Lessons Learned: Living in Australia After One Month!

As of today I’ve officially been living in Australia for a whole month!  Time has flown by and I can’t believe it’s already been so long! 

Half the time has been spent traveling the country and hostel-hopping, cramming as much into a little time as possible.  The rest of the time has been spent settling into my on-campus apartment in Perth, going through orientation and prepping for my last semester of my undergrad degree.

So here is a list of things I’ve learned (some lessons easier than others) about life in Australia!

When in Rome... buy a 'Straya shirt filled with classic Aussie vibes

  • Australians like to leave letters out when pronouncing words.  For example Cairns is pronounced “cans” and Melbourne is “melbin”.  Everything is also abbreviated to the point where it’s basically a new word.  The town of Fremantle is called “Freo”, gas stations are service stations and shortened to “servo”.  No one says “Western Australia” but “WA”.  Even when speaking you pronounce the letters W and A instead of just saying Western Australia.
  • Driving on the left side.  And drivers sit on the right in a car instead of the left, so when I head for the front seat I always end up trying to get in the driver’s seat. 
  • This also means when walking with two-way traffic you walk to the left.  So I end up zigzagging across walkways as natural instinct takes over and I correct myself back to the left side.
  • What we call college in America is Uni (short for University) everywhere else in the world, including Australia. 
  • Spaghetti and beans is something you eat for breakfast. Or spaghetti on toast.  Or in a toasted sandwich.  I have yet to try it but am assured it is quintessential breakfast meal growing up.
  • Tim Tams are kind of Australia's national cookie (or biscuit as you say here) and are delicious.  Drinking coffee or warm milk through one in the Time Tam Slam is even better.  Bite opposite corners off your Tim Tam, stick it in your beverage of choice, and drink through the cookie!  At least until it melts...

TIM TAM SLAM ✔️ Am I an Aussie yet? #timtams #newaddiction

A video posted by Ashley Sawyer (@loverlyashley) on

  • There are no pennies!  Just like Canada, Australia has decided to not use pennies, and simply round everything to the nearest 5 cent increment.  My wallet is significantly lighter compared to living in the US!
  • Taxes are included in advertised prices.  And they’re almost always rounded to the nearest dollar.  You pay $10 for a t-shirt that has a $10 price tag.
  • Alcohol is EXPENSIVE even with the advantageous USD/AUD exchange rate right now, so it’s a good thing I don’t drink much!  Sure if you go a bottle shop (liquor store) you can get beers, ciders and wine for good prices, but hard liquor is much more expensive.  And there’s no Costco selling Grey Goose Vodka under Kirkland brand for dirt cheap as an alternative, either.  So unless you’re willing to pay a small fortune when you go out, get ready for some serious pre-gaming and buy at duty free when you get a chance!
  • Australian Football is a thing.  It’s not soccer (or football to the majority of the world) nor is it American Football or Rugby, but an entirely different sport.
  • When traveling I was most commonly asked if I was Canadian, not American.  Apparently Americans don’t come to Australia very often and I only met a few in my travels, most people with an American (or Canadian) accent are Canadians.  At Uni it’s more common to meet Americans on exchange and that’s everyone’s first guess.
  • There are no $1 bills.  The smallest bill denomination is $5, but there are $2 and $1 coins!  The $2 coin is smaller than the $1, which makes no sense and I always end up pulling out the wrong coin. 

SnapChat has quickly become my favorite travel social media

  • Aussies say "hay" they way Canadians say "aye".  Like "The party last night was so much fun, hay."  Except the hay is pronounced like a question.
  • It is mandatory to vote in Australia.  If you don’t vote in either national or state elections, you get fined!  I was shocked and impressed when I heard this, coming from a country where the average voter turnout is below 50% unless it’s a presidential election year.  And even then it rarely passes 70%.  Australia consistently hovers in the 90-95% range.
  • Australia is essentially America Part 2.  As one Aussie put it: whatever America does, Australia wants to follow.  
  • It’s also a mixture of British and American culture, customs, architecture and style.  Between afternoon tea and small streets filled with Victorian era buildings, to sprawling suburbs, big malls/shopping centers and surf culture, Australia takes elements of both and creates something new.

Jumping for joy with my love for Oz!

Overall I LOVE Australia!  I could definitely see myself living here permanently if any job offers were to come my way!  The weather is fantastic, the beaches amazing, and so many incredible places to explore! I’m doing my best to hit as many as I can but in a country almost as big as the United States, it’s difficult to see it all. 

What are some of the surprising cultural differences you’ve come across?  Have a favorite Australia story?  Let me know!