Before traveling to Australia for my study abroad program, I was informed of a developmental phase known as culture shock, which is a clash of one's views of the world and our new cultural environment. The previous views we hold come from our home culture. Although, I did expect a little more "Down Unda" before my trip, luckily the language, food and places in Sydney are very similar to the United States, making this culture shock less apparent.
This got me thinking where my idea of Australia came from. And while I thought this idea came from the advertising of Outback Steakhouse engraved in my brain, the stereotype for Australia, in general, was actually introduced to the states in 1986 when Paul Hogan introduced Americans to the image of Australians as rugged, carefree, and always carrying a big knife. Crocodile Dundee was the second most popular film in America that year and created a cultural wave that Outback Steakhouse's founders hoped to ride. Because of this wave, I perceived Australia as one thing, when it is really so much more.
For as far as it is away, there should be unrecognizable signs and people riding camels. Instead, it is comfortable and familiar. Even though Australia is mostly empty and a long way away, these 7 things are important to know about this amazing place.
1. Australia Is Not Just The Outback.
Within the first day of my trip, I was shocked by the number of places in Sydney that were similar to places in the United States. There is a lot of New York in the heart of Sydney, with of course a Chinatown. There is a taste of California on the coast near Bondi Beach (pictured). There is also a little bit of Washington DC throughout the parks and Parliament area. Can you imagine the three most booming and well-respected areas of the United States within a thirty-minute drive of one another? Australians can because their country is more than just the outback.
2. The Language Barrier Only Seems Big Because Of The Accent.
While they do make nicknames out of everything, most terms are outdated and not used. Outback Steakhouse plays on their Australian theme by naming the bathrooms "Blokes" (men) and "Sheilas" (women). The idea is clever but is not actually used. The only thing that is really different is the pronunciations of words, giving Australians their unique (some would dare to call it sexy) accent. And when singing there is no accent (sigh).
3. Shrimp On The Barbie Isn't A Thing —They Are Called Prawns.
Americans have been made fools of by using the term "shrimp on the barbie" when it is really prawns. Also, Foster's beer is barely served or even recognized here. Another thing that Outback Steakhouse overlooked was the Bloomin' Onion. This dish is hardly Australian considering that they like a lean and healthy diet, not fried onions heaped with cheese and bacon. The good news is that there are actually a few Outback Steakhouse in Australia, so I guess the food is considered pretty good here and Americans weren't too offensive to their culture. Pictured is a Kangaroo Sandwich. From my experience, Kangaroo meat is similar to deer meat and is pretty gamey.
4. While Most Animals Are Deadly, Not All Of Them Are Trying To Kill You.
My program went on an excursion to Tobruk Sheep Station, which provides visitors with a genuine Australian farm experience with the boomerang, whip and sheep shearing demonstrations. On this trip, we learned that of the world's ten most poisonous snakes, all are Australian. While this may sound daunting, most of them are just trying to their life just like you and are not looking to kill you. Same goes for the funnel web spider and box jellyfish. If you stay out of their way, you will live.
5. Not All Australians Should Be In Prison.
A guest speaker in my culture of Australia class, who was actually of convict blood, shared the country's history of being one big prison. Although today, the people are cheerful and likable. They have a society that is organized and prosperous.
6. Money Doesn't Work The Same.
You are probably like no duh Kylie, of course, USD doesn't equal AUD. But that is not what I'm talking about. I am talking about money in the sense of restaurant etiquette. Because minimum wage is higher for the service industry, tipping is not expected or recommended.
7. Not All Men Look Like Chris Hemsworth
After taking multiple trips to the beach area, it was disheartening to see that not every accent was matched with the looks of Chris Hemsworth. Yes, you heard me right, not every man surfs nor is fit and tan. Although, this may be for the best considering has their own type, which may not match mine.