Australian Differences

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I’m always on the prowl for little differences and idiosyncrasies that add character to a place. And Australia is home to many such charming qualities.

I remember reading a book that described Australia as being “almost home” (the author was American). They speak the same language, but with a smaller inset of vocabulary that is unique to Australia. I too agree that this is a country which at first blush seems oh so familiar, but upon closer inspection marches to a drum all its own.

This post was originally published in 2008. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

Miscellaneous Abbreviated Words and Different Terms

laptop = lappie

washroom = toilet

cell phone = mobile (pronounced moh-by-l, not moh-bl)

gas/fuel = petrol

tires = tyres

trailer = caravan

expensive = dear

esky = cooler

rent = hire

crocodile = croc

sunglasses = sunnies

flip flop = thong

thong = g-string

g-string = ?


How are you going? = How are you.

(In response when asked, I can’t but help to want to say “I’m walking of course” or “how am I going…to where?”)

Australian Differences

Not only should you be prepared for the switches to turn every outlet on and off, but it pays to remember that down is “on”, and up is “off” – the opposite of North America.

Half Flushed

Every toilet we’ve seen so far has both half flush and full flush options. Both seem to throw a lot of water down, but having a half flush option is brilliant. This is something I only saw once in Canada, in somebody’s home. Here in Oz there is a keen attention to water consumption and environmental awareness; a pleasant and refreshing characteristic.

Eco Bags, Please

In keeping with the environmental friendliness of Australia, some stores won’t even give you a plastic bag. You are absolutely required to bring your own bags. And green canvas “eco bags” are slung on people’s shoulders everywhere. See also: My Zero Waste Kit for Travel (and Home)

Counting Pennies – I Mean Nickels

Australia has done away with the penny! However, grocery store and petrol tallies regularly come out to an odd number. What to do? Why, round up or down, of course! So unless you pay with credit or debit cards (and get to pay the exact amount), you could be consistently cheated out of a few cents by virtue of circumstance. Or alternately, constantly making a few extra cents. Seems to work the other way around more often than not, though.

See also: Australian vs. Canadian Coins

How Much?

Living (or traveling) in Australia is dear (see vocabulary guide above for translation). Eating out at restaurants is prohibitively expensive for a mediocre a-little-bit-slower-than-fast-food meal, and the prices go up from there. Petrol (again, see the translation above) is well over $1.50/liter, with promises of the price going up exponentially in the next month. Oh yeah, and everything on the coast is way cheaper than in the outback (where we’re headed).

Technical gear (for camping, rock climbing, or even just running) is almost quadruple the cost of what it is in Canada. The only things we have found to be comparable to Canada are the cost of groceries. Hence – we eat in a lot. And limit the driving. And cry because we sold all our rock climbing gear back home thinking we could repurchase gear here in Oz without much ado.

What Street Are We On?

When you are getting used to driving in another country, and navigating a city’s streets, you want the street signs to be overt and obvious.

However at this intersection in Brisbane, we actually had a lively debate as to which street we were actually on. (These debates are not uncommon).

Read the rest of our observations over at World Nomads as part of our Ambassador Trip Journal here!

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2 thoughts on “Australian Differences”

  1. Oh yeah, appalling Brisbane street signage. It’s a speciality of this town that, somehow, hasn’t made it into the guide books. (I’ve lived in Brissie for 15 years.)

  2. @Claire – Actually, after living in Australia for almost a year and a half, I found the street signage problems to be pretty much a national epidemic. (!) I’m back in Toronto for a visit right now, where street signs are really great – no matter what direction you’re going in, you can easily find out what street you’re on, what streets are coming up, etc. (Maybe I’m just biased, or used to the system though – who knows)! 🙂


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