Things I have learned about Australia so far

“So is it really that different from the UK, living in Australia?” This is something I’m asked on a semi-regular basis. And actually, it sort of is. But in a very subtle way.

Now that I’ve lived here a full year, I think it’s high time I shared what I’ve learned about these subtleties, in case it might help some other poor pom.

I have now lived in Australia for a whole year, and this expat has learned a thing or two about life here let me tell you. Today I'm sharing some key life lessons about living in Australia as a British expat: www.anestingnomad.com

You stand on the left on escalators, not on the right

This one fully blew my mind. And got S fully grumped at by a so-called laid back Sydneysider when he got it wrong. This makes no sense to me. In the UK we drive on the left hand side of the road, same as the Australians, and we all speak English. In the UK, as any Londoner worth their salt will know, you stand on the right of an escalator. So why do they stand on the left of the escalators here?!

You need a PhD in signs

The parking signs here are beyond complicated. It’s 6.24pm on a Tuesday. Can I park here???

I have now lived in Australia for a whole year, and this expat has learned a thing or two about life here let me tell you. Today I'm sharing some key life lessons about living in Australia as a British expat: www.anestingnomad.com

I have been known to have to park, get out, study the sign for a good five minutes, do a google, and the move on because I’m still not sure. On the plus side, parking machines here take cards which is extremely sensible and gives me a huge sense of relief every time I approach a meter.

The kerbs are vicious

You know that horrible noise of the underneath of your car scraping against something hard and unyeilding? The one that makes you wince, suck in your breath and go “ooooohhhhrrrrrr”? Yeah that happens about once a week here when turning into driveways, ramps, shopping centres, etc. Despite going extremely slowly and taking things at an angle, the kerbs just keep coming to get me. They’re massive, and unforgiving. Partly it’s because I don’t drive an SUV, and partly it’s down to the gutters and drains built to withstand Sydney downpours, but it’s miserable and I don’t like it.

Houses are often wooden

I am from a country of stone or brick houses. Those are really your two options, materials wise. So to find a significant proportion of houses being wood makes me wonder how it’s not just going to fall down around my ears one day. It does make renovations a heck of a lot easier though, as I have learned through watching The Block.

People still wear ties to work

I don’t remember the last time I saw someone wearing a tie to work in London. But here in Sydney CBD there were ties a-bristling at a breakfast meeting I went to a few months ago. People here generally dress up super smart for work, which is an interesting contrast to the laid back image of Australia. Designer labels are big here, too. It’s been quite a shock for my charity shop loving self.

Shopping malls are a big deal

If you’ve ever been to Bangkok you’ll know what I mean when I say shopping mall culture. Instead of a familiar British high street, with a mixture of modern and ancient buildings all happily rubbing alongside each other and a familiar suite of shops (WH Smiths, Boots, M&S, Topshop and 17 betting shops) you’ve got shopping centres (called malls here) at the centre of the community in Australia. They will usually have a similar set of shops as well (Kmart or Big W, Woolies, Coles, Target, Sportsgirl, and a juice bar) but all set in a (usually very nice) mall. As well as free loos (!) and plenty of air conditioning there will usually be a food court which has its very own culture that I’m only just beginning to understand. Shopping malls have their pros and cons vs high streets, of course, but I have to say I am enjoying the novelty of the mall experience.

I have now lived in Australia for a whole year, and this expat has learned a thing or two about life here let me tell you. Today I'm sharing some key life lessons about living in Australia as a British expat: www.anestingnomad.com

Eating out isn’t so expensive

Compared to the general cost of living, eating out isn’t quite as expensive as it is in the UK. Ok, it’s still a long way from being described as cheap, but in the context of everything else in Australia being extremely expensive, eating out is only quite expensive. One game changer is the aforementioned food courts, which can actually have some pretty decent restaurants in and are a perfectly acceptable place to go for an evening meal.

Also sushi is a lot cheaper here. And better.

You can buy painkillers in big boxes

In the UK, you can only buy one pack of 16 painkillers (paracetamol or ibuprofen) at any one time to try and cut down on overdoses. Fair enough, however I have chronic pain and my husband has some issues too so 8 pills each was generally not enough to get us through the 2-3 weeks we’d have between trips to the shops. And the last thing you want to do when you have pain is travel to the shops just to buy pain relief. So I’m (selfishly) quite glad that there are no restrictions on how many painkillers you can buy in one go here. Hooray!

