20 things we never knew about Australia

So we all have the stereotype view of Australia right? Much like they have of the Brits, or in fact anyone has of the Brits. So moving here, having only visited once, briefly, we relied on a lot of what we thought we ‘knew’ about this fair Island which lets be fair, like most of us in the UK we get all our information about Australia from Neighbours and Home and Away. Which in itself is a bit warped for example for all the times Alf Stewart in Home and Away said ‘fair dinkum’ i think I’ve only heard an actual person say it once and that was more as a demonstration than part of a conversation. So here we are..some things we have discovered…

  1. Voting is a legal issue. If you don’t vote you are breaking the law. Technically we can’t vote as we are not citizens but those who are HAVE to vote. If you don’t vote you get a fine. I actually like this idea. Not sure how it would go down in the UK but i kind of agree with the principal.
  2. Public schools are not free. Which makes sense right because Brits call private schools – public schools (which is altogether confusing) But a public school in Australia is a state school but attending is not free. They bill you every year for contributions to the building, the staff, the physical education, the stationary, the white boards etc etc…..I actually think technically you don’t have to pay it but its kind of expected.
  3. Most kids going through school here will play some sort of brass instrument. From year 3 all kids are given the opportunity to join the band. They then have to rock up to two rehearsals a week and attend competitions.
  4. Long Service Leave – most places offer their employees a way of gaining a big chunk of leave for time served. You can cash it in at any point. The longer you stay somewhere the more leave you get. This is additional to your annual leave. If you have been in the health service for example for your entire career you can expect to get about 2 years long service leave. This explains a little how so many australians disappear off for long holidays travelling the world.
  5. The Australian TV is dreadful. Not really something we didn’t know but the reality is that it is shocking. Thank goodness for Netflix
  6. In the area we live in despite having space they seem to opt for the idea of building malls and sticking every sort of shop, including supermarkets, in the mall. This is an issue of great annoyance for me as I loath going to the mall for a grocery shop. I don’t like wasting time parking on floor 650 to have to wait for a lift with your trolley full of shopping and then get lost trying to find your car. I don’t think ill ever get over it!
  7. Shopping malls, however, do have three hours free parking before you start paying to park your car. This, in general, is great and most trips won’t be over three hours. If they are though the hourly rate can then be a bit insane
  8. Amazon in Australia is NOTHING like it is in the UK. Like, seriously…I marvelled at amazon prime over the holidays in the UK. Ordering something one day and it arriving the next. Here it is just for books…like..just.books.
  9. Most people have NOT seen the scary animals that frequent the news. Our first week here we saw a massive python crossing the road and mentioned it to a neighbour who said in 25 years of living there they had never seen a snake. Same for the spiders in general. But we do give the kids ‘the talk’ and also anyone that comes to visit!
  10. Contrary to some people’s beliefs about Australia, it does actually get cold here. Winter temperatures at night can get down to low single figures. Which you are thinking ‘so what?’ to right? But generally most houses do not have heating and so winter in Australia consists of many furry blankets, hot water bottles and fan heaters..which are stupidly inefficient as most of us worked out in our dingy college days. But that just seems to be the deal here. Also yes it does rain. Sydney gets more annual rainfall than London. Yes. seriously. But it tends to fall in huge downpours and less drizzle. Australia is, however, so vast that when it is single figures in some part of the country it will probably be 30 degrees somewhere else.
  11. They call sandwich toasters…jaffle irons. This makes no sense at all.
  12. A bogan is a chav. Guess they will have those types of folks everywhere
  13. Their system of healthcare is a complicated mix of a public system like the NHS and a private system. I basically, don’t hate me, think that it is a good system and actually makes more sense for people who can afford private to pay for it so that some of the burden is taken off public system.  I was and am a very proud member of the NHS and wholeheartedly believe in it. But it cannot pay for everything in this world of rapid advancing health care and technology. I guess unless you want to pay WAY more tax and lets face it who wants to do that. The government offer tax incentives for having private healthcare and you claim your portion back of whatever you pay through medicare. So everyone still gets their ‘free share’ so to speak.
  14. They still have bank holidays here. Days when the banks shut and everyone else goes to work. What we call a bank holiday is called a public holiday here.
  15. Australia Day is a public holiday at the end of the summer, much like our august bank holiday expect that it is shrouded in controversy as it is celebrating the day when Australia was first landed on by settlers. Many of the aboriginals and Islanders call it ‘invasion day’ – there is generally a whole host of marches and protests on that day. But it is, i think, supposed to be a traditional ‘straya day. BBQ, beaches and sun.
  16. Their fruit and vegetables are still ‘seasonal’ Remember how satsumas used to appear in british stores around christmas? Its still like that here. Mangoes appear for the summer and then disappear over the winter. There are seasons for certain fruits, like strawberries…..as they begin to appear the price per kg starts to come down until they are practically giving them away by the end of the season.
  17. You can’t buy alcohol in the supermarkets. They have to be sold in a separate off licence or ‘bottlo’  These are actually generally owned by the supermarket so its all a bit of a nonsense. Except in Aldi – where you can buy alcohol but you have to pay through a certain check out!
  18. “getting the shi*ts” here does not mean what it means in the UK. I gave a fellow nurse a very puzzled looks when she used this phrase in a handover one evening about a baby. I wondered for a while if this baby appeared to have some sort of gastrointestinal issue going on. It, in fact, means getting angry.
  19. One for the teachers. Education funding for each child in NSW will follow that child whichever institution they go to. So if you send your kid to a $45K a year school, that school will still get their portion of government funding for that child.
  20. No matter how hard you try a British person you can never really genuinely refer to flip flops as Thongs without wincing a bit.

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