out.
7. Everything is really far apart
I mean, really far apart. It would take 42 hours of non-stop driving to get from Perth (west coast) to Sydney (east coast). It’s a damn large country.
Don’t expect to be able to casually catch a quick bus or train in between major cities. Although it’s not the cheapest or most environmentally-friendly option, the quickest way is definitely flying.
8. Beach culture is everywhere
I think most international tourists are under the impression that Australians spend most of our days at the beach, and I guess I can see why – we have some of the most stunning beaches in the world, and also some of the best weather.
Aside from the fact that most of us do actually have jobs and therefore can’t make it to the beach every day, we like to complain that we’re not at the beach if it’s a nice sunny day during the week.
You can get to a beach in under an hour from most major cities, so make sure you take part in this national activity during your travels.
9. Our national animal is part of our diet
I may not fit into this category being that I’m vegetarian, but kangaroo meat is quite a common delicacy for most Australians. You can also sample crocodile or emu meat if you feel so inclined.
The not-so-carnivorous of us can try vegemite on toast or savoury pies, and if you have a sweet tooth go for Lamingtons, Pavlova, Anzac Biscuits, Fairy Bread, or Tim Tams. I’ve put together a list of all the Aussie foods that I love, so do give some of them a try!
10. We take the English language to a whole new level
Think you’ll understand Australians because English is our national language? Think again! I was having a lovely chat to a Dutch friend on the weekend who noted that sometimes she can’t understand us from all the abbreviations, slang terms, and word-shortening that we tend to do.
For example, “Wanna head to the beach this arvo? Take ya cossies and stop at the bottle-o for a coupla stubbies, we’ll chuck em’ in our Esky” can be translated to “Would you like to accompany me to the beach this afternoon? Take along your swimsuit and stop at the liquor store to purchase a few beers, we shall place them in our cooler bin.”