How does the Australia of our imaginations compare to the real-Aussie-deal Down Under? Read on to debunk 10 common cultural misconceptions.
1. Everyone is blonde.
Imagine my surprise (and horror) when I got off the plane in Sydney and was greeted by a BRUNETTE.
All joking aside, the average Aussie is not a tan skinned blonde person who does crunches whenever he/she has free time. Australia’s population is comprised of a variety of ethnicities; much like other countries hell-bent on being a melting pot, it is near impossible to define the “typical looking” Aussie.
In conclusion, don’t go dying your hair blonde to better your chances of fitting in with the locals.
2. Aussies have a “Bring Your Koala to Work Day”
Okay, this may not actually be a common stereotype of Aussie culture, but I wanted a more creative headline. While Australia does have wonderfully endemic species a-plenty, we wrongly assume that visiting Australia is the equivalent to visiting an open-air zoo.
To be honest, koalas are pretty hard to come by, and kangaroos cannot be found in every corner of this (massive) country. While the wildlife is a celebrated part of Australian culture, it does not usually present itself in every Aussie’s everyday life.
3. Aussies are practically Kiwis. And vice versa.
Have you ever felt offended when someone told you Canadians and Americans are practically identical, or Brits and Irishmen? While they comparably may be more similar to the other then to a Chinese or Kyrgyz, don’t assume that citizens of these two nations are interchangeable.
Though both drink Flat Whites, both appreciate natural beauty, and both can kick your bum on a cricket pitch, Australians and Kiwis should never be confused as the same.
4. When you visit, be prepared to die of a snake/spider/crocodile bite.
Unfortunately, a snake bite in Australia does not typically end with really cool superhero powers. Instead, it usually ends with imminent death.
Not to be alarmed though. While the wildlife in Australia can be dangerous, the really bad guys are really hard to come by. In fact, for the number of creepy crawlies there, only around ~50 fatalities happen from snake bites per year.
5. Toilets flush counter clockwise.
Unfortunately, this is nothing but a terrible, dirty, cartoon-encouraging lie from our childhoods. The toilets are more or less the exact same toilets that you will find back home. Damnit.
6. Aussies only wear: Shades of khaki. Bikinis. Flip flops.
The Aussie uniform is more than neutrals from head to toe. In fact, Australian fashion sense is pretty hard to define, especially considering how diverse the population is. While you might want to believe that Crocodile Dundee’s get-up is the staple of the Aussie closet, it’s in fact much more.
And no, by “more” we do not mean beachwear up the wazoo. Aussies are not ready to hit the surf at the drop of a hat. In fact, much to our dismay, Australian fashion is remarkably unremarkable.
7. The majority of Aussies live on the beach!...
8. ...And the ones who don’t live in Outback!
True, Australia has coastline to spare, and the better part of it’s major cities sit on or near the coast. But even though most Aussies live within a few hours drive of the ocean, most don’t necessarily have sandy beaches for a backyard.
Further, the fact that the Outback is one of the world’s most inhospitable deserts does not bode well for hosting a large population.
9. Uluru is one of the world’s great climbs.
Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Oceania. While it is possible to climb to the top of this 863 meter-tall monolith, it is not encouraged, and certainly not worth all of the pain and frustration it causes. Uluru is a sacred place in Aboriginal culture, and they respectfully beg all visitors to honor the space and not climb it. How would you feel if visitors overtly disrespected the World Trade Center memorial in NYC or the Vatican? Not cool, man, not cool.
10. Australia is one big desert.
Do the words “Daintree” or “Gondwana” mean anything to you? How about “rainforest?”The Daintree rainforest is the oldest of its kind on the planet (let that sink in, 110 million years of green lusciousness) and is located in the northeast corner of the country. Additionally, the Gondwana Rainforests take up 366,500 hectares of sweet, sweet, non-desert space in eastern Australia.
Despite our best attempts at quashing widespread generalizations of Australia, the only way to truly make sense of your assumptions is to visit yourself. So grab your thongs (slang lesson #1: thongs = flip flops), spray on that bug repellant, and head south. We’ll see you there!