When you move to a new country there are a lot of questions about where you’re from, and along the way you also discover the weird and wonderful things foreigners believe (or have at least heard) about your country. Here are some of the misconceptions I have heard about Australia since I moved to Austria.
There are kangaroos everywhere
That time someone told you they had a pet kangaroo… or rode one to school? A lie. While there are a lot of kangaroos in Australia – since they’re protected and have few natural predators – don’t expect to land in Oz and have them hopping across the tarmac (depending on where you land, of course… it can happen). When I took hubby to Oz for the first time for a month, it was only in the last few days that we actually saw one. Go to the right area, of course, and they’re there in droves, but otherwise… you could miss them!
There are dangerous animals everywhere
Riding on the back of the kangaroos, Australia has a reputation as a risky destination due to its numerous dangerous animals. And sure… some of them are. But the way people talk it’s like you need to be constantly on the lookout. In reality, for a foreign traveller, you gotta be in the right place at the right time to be that lucky! I saw more snakes in Africa in 4 weeks than I’ve ever seen in Oz (though if you do see a snake in Oz leave it alone cause they’re pretty much all poisonous). There are sharks but again, while I’ve heard of sightings, unless you’re a diver or a surfer you have nothing to worry about. Absolutely stay away from the Irukandji jellyfish and crocodiles up north, and watch out for funnel web spiders in Sydney. But what I’m saying, is while there certainly are some, you don’t have to worry unless you’re in a specific destination or undertaking a specific activity.
We eat grasshoppers
At the Aussie pub in Vienna there are grilled grasshoppers on the menu. They are ‘fair dinkum’ apparently. Well good on whoever came up with that! Because you’ll not often see that on a menu in Australia unless they’re catering toward tourists!
Peeing on jellyfish stings
If you’re in Oz and your mate gets bitten by a jellyfish, there’s no need to whip out your shlong and pee on him (unless you’re into that, of course). Vinegar is the generally accepted antidote for a lot of jellyfish stings, but if you’re going into areas where there might be some of the nasty critters, best read up on the proper way to treat them before you swim!
You can’t wear short sleeves
I’ve also heard that you can’t wear short sleeves in Australia because the burn factor is so bad. And sure, on a hot day if you’re outside plenty of people wear long sleeves for sun protection, but that’s not to say we always wear sleeves. Because how then would we wear our Australian uniform, the bluey? (That’s a blue singlet for anyone not in the know). Still, it pays to cover up – with clothing or sunscreen, especially if it’s summer in Oz.
Life’s a beach
This is the reason why people look at me aghast when I say I willingly chose to live in Austria when I could live in Australia. Because unless you’ve got plenty of money, you’re retired, a professional surfer or just very lucky, you don’t get to live on the coast and head out for a quick surf before work. Instead, the vast majority are squished in tiny houses they can barely afford struggling through hours of traffic to complete the nine-to-five that’s the rat race of everywhere.
Why the sun is so bad
Everyone understands that it’s very hot in Australia, and it’s very easy to get burnt, but not everyone knows why the burn factor is so high. Some seem to think it’s just the extreme heat. Sure, part of it is, but mostly it’s because there’s this damn hole in the ozone layer, which is very close to Australia. The ozone protects life on earth from the sun’s harmful rays, and because there’s a hole (or a very thin ozone layer) down that end of the world, it makes the sun’s effects worse. Good news though, since the 80s when we discovered we were causing it through the use of CFCs, the hole in the ozone layer has been slowly shrinking. Still, if you’re in Australia check the UV index level, because you can get burnt at 10am… even if it’s cloudy.
You can’t wear shorts out to dinner
I’m not really sure where this one came from. Sure, some fancy places might have a no shorts/no singlets/no thongs policy, but in the summer, feel free to wear shorts to dinner to most establishments.
It never gets cold and there’s no snow
There’s no snow in Australia… right? And it’s shorts and t-shirts all year round! Not exactly. Down in the south where I’m from it can get downright chilly in the winter with a good squally wind blowing in from Antarctica. So yeah… snow falls on the mountains, and we have ski resorts to boot.
And finally… Drop bears
Drop bears are… actually drop bears don’t belong on this list because drop bears are terrifying. Watch out for these critters masquerading as friendly, cuddly, oversized koalas. With no warming they will drop on you from the trees above and attack!