12 Things to Know Before Moving to Australia
If you’ve managed to secure your work permit and are now looking at moving to Australia, you’re all set for a great new chapter in your life. You won’t have a language barrier to concern yourself with (just don’t be a drongo and make sure that you learn some of the local lingo, ya flamin’ galah), but there are a few cultural norms that you should prepare yourself for before setting foot on a plane.
Aussies are laid back – but very blunt
You may have to develop a thick skin before moving to Australia, as the locals tend to say what’s on their mind without thinking twice (including open and unabashed use of profanity in everyday conversation). Don’t take it personally if you’re a bit taken aback by what somebody has to say to you – you’ll soon learn that they’re not being coarse, it’s just the way of the locals.
Don’t call 911 in an emergency – it’s 000
A short but essential piece of information – the emergency services in Australia are reached by calling 000, not 911.
It’s an outdoor culture
Australia tends to have a great work-life balance, and as a result the sun will almost always be shining after you’ve finished a day at work. This is not a country where people shuffle home and lock their doors when they finish up in the office – expect to relax on the beach or some other kind of outdoor space once you’ve finished up work for the day, or even just to sit outside a pub or café. Most indoor activities such as shopping precincts close pretty early too.
Throw another shrimp on the barbie
It may be a cliché, but Australian’s do love a barbecue – it’s the primary form of social interaction in the nation, and you’ll be invited to a great many of them throughout your time down under.
Never turn up empty handed though, as this is a huge cultural faux pas – bring a meat dish, a side salad, a bottle or wine or a few beers, or best of all, a unique family recipe of lip-smacking BBQ sauce!
It’s a hot country – but the weather is variable
Aussie summers run hotter than you may be prepared for wherever you are, so never leave the house without a whole lot of sunblock, sunglasses and a baseball cap.
Different cities have different climates though (remember that Australia is a huge country), some of which are scorching and dry, while others are a little breezier. Winters also vary; you’ll never need a parka and show shoes wherever you are, but some cities will have more of a chill in the air than others.
Of course, no doubt you know this, but also remember that seasons in the southern hemisphere are the reverse of those in the States – the Australian summer runs through the festive season and into March, while the winter will cover June, July and August.
Be mindful of the wildlife
It’s something of a running joke about the animals in Australia, and while it’s not really true that everything on two, four, six or legs is out to kill you, you will have to be a little more careful than you might be back home. If you’re an arachnophobe the country will be no fun at all as spiders the size of a frying pan will be crawling under toilet seats and into nooks and crannies of your home, and you’ll also have to be a little careful of snakes while in green spaces.
Beaches are also an area that you’ll have to be mindful – pay attention to any warnings surrounding marine wildlife. Sharks love warm water and thus a regular guest in Aussie waters (high-risk areas will typically be marked with flags), but there are other things that will do you harm, including jellyfish. Make sure you’re aware of the circumstances surrounding the sea of your chosen beach before jumping into the water.
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If you’re going to travel, prepare to go off-grid
Obviously any major city will have a strong network of cell phone signal and Internet access (although you won’t find many free public connection spots – you may have to pay a little more than you’re used to in order to stay connected), but large swathes of Australia are pretty remote and may leave you unable to get a signal when you need one. If you’re planning on touring the country and investigating the outback, or will be travelling a lot for work, it’s well worth investing in a personal Wi-Fi hotspot.
The country is sporting crazy
American sports don’t get much of a look in throughout Australia, but the nation loves sport on the whole. Rugby is the most popular ball game in the nation, closely followed by cricket, but Aussie Rules Football, also simply known as football, is a great spectacle – albeit not for the faint-hearted, as it’s a somewhat gladiatorial contact sport!
Be careful on the road
You’ll probably want to pick up a car in Australia, as outside of the major cities the public transport links are not particularly reliable. You can use your American license for three months but you’ll need to pick up a permit from your state of residence after that.
Australia also has very strict laws when it comes to driving, and will not hesitate to issue penalty points. Always wear a seatbelt, don’t even think about driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (random spots checks will be issued regularly), and never have your cell phone in your hand while driving.
You don’t have to tip
The service industry is considered a respected and integral part of Australian life, and as a result, waiters and similar positions are paid a pretty good living wage. You’re more than welcome to tip if you feel that you’ve been provided with particularly great service, but you’ll find that most places include a service charge as part of their bill so don’t feel obligated.
The cities are hugely tolerant and multi-cultural
Much like the USA, almost every Australian is an immigrant to some degree or other; the Aussies are hugely respectful to the Aborigine native people, and a great many different nations have set up home throughout the country. Unsurprisingly the rural areas are a little more insular, but all the major cities will be hugely welcoming of ethnic minorities and LGBT immigrants.
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