Australia has traditionally had a Western culture, but originally the inhabitants of the country were the Aborigines. This indigenous group still lives there today and is deeply ingrained in Australian culture. Australians enjoy beach barbecues, football, cricket, nature walks and surfing. They like to be outside and with such a pleasant temperature I understand that all too well. The overwhelmingly beautiful nature also means that people like to spend as much of their free time outside as possible. When I write this piece, I think of all the beautiful jungles we walked through, the impressive waterfalls we got to see and the endless beaches, where sometimes, if you’re lucky, you could spot dolphins and humpback whales.
From special animals to typical food: I will name all the typical Australian things that make the country so unique.
1. Allright, mate (pronounced like: “Oooolrooit maaait”)
This is something all Australians often say. This is how they greet each other. Inhabitants of this country are very friendly, relaxed and easy going by nature. Something I really liked.
2. Havin’ a barbie on the beach – BYO booze
Every weekend in the Gold Coast, the beaches are filled with barbecue tents with families having a big barbecue party. Preferably with as many friends and family as possible who are all invited, with the announcement: “Bring your own booze!”.
3. Kangaroo meat, Chicken parmigiana, Vegemite and Anzac Biscuits
These are four typical things that originated in Australia. Kangaroo meat is a red-looking meat. I don’t know what it tastes like because I haven’t eaten it. Chicken Parmigiana sounds Italian, but it isn’t. It is a breaded chicken breast topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Really delicious.
You either love it or think it’s really gross: Vegemite. Vegemite is probably copied from the British variant Marmite, which has been wildly popular in Britain since the early 20th century. Vegemite tastes very salty, and it is made from yeast extract left over from beer brewing, supplemented with vegetables and herbs as a food additive.
Finally, Anzac biscuits have become indispensable on the shelves of Australian supermarkets. These cookies, which taste like coconut, have a rich history. It was first baked during the First World War, for the soldiers who had to stand at the front. The cookies were easy to eat and had nutrients that would give the soldiers plenty of energy. To this day, these cookies are still eaten a lot, you can also see them a lot in New Zealand.
4. Cricket en Footy
Two quintessential Australian sports. Cricket was brought from Great Britain and is a sport with a bat, wicket and a ball. Cricket is very popular in England but also in India, Australia and New Zealand. It’s a bit like softball, although the rules are completely different. Football is the name for Australian Football and is Australia’s most popular sport with the most followers. The sport is similar to rugby, but in practice it is much rougher. It is a team sport played by two teams of eighteen players on cricket grounds. They are really bulldozers of men (and women) who play it, which also makes it a lot of fun to watch ;-).
5. Koalas and Kangaroos
These are Australia’s two most iconic animals. Of course we didn’t want to miss these two animals when we were in Australia. Kangaroos are not that difficult to spot and we have seen them several times in the wild, also from very close. Wonderful and special animals, especially if they have a little one in their pouch and are happily jumping around. Really special to see.
Koalas, on the other hand, are much more difficult to spot and do not show their faces easily, because they are very shy and often live deep in the forests. But luckily there are plenty of Koala Rescue centers, where sick and weak koalas are taken care of and cared for. They sometimes fall from the tree causing them to hurt themselves, and then they are collected in a rescue center to recover. Here you can admire them up close. But beware: they are very shy and don’t like it when you touch them. They can easily bite or scratch you if you’re not careful.
Unfortunately, last year, due to the large forest fires, many of these sweet animals were taken along in the forest fires, and with them many other animals. The Australian koala fund reports that only 80,000 koalas remain in Australia and that the animal’s existence will completely cease here after that. Such a shame for these beautiful creatures.
6. Forest fires and floods – two extreme opposites
Australia has quite a harsh climate. One minute it’s extremely hot and there are many large forest fires going on all over the country. The next moment everything is flooded and there is some kind of major flood disaster. Australia has different climates: the center is dry and the east is wet, with large jungles and waterfalls.
7. Deadly Spiders, Snakes, Jellyfish and Crocodiles
This is probably the first thing you hear when you tell someone you’re going to be traveling through Australia. At least in my case it was. Everyone thinks deadly insects like spiders are scary as hell, but did you know there are only two deadly species of spiders in Australia, and that the chance that you will encounter them is very small? We have encountered a total of 0 snakes during the whole year that we have traveled through the country. So in stead of worrying I would more focus on channeling that energy into peace and enjoyment.
8. De ‘Tasmanian Devil’ from Looney Tunes really does exist
This is not a myth! He really does exist, in Tasmania. The Tasmanian devil is a carnivore and resembles a large black rat. The Tasmanian devil is the largest carnivorous marsupial. It hunts all kinds of small animals on its own at night. They are also known as robbers of lambs and chickens. This animal was the model for the cartoon character Taz from the Looney Tunes.
9. Australia has very different rules
You must wear a helmet when you cycle and you are not allowed to be drunk in the pub. Return home in time and not fight with other men. I made up the latter, but the former is really true: Australia has many rules that you have to adhere to, and those rules are a bit different than in most of Europe. Some rules, such as having to wear a helmet on a bicycle, are of course nonsense to Dutch people, but they are more important in Australia. There are often no special cycle paths, and the residents are not used to it and therefore pay less attention to them.
Also, you’re not allowed to park your car on the other side of the road and you can only sleep in your car for one night and it is prohibited in some parking spaces. We’ve had someone knock on our van hard in the middle of the night and try to shine bright lights into it to see if anyone was sleeping in it. Luckily our blinds were up, so they couldn’t see us.
10. Buns in Bunnings
Again, something quintessentially Australian, and as the owner of a 1992 van you’re going to love this hardware shop: Bunnings. The first time we came here, we needed a lot of little things like screws, bolts, lockers and other practical things for our van. When we arrived there was a place selling sausage rolls for charity. We were very hungry so we somehow felt like it, and they told us they were there for a good cause. We have seen this phenomenon very often in the country, especially in the Gold Coast. Every weekend near the Surf Life Saving Club there was a place selling sausage rolls or hamburgers with fried onions for charity. And as a vegetarian I have to admit that it smells really good…