It’s safe to say that in Australia, we do things a little differently. The land down under is known for many things, including swathes of tropical beaches, Aboriginal culture, adorable koalas and its rolling wine country, not to mention our easy-going, friendly attitude and penchant for amazing barbecues.
But there is so much more to Australia and its people than meets the eye. A melting pot of different cultures and communities, Australia is one of the most ethnically diverse societies in the world today. As a result, our amazing country boasts a unique contemporary culture, identity and spirit that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
If you’re planning a trip to Australia sometime in the near future, you’ve come to the perfect place. Today, we share 10 things every traveller needs to know about contemporary Australian culture and way of life, in a bid to help you live a little bit Aussie on your next trip. Read on to find out more!
Australia Is Diverse
Although Australia is viewed as a western country, the moment you touch down at any airport, you’ll notice a wide mixture of people from different races, religions and ethnic backgrounds. Thanks to waves of migration following European colonisation in the late 18th century, Australia is now one of the most multicultural continents in the world. Joining the hundreds of Indigenous groups are early British and Irish settlers, European immigrants following World War II, and growing Asian and African communities in recent decades.
Moreover, almost a quarter of Australian residents were born outside of Australia and many more are first or second-generation Australians. As soon as you step out of your accommodation in Adelaide, Melbourne or Sydney, you’re guaranteed to come across a wide variety of East-Asian, Indian, European restaurants and more, allowing you to sample a taste of different ethnic cuisine no matter which part of the country you travel to. What’s not to like?
Australia Is HUGE
Just as you can’t see all of America in a single trip, it’s also impossible to see all of Australia. At 7 692 024 km2, Australia is the planet’s sixth largest country after Russia, Canada, China, the USA, and Brazil. Most people don’t realise how big the country is, and there is even a huge uninhabitable part of Australia that lies in the middle of the continent (the Outback), away from the coasts.
Before planning a trip to Australia, it’s important to understand its size. Unless you have months upon months of free time to explore its vast landscapes, visitors are recommended to pick one or two places for a vacation. Most Aussies haven’t even explored the entire country, so that should give you a rough idea of how big the country really is. Road trips can last weeks, so you will need to take into consideration how far apart all the destinations in your itinerary really are.
Aussies Adopt A “No Worries” Attitude
You’ve probably heard it before — Aussies are some of the most laid-back people in the world. Indeed, Aussies adopt a “no worries” attitude that we are known the world over for. Of course, our renowned art, history, events and food are indispensable parts of Australian culture, but what really distinguishes an Aussie is his or her (incredibly) relaxed outlook on life.
It’s the reason you’ll hear the phrase “no worries, mate” exchanged between total strangers on the street. Australians also happen to be some of the friendliest people in the world, so don’t be surprised if strangers strike up a conversion in the middle of a busy street. It’s the Australian thing to do!
Australia Eats Its National Animal!
Vegetarians and vegans, look away. A melting pot of different cultures, Australia doesn’t really share one cohesive type of cuisine. Vietnamese pho is as common as a roast dinner, a halal snack pack or a classic sausage sizzle. However, there is one quirky feature of Australian food: our national animal (the kangaroo) regularly finds its way onto the supermarket shelves and menu. In fact, kangaroo meat has been historically a staple source of protein for Indigenous Australians for centuries. It is incredibly low in fat and contains a high concentration of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) when compared with other foods. In modern times, Australia’s national icon is commonly found in the form of sausages, steak or even in Asian stir-frys.
We Really, Really Love Our Vegemite
Unless you’ve grown up or lived in Australia, chances are Vegemite is as foreign a food as beluga caviar, durian or blood sausages. However, one thing to know about Aussies is that we really, really love our Vegemite.
If you’ve never heard of this delicacy before, Vegemite is a thick, dark brown food spread made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives. It has a strong, salty, umami flavour and can be compared to a very intense tamari or soy sauce. Most commonly, you’ll find it spread on hot buttered toast, the same way someone would spread peanut butter or jam on bread.
