When Steve & I decided to relocate to Australia, we thought that the transition would be smooth. No cultural shock would really affect us. The Australian lifestyle is pretty similar to the French or American one. The change in our way of life would not be too brutal. However, some small differences in our daily lives remind us now that we are not totally “home” anymore.
These cultural, lifestyle and traditional divergences could be a bit surprising almost shocking at first. Then, it became “normal”, commons things of our French & American expat lives in Australia.
1. The direction of traffic also changes for pedestrians
In Australia, a member country of the Commonwealth, car drivers are supposed to be on the left side of the road. But this rule also applies to pedestrians. As cars drive on the right side in both France and the U.S., we had to quickly get used to this divergence. The adjustment was sudden for Steve when he almost bumped into a jogger as he was innocently walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk.
So if you’re thinking about traveling or relocating to Australia, make sure to keep your left at all times. Look to your right first, then to your left to cross the street. Do not try to open the left car door if you’re going to drive.
2. They add ice cubes to all their drinks
Alright, I agree. It’s freakin’ hot in the Summer in Australia: up to 40°C aka 104°F. But ice abuse is not good for your brain. It’s going to freeze it! I must sound like an annoying customer when I ask to not have ice in my beer or cider. A habit, a custom to which I am adjusted now. Steve did not have much trouble adapting to this as Americans usually love ice in their drinks as well.
3. Coins do not make any sense
Aussie money is colorful and represents some symbols of the nation: kangaroo, indigenous and much more. Although, there is no logic with their coins. Indeed, a $2 AUD coin is much small than a $0.50 AUD one. You end up having huge pockets that ring because of these stupid and useless coins.
4. Make sure to go order your own food & drinks
We were both used to table service. So we quickly learned to go directly to the counter to order food and/or drinks. This rule usually applies to all bars, restaurants, and cafes. At first, we were a bit annoyed to not be able to order from a waiter in the room. Then, we got into the habit of ordering and paying first, then seating at our table with an order number with us. It is now an instinct action. However, sometimes a burst of our habits re-emerge. It can happen that we are amazed when no one in the room serves us.
5 Be ready to meet small unknown creatures
From times to times, we see a lizard in our garden in Unley. It salutes us by showing us its blue tongue. Other times, we glimpse a little spider which turns out to be a bit scary as it was hiding between two envelops. But the best encounter is with koalas whether they are wild in a national park or domesticated at Gorge animal park. Or even meeting our jumping friends, the kangaroos, who wonder around innocently at Deep Creek Conservation Park or amongst Barossa vineyards.
6 No names on house mailboxes @Domi
It was just a ritual, a habit. Once you move into your new place, you remove the old tenant’s name on the mailbox to put your own. Now it is over. Australians do not label their family name so that passerby know who lives there. Maybe they do not do this because they frequently move houses. Or because they don’t really think about it. Who knows!
7 Waiters & salespeople will ask “How are you going?” @Domi
Back in France, cashier and waiters are usually cold when they talk to customers. Let’s be honest! In general, you only just deserve a freezing “Bonjour”. However, in Australia, they pay close attention to their customers. When you just arrive, you can already hear them asking how I am, what I’ve been doing today: “How’s your day been so far?”, “What have you been up to today?”.
A much friendlier approach that surprised me or even annoyed me at first. I was wondering why do they want, need to know what ‘ve been doing today so bad. It is none of their business – typical reaction of a French person! Then, I learned how to reply to them or just say that everything’s fine. If Australians ask you “How are you going?”, it does not mean that they hope you’ll answer. It is more a polite way to make conversation. So, if you don’t answer their question, you won’t be rude or weird.
8 Liquor can be bought at a specialized store @Domi
It was fantastic that I could buy a few beers or bottles of wine when shopping at French grocery stores. In Australia, alcohol can be bought outside of Coles & Woolies. Go to BWS, Booze Brothers or Thirsty Camel. These liquor stores are specialized in liquors. They are often located close to grocery stores. No worries, Aussies have it all under control. They would not let you down on drinks. Liquor stores are even ahead of the game. They created a drive thru liquor stores so that you don’t even need to leave your car to bring some beers back home. A similar system to Mc Donald’s drive through.
9 No bread on the table of a restaurant @Domi
Oh, this habit was difficult to give up. You just need to order extra bread, or simply learn how to not have some at every single meal. At the restaurant, it is not always easy, especially when eating a dish with sauce. However, when at home, I have learned how to make my own bread or I sued to buy some at one of the best bakeries of Adelaide.
10 No matter what the problem is, the solution is in the “No Worries”
Australians are well-known to be chill. I think it comes from the fact that they don’t want to be bothered with stupid problems. They prefer to live the moment. Later on, I understood how and why they say “no worries” all the time. It is a way to say that your request will not be a problem for them to take care of. Although, I have noticed that this saying is sometimes used to avoid conflicts. It seems that Australians prefer to say “ok” / “yes” to everything rather than having to argue.
11 Simply “tap’n’go” when you want to pay by card
The “tap’n’go” payment method has become popular in Australia. Once you have an activated debit card, you simply need to tap it on the machine to pay. A method which seems lazy, but really practical and fast at the same time. However, I am always scared that if I lose my card anyone can use it to make purchases.
The “tap’n’go” can only be used up until a certain amount. After that, you need to insert your card to pay. By the way, you can also withdraw cash at the grocery store. Not kidding! Coles & Woolies turn into ATM. When your card is inserted into the machine, you can get cash out which is added to your total. Then, you get the notes at the end of the transaction. Fantastic!
12 Australians can control the volume of their voice @Steve
Unfortunately, Americans are famous for having voices that carry, even big mouths. Good surprise for Steve when buses and trams were quiet on the morning commute. He hates his fellows because they seem arrogant when they speak with their loud voices. He appreciates Australians’ control on the volume of their own voices. It is a general rule of course because the atmosphere tends to get loud after Aussies down a few beers.
13 Distances are not the same anymore
Australia is huge. Just to give you an idea, the nation covers most of the European countries. So for me, little Frenchie, I had to understand that distances are not the same here. L’ Australie est un pays immense. I quickly learned that what seems to be close on a map is not really walkable in reality. So, I either get ready for a long walk or I take public transport, or even I’d drive the car.
Likewise, distances between France and Australia, between the U.S. and Australia is quite important. Whenever we decided to go visit our families, we prepare ourselves to hours and hours of flight.
14 The car is the queen in Australia
Once they are allowed to drive a car, Aussies buy one immediately. It is understandable when you realize that going from one place to another can take ages. In the U.S., this is also commonplace. Having a car is essential and a major part of the culture as well.
However, Australians have a particular love story with their car. They spend a lot of time aboard their car because of traffic and distances. They also remain seated spending hours there: looking at the ocean, eating, reading a book confined in their vehicle. We didn’t really understand this attitude. But it seems that it’s their way of having a quiet moment by themselves away from any trouble.
Voilà! I hope that you enjoyed reading this top of differences in the daily life between France / the U.S. and Australia. Have you experienced any of these divergences? Any other ones which are not listed here? Feel free to leave a comment down below 😉