The only country continent island on Earth, Australia is a fascinating frenzy of everything ranging from mountains and sands to reefs, beaches and forests with spectacular wildlife, and not to mention a melting-pot of cultures and home to the exciting cities of Melbourne, Sidney, Perth, and so on. Diversity here is all around, but in order to make the most out of it here’s a few things you should know in advance so you won’t be taken aback later.
Firstly, the time of the year when you plan to do your trip is crucial and it depends on what part of Australia you’re traveling to. Australia is in the southern hemisphere, so the seasons occur the other way around as it is the case in the northern one.
For instance, December, January and February are a good time to travel to the southern part of the country to destinations such as Melbourne or Sidney thanks to the pleasant summer temperatures but at that time it is also crowded with tourists and more expensive. So if you want to save some money it is best to go in October, November, March or April. In the north, summer is extremely hot and is the wet season, so if you plan on visiting Queensland or the desert regions for instance, it would be best to it in the winter, in the months of July or August.
2. A little bit about Australians
Australians are generally a laid-back, outgoing nation who love a laugh, partying and drinking, with an unparalleled sense of mateyship and a sense of humor marked by irony and irreverence with just a pinch of the twisted (they are descended from the British Isles, after all). They are often direct and friendly, greeting you with a casual “G’day mate!”.
Its multiculturalism, due to the indigenous peoples and migrants from over 200 countries, has made Australians a generally egalitarian and tolerant nation. 75% live a metropolitan lifestyle in the cities across the coast and, as much as they love their leisure, they are equally hard-working, since they are among the countries with the longest working hours in the developed world.
Surprisingly for such a sports-loving nature, it is the country with the highest obesity rate in the world (26%)…well, at least not from the kangaroo meat, which is actually a healthy and low-fat meat choice in the Australian menu.
As about their love for sports, you should know that Australians have their own football, governed by their own national rules; there’s even a federation in charge with this national brand, Australian Rules Football. If you’re not a fan or it’s just hard for you to change the paradigm, there’s no problem – the locals also love rugby. So while you’ll be socializing, mentioning some of the nationally appreciated teams would only be seen as an act of kindness and friendliness.
Australians do love their barbies though, along with Vegemite, a salty yeast extract, meat pies, and a special chocolate and and coconut-covered sponge cake called Lamington. When it comes to beer, Victoria Beer and Toohey are popular choices, and speaking of which, when you’re at the pub, don’t forget the shout, slang term for a round of drinks. When someone buys you a shout, it’s etiquette to buy one back.
3. Surviving in Nature
Once you’re out and about in the sun, high SPF sunblock and sunglasses and sunhats are a must to avoid what the Australians refer to as “Red Lobster”, especially during 10 am and 3 pm, when solar radiations are most intense. When you enter the water from October to April, get vinegar with you to protect from the potential stings of the Irukandji or other venomous jellyfish, which can be very deadly. In case of sting, pour vinegar on it, don’t rub the area and seek medical treatment.
Also, hitchhiking is extremely frowned upon and mostly illegal due to many cases of hitchhikers getting lost or killed. It is also very important to know how to behave around the animals. A kangaroo may look cute, but its kick can kill instantly so don’t get too close, and always be on the lookout when driving on rural roads as they can damage your car. Also, when you’re out into the rural areas, it is best to wear high boots and long pants to protect from snake bites.
4. Aussie English 101
Australia’s official language is English, how hard can it be, right? While that is true, there are some words and expressions that are regarded as distinctly Australian. For starters, Aussies use “mate” and “no worries” quite a lot, as well as “she’ll be all right”, which actually means “it’ll be all right”; a woman is a sheila, a friend is a cobber, an American is a seppo (although the term is sometimes used derogatorily), the English are Poms, fair dinkum means a statement is true, exy is expensive, barbie is barbecue, brekky is breakfast.
The latter three examples make the pretty amusing statement somewhat true that, if you want to sound Australian, all you need to do is shorten your words and add a “y” at the end. Also, if you’re looking for a place to stay the night, be sure to ask for a motel. A hotel in Australia is only a pub or a casino.
A unique part of Australian culture is made up of its aboriginal heritage, so a culture that existed long before British settlers arrived in 1788. An Aboriginal belief holds that the Earth is eternal and was created during a period called The Dreaming or Dreamtime, by beings that can be contacted by means of rituals.
According to the same belief system, man, nature, animals, and the Dreaming ancestors have the same force within them. Tjurungas, mythical beings represented by pieces of art carved either in wood or stone, helped connect man to these beings, and there are some pieces that date back up to 30,000 years ago. Aboriginals also used ritualised scarring to show status, affiliation with a clan, and life events. In which concerns actual Australian culture, the term Larrikinism is key, representative for a tradition revering aversion to authority and the finding of humor in the darker aspects of life.
This is evident in the event of Australia Day, which celebrates the first arrival of a ship full of British convicts on the continent, the first “Australians”. A solemn event is also ANZAC Day (25th of April) in which they honour the fallen troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in the fight for the Dardanelles against the Turks, a fight that took place in 1915 on the Gallipolli peninsula.