Wog is not a rude term

The first time I heard someone refer to someone else as a ‘wog’, I gasped. Turns out, it’s not a rude term here, and refers to people of Mediterranean-ish origin. I say ish because it can be used pretty widely, but it’s generally not considered to be offensive. I still won’t say it anyway. Oh and there’s also a brand of cheese here called ‘Coon’.

Moving along…

Cadbury’s are on steroids

I am a big fan of Cadbury’s, having lived just down the road from their famous Bournville factory for a 3 years when we were newlyweds. But over here it’s like having walked directly through the looking glass into alternate universe Cadbury’s – it’s not just the standard Dairy Milk, Bournville, Cadbury Caramel… Here there are banks and banks of different flavours. You’ve got some old favourites like Top Deck (one layer of milk chocolate, one of white) which will always be around, then the limited editions of which there seems to be a new one every week. At the moment there are a lot of Spiders, which is not a nod to the venomous flora here but rather to a milkshake with ice cream in, apparently known here as a Spider. Who. Knew.

I have now lived in Australia for a whole year, and this expat has learned a thing or two about life here let me tell you. Today I'm sharing some key life lessons about living in Australia as a British expat: www.anestingnomad.com

The downside to this is that just as you discover your new ultimate favourite flavour, it is in danger of being discontinued. Speaking from bitter personal experience.

But the sweets are rubbish

If you know me you know I have a sweet tooth, but it’s quite tricky to find decent sweets here (all referred to as lollies, even if they’re not lollipops. It makes no sense to me either). There just aren’t that many types to choose from, and the pick n mix is usually a bit suspect, too. I really miss dolly mixtures, and Haribo, and those little 3-for-£1 packs of teeth and lips, foam bananas, milk bottles, raspberry mushrooms, fizzy cola bottles…

Getting a plane is like getting a bus

In the UK if you’re flying anywhere you’re generally going to be going international. Which means for every flight there’s the passport shenanigans, extensive security, liquid restrictions, and arriving 3 hours before your flight or however long your anxious tendency/traffic dictates you arrive.

Here, a lot of flying is done domestically. This means you can waltz up to the airport half an hour before your flight departs and still have time to hang around at the gate. Just as long as you’re not checking a bag. In which case you’ll probably need to get there 45 minutes before your flight leaves, just in case. Airports are smaller here, too, so there’s much less ground to cover in general.

You can get on a plane with liquids over 100ml

This one blew my mind, as well. Not only is timeliness not so much of an issue, but neither are the stringent security rules we follow in the UK. Here, if you’re flying domestic, you can take whatever you like on the plane with you as long as it’s not an aerosol. That’s literally it. Yes you have to take out your laptop to go through security but it’s such a light procedure compared to the UK that it’s basically a frequent traveller’s dream.

For a little while after I moved here I kept unpacking my little ziploc bag of tiny toiletries every time I went through domestic security, out of sheer habit. That was one habit I was happy to kick once I realised I was getting strange looks from the security staff.

You can go airside without a boarding pass

A final airport related realisation. Again, in the domestic terminal, you can go through security without a boarding pass. This means you are free to see people off to gates, meet folks arriving, or even hold meetings in the airside Qantas meeting rooms. Or just, y’know, sample the excellent cuisine available in the terminal*.

*NB heavy sarcasm.

So I have to know. Are you totally side-eyeing me like how did you not know this? Or do you find any of these points particularly strange?

-Rachel

I have now lived in Australia for a whole year, and this expat has learned a thing or two about life here let me tell you. Today I'm sharing some key life lessons about living in Australia as a British expat: www.anestingnomad.com

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15 Comments

  1. 15th May 2018 / 17:25

    I loved this post. Your perspective made me look at my ‘ordinary everyday’ with fresh eyes. We are a very mall centric society in Australia!

    I honestly would have thought that you’d have more Cadbury products than we do here. Everyone here raves about the quality and taste of UK Cadbury over Australian made Cadbury.

    It’s been very exciting to me having UK teas now on sale at Woolworths. I remember bringing home boxes of PG Tips when I visited London.