However, many people also use it as an ingredient in dishes such as spaghetti bolognese, and it is not uncommon to find Vegemite added to cheese scrolls, buns, and other baked goods all around the country. Sure, it may be an acquired taste, but it is one that is certainly synonymous with Australia. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
You Won’t Find Koalas, Kangaroos and Crocodiles Everywhere
Contrary to popular belief (and thanks to television and movies), you won’t find koalas, kangaroos, crocodiles or Tasmanian devils everywhere in Australia. Chances are, you won’t even run into one kangaroo or koala in Australia’s major cities, unless you specifically visit a nature reserve or conservation park, or happen to be visiting an outlying suburb.
Kangaroos like open grassy spaces, so head out of the city and you’re nearly guaranteed to see a kangaroo or two. For a koala sighting, consider heading to the Southern Highlands, Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island or the You Yangs. Oh, and those scary, ferocious dropbears that you’ve heard of? They simply don’t exist. You’re welcome!
Bunnings Is An Australian Institution
Aussies have a very special relationship with our beloved Bunnings, which is why it is no surprise that it has been named Australia’s most trusted brands. But let’s rewind a little…what exactly is Bunnings? Officially, Bunnings is the leading retailer of home and lifestyle products for consumer and commercial customers in Australia and New Zealand. Unofficially, it’s where everyone goes on a Saturday morning to indulge in a sausage sizzle. More on that later. You’ll find a Bunnings outlet in almost every suburb in Australia, filled to the brim with all the power tools, indoor plants, wall paints, home storage and garden furniture you could ever want.
Sounds like your average hardware store? Well, yes…and no. For many people, a weekend trip to this major hardware chain is an activity that both nourishes the soul and fosters community. Moreover, Bunnings hosts its iconic sausage sizzle every weekend that provides grassroots community groups a simple way to raise vital funds to continue their important work in our communities. It’s the one-stop-shop for Aussies of all walks of life, and plays an integral role in Australian culture now and forevermore.
Australians Go Crazy For Footy
If there is one thing Aussies love, it’s their beloved footy. Australian football (more commonly referred to as simply AFL or footy) isn’t the same as American football or soccer. It’s a contact sport played between two teams of 18 players on an oval field, often a modified cricket ground. Since 1858 when the sport was founded, AFL is one of the most-watched sports in Australia, featuring top professionals from across the land down under and other countries. The AFL currently consists of 18 incredibly popular teams spread over five of Australia’s six states, with almost every Aussie having chosen a team to support by the age of 5.
AFL games attract thousands upon thousands of spectators, and there is even a national public holiday to celebrate the grand finals. Moreover, AFL has become a pastime among friends and families in Australia (you’ll even find babies decked out in their favourite team jerseys) and even beyond where they formulate tournaments around the sport. To say it’s a way of life is truly an understatement.
Unfamiliar Fast Food
Australia has no shortage of international fast food chains, but one thing you’ll notice is the difference of names down under. Firstly, what is commonly known as “Burger King” around the world is better known as “Hungry Jack’s” in Australia. This is because the US chain couldn’t use their own brand in Australia, as the name had been trademarked by a takeaway chain based in Adelaide. So you’ll definitely be able to find a Whopper, just under slightly different circumstances.
Another fun fact is that fast food giant McDonald’s, is almost exclusively referred to as “Maccas” by Aussies. In fact, in 2013, McDonald’s officially changed its name to “Maccas” to localise the brand. If you can’t already tell, it’s an Australian habit to abbreviate names. Again, same Big Macs, Double Cheeseburgers and Hot Fudge Sundaes, just a different name.
We Love Our Drink
Although this isn’t a unique Australian trait, boy oh boy do we love our bevvys. On the World Health Organisation’s table of the thirstiest nations on earth, Australia is the third booziest country outside Europe. Yup, that’s how much we love a drink!
Simply put, alcohol is an intrinsic part of contemporary Australian culture. And with hundreds of world famous wonderful wineries dotted all over the nation, including a booming inner-city brewery scene, it’s no mystery why we’re so fond of a tipple. As to whether this is a good or bad thing, you can be the judge.
And there you have it — 10 things every traveller or tourist needs to know about contemporary Australian culture. If you managed to make it through the entire list, congratulations! You’re now one step closer to becoming a true blue Aussie yourself!