There are many assumptions about Australia shaped by the media, movies and memes. However, lots of these assumptions are far from the truth and may have misshapen peoples’ perspectives of this truly beautiful country.
From false Australian slang to dangerous drop bears and favourite beers, there’s a lot to dig up and set the record straight. Before you visit Australia, or if you’re an Aussie looking for a good laugh, ensure you read this blog to find out some of the worst assumptions about Australian culture.
Photo by Joey Csunyo on Unsplash.
12 Assumptions About Australia
1. G’day Mate.
Australians are known for being far more ‘Bogan’ than they really are. The first time I visited Australia, I assumed every conversation would start with “G’day Mate,” but boy was I wrong.
While this saying may be used by more country Australians or if you’re in the outback, it still is not as common as the movies portray. However, you will still hear the odd, “G’day,” every now and then, although I can’t say I’d recommend saying, “G’day Mate,” if you’re not Australian.
But, Australians do say, “Mate.” Again, not every Australian says it, but it’s not uncommon. Rather than expecting them to use it as a greeting, they use it more when saying things like “Thanks mate,” “Cheers mate,” “Aww mate!,” and so on.
2. Shrimp on the barbie.
No, Australians do not throw shrimp on the barbie — they throw prawns on the barbie! The famous line, “Slip another shrimp on the barbie for ya,” comes from a series of Tourism Australia’s 1984 – 1990 TV ads starring Paul Hogan (before he became the iconic Crocodile Dundee). The actual slogan of the ad was “Come and say G’day,” which is another reason why non-Aussies think “G’day” is a common saying.
While saying ‘shrimp’ instead of ‘prawn’ was done to better resonate with American audiences, it’s ironic Americans believe this is a peak Australian saying. Aussies have been cringing for years at this false Aussie saying.
3. Kangaroos and Koalas are everywhere.
This is a tricky one, because seeing koalas and kangaroos really depends where you are. In urban cities, you won’t see kangaroos or koalas roaming the streets, but it’s no surprise if you see them in suburban areas near bushland.
The media might have you believe native Australian wildlife is everywhere, or at least that’s how I felt whenever I heard about Australia when I was living in the U.S. There are certain parks where you’re more likely to see koalas (if there’s a lot of eucalyptus trees) and kangaroos, but they won’t be roaming any small portion of grassland or in your neighbourhood trees.
In saying this, a koala did end up clung to one of the traffic lights at my university, so I guess you never really know where you’ll end up seeing one.
4. Riding Kangaroos around.
Ahh yes, the classic, “Do you guys ride kangaroos to school,” myth. To answer this directly — no, no Aussies do not ride kangaroos around. I’m actually not too sure where this myth stemmed from, but somehow it’s still going. However, Australians do love telling non-Aussies they ride kangaroos to school, just to stir the pot.
5. Every animal in Australia can kill you.
Yes, there are animals in Australia that can kill you, from box jellyfish to crocodiles, but their threat to humans has been blown out of proportion. You may think sharks or snakes may be Australia’s deadliest animals, however a 2017 study by Melbourne University researchers found ‘more Australians have been killed by horses in recent years than all the country’s venomous creatures put together’.
While it’s still important to be cautious of Australia’s deadly animals, like the blue-ringed octopus, crocodiles and so on, there are also some of the friendliest animals in Australia. For example, quokkas are arguably the cutest creatures to ever exist, and they are only in Australia.
Travelling around Australia won’t mean wrestling a crocodile or punching a shark on your way through and it’s extremely rare to experience any sort of fatality from Australian animals. Although pop culture loves to entertain the joke that everything in Australia wants to kill you, visitors do not need to fear. Most dangerous animals are hard to come by and you’ll have to enter their habitat to find them, meaning you’ll be prepared to encounter them and they won’t bother you unless they feel threatened.
