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Things American Expats Don’t Expect in Australia but Really Should

Not many Americans move to Australia. But the ones who do, find the country fascinatingly unusual. The Aussie English, the Aussie way of talking and the many quirky attractions of Aussie cities are definitely worth experiencing. Expats in Australia expect the country to be a never-ending run of Crocodile Dundee. It’s really not. Read ahead to find out which Aussie things surprise American expats the most:

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Ayurveda Next Door

Australia may have adapted to alternative medicine later than most, but now the country can’t live without it. There are discount oil massages, yoga classes, acupressure parlours and whatnot in practically every street corner in big cities. Regular western-medicine doctors may scowl at this craze, but that doesn’t stop people from searching for “baby chiropractor Melbourne.” Chiropractic treatments seem to be the most popular, whether for adults or infants. In case you don’t already know, chiropractic therapies stimulate the musculoskeletal system, helping to heal injuries to areas like the spinal cord. For some reason, Australians seem to seek out such treatments a lot. Additionally, Ayurveda seems to have really taken off (Deepak Chopra would be proud). New complementary therapies like aromatherapy and acupressure are also amusing to see advertised in newspapers.

Sunny Christmases

That’s right, Australia is below the equator, so all the seasons are the other way around. If you’re moving to Australia from North America, be ready to bid farewell to White Christmases. The weather can be confusing to get used to at first. Snowy days no longer indicate the time to get ready for Halloween or winter holidays. That comes in June. Well, the snow at least. There are no Christmas holidays in December. Weirdly enough, when it begins to snow around June, Australians celebrate a much-delayed Christmas. Stores offer Christmas discounts, restaurants offer special Christmas dinners and friends throw Christmas parties. On the flip side, particularly if you are from the Midwest, you won’t have to worry about snow storms or tornadoes. Instead, there will be scorching hot summers and many bushfires.

The quick brown dingo jumped over the what now?

Ah, the lingo. The first thing any American learns Down South is to stop using words like “gas,” “pickup,” and “quarters.” Instead, you’ll be Googling words like “tradie,” “ute” and “ta.” You’ll find yourself calling your buddies “maites,” instead of, well, buddies. In Australia, Barbies have less to do with a certain disproportionately thin-waisted fashion doll, and more with barbecuing meat over a grill. Expect to spend the avos in Sydney drinking big mobs of amber fluid swatting off mozzies. (Translation: Spend your afternoons in Sydney drinking loads of beer swatting off mosquitoes.) If an Aussie suddenly tells you “I’ll be stuffed,” don’t worry, they are just surprised at something. If anyone calls you a “kangaroo loose in the top paddock,” they are calling you stupid. Don’t tell Aussies you are “rooting” for anything. In Australia, “to root” is slang for having sex. So, learn to use "barrack" to cheer for your favorite sports team.

Exotic food

If you are touring a place like Melbourne or Sydney, don’t be surprised to find many Bangladeshi restaurants, Korean food stalls, Sri Lankan eateries and Indonesian street food joints, probably more than they actually have in Asia. Immigrants and refugees from less-fortunate parts of the world have transformed Aussie cities into thriving centers of multiculturalism. Food plays a big role in this. Many Americans are surprised to find aromatic dishes of noodle soups and flatbread, usually found in Southeast Asia, in sterile Australian cities. Well, it’s most certainly a great way to add some spice into life after moving to Australia.

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Cash only!

In America, card payments are the norm. In Australia, like many things, it’s the other way around—cash payments are the norm. So don’t go to the local c-store without a wad of Australian dollars in hand. Many stores openly advertise that they only accept cash. The few that do accept credit or debit cards often have a $10 or so minimum purchase limit. That may suck, but expats eventually get used to it. Australian cities are far safer than American ones, so you won’t have to worry about getting mugged at gunpoint while carrying Queen-faced currency.

Oh, and if you drive, be ready to be suddenly pulled over for a Random Breath Test (RBT), especially if you are wearing shorts (which, to Aussie cops, scream daytime drinker). Australia is an amazing country to move to, as long as you can wrap your head around all of the above.

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