Wonder Downunder (Things a North American should know before heading to Australia)

Axioms and Oz-isms

The roadways

  • They drive on the left side of the road and think that is normal.
    • This is a danger even as a pedestrian. Definitely look both ways before crossing a street.
    • Be very mindful when cycling in street traffic. A car could come at you from any direction.
  • “Bitumen” – asphalt on a road
  • Road cameras are prevalent.
  • “Roo bar” – a frame of heavy metal piping on the front of some cars and trucks to minimize the damage to vehicles in a collision with kangaroos.
  • Despite “watch out for koalas” warning signs on the highways, and special wire mesh aids to assist them to cross highway dividers, koalas are very hard to spot. We saw lots of warning signs but never actual saw a koala in three weeks on the continent.
    • They are apparently perpetually stoned on their diet of eucalyptus leaves.
  • Cyclists have extreme right of way considerations.
    • Motorists must allow at least a meter of space before they’re allowed to overtake.
  • Pedestrians have no special rights.
  • It’s a moving violation to stick you hand out the window of a moving vehicle except for purposes of signaling.
  • Mustang GTs are somewhat exotic.
  • Sunroofs and convertibles are surprisingly rare.
  • Full-size pickup trucks and vans are exceptionally rare.
    • Work and tradesman vehicles are smaller pickups or El Camino-style cars.
  • No turns on red light permitted, unless there’s an arrow.


  • Architecture – most houses are built of stone or brick.
    • Very few wood frame.
  • Lots of solar panels on individual homes. Government subsidies.
  • Standard household electrical service is 240 volts, twice that of North American standard.
    • It will fry your travel hairdryer if you have the voltage selector set wrong.
    • Oddly, low voltage consumers like tablets, cell phones and laptops have no troubles. They all use transformers which can handle the a/c and provide the safe voltage.
  • Interior electrical wall boxes (light switches and outlets) are typically
  • Light switches are more compact and switch counter intuitively.
    • Press down to switch on. Up to switch off.
  • Power outlets generally include a power switch.


  • Dosh  (cash)
  • Lots of bakeries
  • Price is the price – taxes are included in sticker price.
  • No tipping expected.  (Some tip jars are seen.)
  • Hospitality and services cost more (probably because wages are higher to compensate for no tipping).
  • Some services (like haircuts) cost a little more on Sundays and holidays.

Terms probably unique to Australia

  • “Mozzie”  – mosquito
  • “Bin” – trash or garbage can
  • “Lolly” – any candy
  • “Frothy” (Froffy) – beer
  • “Sunnies” – sunglasses
  • “Surfie” – surf boarder

Terms maybe not unique to Australia

  • “Long black” – black coffee
  • “Flat white” – like a small latte but smaller and made with espresso
  • “I reckon” – I remember/think

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