    SSG xxx

  2. 15th May 2018 / 20:46

    Waaaait wait wait. You’re trying to tell me the public loos aren’t free in the UK?!? What?! 😳😳😳

    But whoever told you a spider is a milkshake with ic3 cream is wrong – it’s soda/soft drink with a scoop of ice cream!

  3. 16th May 2018 / 05:30

    This is so interesting! I never would have guessed that ties and dressing up were a big deal, and I’m always buying big bottles of ibuprofen 🙂

  4. 16th May 2018 / 19:58

    The ibuprofen thing always gets me. I remember going to visit a friend in San Francisco and she insisted on giving me some paracetamol for the next part of my trip in case I needed any (I really don’t bring sensible things or first aid kids with me – I’m lucky if I have plasters) and she whipped out this huuuuuge tub. I was like “wtf is going on here, how is this legal?”, she thought it was pretty funny that we can only buy 16 tablets at a time.

  5. 16th May 2018 / 21:08

    My mom was just commenting on the niceness of our malls yesterday. I have pretty much observed all of these things too. You should see how high the curb is on our driveway, it’s insane. The airport thing still blows my mind, domestic travel in the US is sooo much more intense.

  6. 16th May 2018 / 22:55

    ok well this is fascinating to me. especially because i’ve not been to either location so i find it to be valuable intel ha. seriously those parking signs are giving me a headache. i feel like no one should have to deal with that. ha

    xoxo cheshire kat

  7. 17th May 2018 / 07:12

    That’s so crazy that they have such lax rules when it comes to flying domestically! I will say that I felt like the rules were pretty strict in the UK flying domestically (when we flew from Edinburgh to London about a week or two after the Manchester bombing they were very strict on our liquids), more so than the US where half the time they don’t care if your liquids are contained in multiple spots in your bag, as long as it’s below the amount restrictions. And I never realized that shopping malls aren’t a thing in the UK. They’re all over the US as well, but I feel like they’re kind of dying out since you can buy a ton of stuff online now.

  8. 17th May 2018 / 13:32

    I grew up in country with big malls (South Africa) and we call ice cream in soda a ‘float’ – but the escalator thing!!!! So wrong – it gets me every time!!

    Flying internally is interesting too! No passport needed! We live quite close to the airport but I still have the urge to be there hours before 😂

    And lollies…. 🙄 … why oh why!!!

  9. 18th May 2018 / 16:10

    Nodding along to all of this! Hate to say we still get confused by the parking signs and it’s been 10 years now. Totes with you on the lollies situation, although I am heartened to find Fruit Pastilles in Woolies! The thing I love about eating out here, is not only that is it not super expensive but it’s exceptional quality! And yes, yay for big boxes of painkillers. Weird but wonderful!

  10. 20th May 2018 / 06:53

    Check out all that Cadburys! The airport procedures sound like a dream, UK is so stressful.

  11. 21st May 2018 / 21:13

    I love being able to surprise people by meeting them at the airport gate here! But it doesn’t work for international flights, you still have to wait for them to clear customs. But if we have family that have come to Brisbane via another destination in Australia it’s hilarious seeing their faces when they hop off the plane and you’re right there!

    I’ve never really thought about the lolly situation but I have been more of a chocolate person. The disappearing flavours can be frustrating though! I have one bar left of the Caramilk and I’m too scared to open it as you can’t find more now!

    Hope that you are having a great start to your week! 🙂

    Away From The Blue Blog

  12. 22nd May 2018 / 20:21

    Oh my gosh haha! The Cadbury’s aisle is insanity! I feel like I’d get so fat just by standing in that aisle! I’ve yet to go to Australia, but as I have cousins there, it’s definitely on my bucket list of adventures. It’s so fun to read posts like these!

  13. 25th May 2018 / 00:23

    Haha I’m really loving how these posts remind me of lots of NZ things I’d forgotten! Bad – no Haribo. Good – the joys of domestic travel!

  14. 27th May 2018 / 21:16

    Hello ,

    I saw your tweet about animals and thought I will check your website. I like it!

    I love pets. I have two beautiful thai cats called Tammy(female) and Yommo(male). Yommo is 1 year older than Tommy. He acts like a bigger brother for her. 🙂
    I have even created an Instagram account for them ( https://www.instagram.com/tayo_home/ ) and probably soon they will have more followers than me (kinda funny).

    I have subscribed to your newsletter. 🙂

    Keep up the good work on your blog.

    Regards
    Wiki

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