You’d be forgiven for assuming that moving to Australia would be relatively seamless in terms of “cultural integration.” It’s an English-speaking country, right? They’ve got the same Queen as the UK and everything!
There’s so much more to getting by in Australia than knowing how to cope with the heat and how to barbecue stuff properly. Let the expats guide you through some top tips on moving to Australia.
1. It is HOT!!!
While the land down under is well known for its gorgeous summers, don’t underestimate just how hot it gets down here, as even coastal cities like Sydney and Melbourne get ridiculously warm. Temperatures sit in the 30s (that’s Celsius, non metric users) for weeks on end each summer, often soaring into the mid-40s, at which point even the breeze feels like it is melting you!
2. Have a drink, or three!
Aussies do love their booze, and on a hot summer’s day there they go through it like its water. While you can certainly abstain from alcoholic beverages if you like, expect at least some light-hearted teasing if you do.
If you are ever stuck for a gift idea down under, a bottle of grog will usually do the trick, and no, there is no such thing as it being ‘too early’ for an alcoholic beverage.
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3. Have a chat
Aussies are extremely social people and will talk to you about anything. They rarely miss an opportunity to say hi to a stranger on the street, and given half a chance, they love nothing more than getting stuck into a good long chat.
Expect to be engaged in random conversations when you least expect it, especially if you have an obvious accent as Australians are very curious creatures.
4. All Australians were created equal
This is an egalitarian country and nobody cares how much you earn or which school you went to. Generosity should be accepted but repaid in due course. Aussies split bills fair and square in restaurants, and you should never turn up to a mate’s barbie empty handed.
Check out our guide to banking and finances in Australia so you understand the currency before you get there.
Another tip: sit up front in your taxi if you feel comfortable to do so – taxi drivers don’t want to feel like chauffeurs.
5. Dark humour
Where typical British wit is either slapstick or dry, Aussie’s like theirs dark and ironic. Take this as an example: Australia Day in January actually celebrates the first landing of a ship full of convicts on Australian soil.
It’s all about gentle self-mockery here, which surprises many. Just watch some Kath and Kim or anything by comedy genius Chris Lilley (Summer Heights High, Ja’ime: Private School Girl, Angry Boys, We Can Be Heroes) to get a feel for Australian humour. It’s intelligent, and we think you’ll like it.
6. Relating to Kiwis
Despite how it may seem to an outsider, Australians and New Zealanders get along extremely well. While Aussies certainly enjoy teasing Kiwis, and vice versa, they tend to close ranks pretty quickly against a common ‘enemy’, particularly the English or Americans. The bond between these two close neighbours dates back to the First World War when they were sent off to battle in joint contingents known as the ANZACS.
7. Go bananas
Banana bread is on every breakfast menu in Australia. Learn to love it. Try to bake it yourself. An easy way to make friends, no?
8. Sport is God
Australians are absolutely mad about sports; all sports, any sports, regardless of whether they are played in Australia or not. Football, cricket and soccer games regularly draw crowds upwards of 40,000 people, with the biggest events pulling closer to 100,000 attendees.
It is also common for Aussies to stay up extremely late at night watching sporting fixtures taking place on the other side of the world. Not surprisingly, sports men and women are treated as gods down here, regularly taking home honours such as Australian of the Year.
9. So many footballs
Following #8, to most of the world, football simply refers to the world game, otherwise known as soccer – but not in Australia. Down here there are many types of football, usually shortened to footy, none of which refer to soccer.
There is rugby league football (NRL), rugby union football (ARU) and Australian Rules football (AFL), make sure you know which is which because mixing up your footballs is a serious faux pas.
‘Hi how are you?’ and ‘Hi how are you going?’ are standard casual greetings in Australia. Like ‘how’s it going?’ or ‘are you okay?’ in the UK. These don’t, however, represent actual questions that need constructive answers. Anyone who answers a ‘how are you going?’ with an account of their general health and well-being will get a funny look.
Even more so if you misinterpret the question and explain where you’re going. Just say ‘hi’ back. Keep it simple.
11. To the left
Brits may keep to the right on escalators despite driving on the left hand side of the road, Aussies drive on the left and stick to the left.
12. Worker’s rule
Aussies are extremely proud of their worker’s rights, as they should be, as you won’t find better working conditions anywhere in the world. Apart from being the first place in the world to win the 40 hour work week, the minimum wage in Australia is just over £17 GBP per hour! Most workers also enjoy impressive penalty rates every Saturday and Sunday.
13. It is okay to be LGBT (in the city)
Even though Australians have a pretty macho reputation, the major cities here are very much LGBT friendly. This is especially true in Sydney, whose annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is one of the biggest street festivals in the world.
Small town Australia is not always quite so open minded – watch the Australian classic Priscilla Queen of the Desert for an idea of what to expect.
14. Good news / bad news?
Look - what do sentences that start with this word tend to signal in the UK? Bad news, usually. Starting a sentence with the word ‘look’ also tends to set a bit of a confrontational tone. But in Australia, the word ‘look’ is often used to prefix good news.
One expat got a phone call after a job interview in Sydney, and the interviewer’s first word was ‘Look.’ As you can imagine, our expat’s little heart fell. But then she was offered the job. True story.
15. Show some respect
Aboriginal people in Australia are considered the oldest living culture on earth, having migrated to Australia an estimated 70,000 years ago. Over the years they have suffered huge levels of discrimination and often still do.
While you are unlikely to meet many Aboriginals in the tourist parts of town, if you do, show some respect, as theirs is a remarkable history and their culture extremely rich.
16. Cover up!
Source: Flickr | Alex Proimos
The UV rays down here can do a serious amount of damage to your skin. Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and even just half an hour of direct exposure to the sun can lead to a very nasty burn.
So as counter-intuitive as it may seem, cover up when you are outside and wear sun cream. As any Aussie will tell you; you can still get burnt on a cloudy day.
17. Don’t be a bludger
Australians pride themselves on being hard workers, which is why there is no greater insult down here than to be called a bludger – meaning someone who is not pulling their weight.
Even though few cultures like to take an extra break from work more than they do down here, be sure to get your work done, because once you’ve been labelled a bludger it is a tough reputation to shake. Take a look at what some expats really think of Australia on our blog.
18. Bogans aren’t cool
In Australian slang, the term “Bogan” is used to describe someone from the poor parts of town who dresses sloppily, isn’t very smart and often has a mullet-style haircut. Calling someone a Bogan is never a compliment and has been compared to the term “Chav” in Britain or “White Trash” in the US.
19. Looking for a property
We hate to break it to you, but that beach palace with seven en suite bedrooms and a pool? The rental price advertised is per week, not per month. Lots of Brits make this mistake when looking to rent a place on arrival to Australia, and it’s bitterly disappointing when they have to multiply that ‘bargain’ rental price by four. But now you know. Take a look at our Sydney neighbourhood guide to get to know some of the many, many types of areas to move to in Australia.
20. What cup?
Never, ever say that! The Cup, of course, refers to the epic horse race otherwise known as the Melbourne Cup. It takes place on the first Tuesday of November every year and literally stops the nation, with almost everyone in the country placing at least a small wager on the race.
Wherever you decide to watch it, get there early if you hope to see anything, and considering the race is over in a matter of minutes you won’t want to be late!