Australian Oddities (From the Perspective of an American): Part 1

I’ve been in Australia for 12 days now (almost 2 weeks already!) and the culture is lots of fun. Though we both speak the same language, some customs and terminology take some getting used to. I’ve started a list of the various differences, just for kicks and to remember as I become accustomed down the road. Here’s a list of the top seven things I’ve noticed so far:

1. The Metric System

I’m not quite sure why the United States has not switched over to the metric system yet. We’re the only country in the world that remains on the English system (even England has switched over). That said, Australia obviously uses the metric system, making understanding temperature, distances, weights, and other measurements slightly awkward for the average American. When I say it’s 80 degrees outside, they say it’s 26, produce is measured in dollars per kilogram, and vehicles drive in kilometers per hour. It’s not a major problem, but it does take some getting used to. I am glad, however, that I downloaded an English to metric system conversion app on my iPhone before I left! It comes in handy from time to time.

2. The Power Outlets (not only do they require a converter, they also have an on/off switch)

The outlets here are slightly different. Instead of the top two prongs being perpendicular to the floor, they are at a slight angle, making an adapter necessary for American electronics. Another difference that took me a moment to figure out, is the fact that each individual outlet here all have an on-off switch. It helps save on the “ghost” electricity that many of our electronics suck up even when they’re off and not in use.

Outlet

Outlet

3. Driving

The obvious point: they drive on the left side of the road and the driver side is on the right. It takes a little getting used to board a bus and hop into a vehicle from the left instead of the right. The hazards of crossing the street also slightly increase, as you’re not expecting a vehicle to come whizzing around from a different direction. I’m glad I don’t have a car so I don’t have to get all switched around when I return to the United States again, though I do miss the convenience of driving wherever I need to go on a whim. People here are incredibly accommodating though, and I’ve been offered rides for whenever I need to go to the store by several individuals who do happen to have vehicles.

4. Money and Spending

The money here is nifty! They use Australian Dollars (AUD), which convert to roughly $1.05 USD. It’s a pretty direct conversion. The bills are quite colorful and different lengths according to their amount. For example, a $50 bill is longer than a $20, which is longer than a $10, which is larger than a $5.

Dollars

Dollars

They have no bill for a dollar amount. Instead they have coins. The top two pictured below in gold are $2 and $1 respectively. Then there’s $0.50, $0.20, $0.10, and $0.5. There’s no such thing as a penny or $0.01 piece. Because of this, if you go to the store and pay in cash, your amount will be rounded accordingly. For instance, if my total comes to $25.42, I’ll have $0.02 subtracted from my bill, paying a total of $25.40. If my bill was $24.44, I’d have $0.01 added to my bill, paying a total of $25.45.

Coins

Coins

Furthermore, all of the tax on their items is already added to the total cost you see in the store. What you see for price is what you pay, which is kinda nice. You also don’t usually tip here. Salaries are high enough to make tipping unnecessary, and it is not a customary practice here.

5. Dates

It’s not a major difference, but when they write the date here, the day comes first. So my birthday, October 27th, 1990 would be written as 27/10/90. It takes some getting used to when you’re signing documents.

6. The Weather and Temperature

Besides everyone using Celsius instead of Fahrenheit, the weather here is quite different from the United States. Australian seasons are opposite of ours, so while we’re experiencing cold and snow around Christmas, Australians are hitting the beaches in the peak of their summer. Fall (or Autumn as it’s known here) just began in March. Warrnambool is also known for its wind! It never stops! Their winters are quite wet I hear, so we’ll have to see how that goes in the coming months!

Australia is also under the hole in the ozone layer, so sunscreen is an absolute must! Many of their events will supply a “sunscreen bar” for those who forgot to slather it on before an outdoor adventure. I still hate sunscreen and have been burnt on my shoulders. It wasn’t that bad, but I’ll definitely wear some if I’m outside for an extended period of time.

Sunscreen Bar (It's under the umbrella on the right side of the photo.)

Sunscreen Bar (It’s under the white umbrella on the right side of the photo.)

7. Terminology and Expressions

The lingo here is lots of fun! I’m still learning new words and different expressions, but here’s a list of a few I’ve noticed:

The letters “H” and “Z”: They’re pronounced differently here. “H” sounds more like “hay-ch” (with a long a), and “Z” is pronounced “zed”.

“How you going?”: It’s the equivalent of “How are you?”. It took me a second or two to figure out how to respond the first time I heard it.

Boot=Trunk

Torch=Flashlight

Tea=Dinner (So if you get invited to a tea, they don’t literally mean tea and crumpets… They mean dinner.)

Jumper= Sweatshirt

Uni= University

Chewy= Gum

Caff= Cafeteria

Goon= boxed wine

And yes… there’s lot’s of “Good’ay” that get’s thrown around.

I’m sure in the coming weeks as classes start I’ll have more to add to the list, but that’s all I’ve got for now! It’s interesting to see how similar the United States is to Australia but at the same time how different they are! Gotta love it!

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