So remember, if you don’t want to see dangerous animals, you don’t have to! And if you do want to go see dangerous animals, just stay calm and if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you either — unless it’s a drop bear. Make sure to not approach wildlife in Australia, if animals feel like they’re in danger, they may attack you; it’s not worth putting your life at risk.
6. Koala Bears.
Koala bears are not actually bears at all. They were previously called koala bears when European settlers came to Australia and thought they looked like small bears. Koalas are actually marsupials, meaning they carry their offspring in a pouch and are not related to bears. Therefore, please don’t call them koala bears, unless you’re from the 1700s.
Adding onto this, Australians love tricking visitors into believing vicious drop bears are out to get them. The story is that if you’re out hiking, you better watch out for drop bears, who are waiting to drop in on their prey from the trees.
It’s quite amusing how much fun Aussies have trying to prank others with their own culture. It’s like a joke the whole country is in on — if you hear one person telling someone to watch out for drop bears, everyone and anyone will jump in to help make a confirming case.
7. It’s never cold.
Australia is best known for its hot beaches and dry deserts, which is why a lot of people don’t realise Australia can hit cold temperatures too. Yes, Australia can reach soaring temperatures and in some areas it is extremely hot with a record of 50.7°C (123.3°F). But it sees cooler temperatures too. For example, certain areas have regular snow seasons, like Perisher, NSW, with temperatures averaging from -4°C to 4°C.
In Melbourne, you can expect winter temperatures to be about 7°C to 16°C and even the sunny Gold Coast can hit 9°C in winter months.
Australia is actually a diverse country, covered in beautiful landscapes from red deserts to snow capped mountains.
8. Australian’s are laid back.
This is a tricky one, because it’s both true and false in some ways, and can be rightfully argued both ways. Australian culture is a lot more laid back, with a ‘no worries’ way of living. It’s definitely a lot more relaxed, so I’m not surprised that the country scored a 7.35/10 on the happiness index.
However, this doesn’t mean that Aussies aren’t hard workers. Business owner David Nichols explains, “I think the biggest misconception about Australia is that Australians are not hard workers. People actually work very hard but talk as though it is nothing.”
This may play part in the misconception that Aussies aren’t working as much or as hard as people in other countries. It’s also hard to get a job in Australia, with air-tight visa restrictions and a competitive job market. Therefore, you have to work hard to get a good career.
Foreigners assume Australians eat Vegemite like Nutella, with a thick layer spread on a slice of bread. However, less really is more with Vegemite, and it is enjoyed spreading a thin layer over buttered toast, due to its bitter taste.
My family made this mistake when we first visited the Land Down Under, and wide-eyed Aussies watched as my brother took a big bite out of toast he had just smothered in Vegemite and laughed when he realised it wasn’t like Nutella.
Speaking of famous Aussie foods, they also love Milo, pavlova and Weet-Bix.
10. Australia is a small country.
Another false assumption about Australia is that it’s a small country. This is not true. Australia is actually close in land mass to the US — Texas can fit into Australia 11 times.
People who haven’t been to Australia often picture it to be a smaller country, possibly because it’s so far away from everything else. It does have a small population for its land mass, with 25 million people over 7.7 million km2, with most people living around Australia’s coastlines.
11. All Australians are descendants of convicts.
Britain did transport over 160,000 convicts to Australia beginning in the 1700s, but this doesn’t mean all Australians are descendants of convicts. Australia is a multicultural country, and many modern Australians are descendants of immigrants from other countries, or descendants of non-criminal people from Britain. Today, there are just over 40,000 prisoners, so those looking to visit Australia don’t need to think of it as a large Alcatraz anymore.
12. Fosters beer.
Fosters in an Australian beer brand, but it’s not Australia’s favourite beer as the media likes to allude to. It’s actually not even brewed in Australia; it’s brewed in Manchester and loved most by the British.
You can find Fosters in Australia, but it’s not Aussie’s beer of choice. Australia’s favourite beers include Victoria Bitter (VB), Carlton Draught, Great Northern, in addition to local micro-breweries.