It’s been four months now since I made the move from the UK to Melbourne. With native Australia having been invaded by the British in 1788 and us flooding over in the masses ever since, you may think that despite the huge distance between us both, the cultural differences would be minimal. To a certain extent you’d be totally right – it’s probably one of the easiest counties for us Brits to emigrate to and settle in. But there were, and still are, some things about the Australian way of life that both baffle and humour me in equal parts.

Here are just 10 initial observations I made as a foreigner attempting to settle into a lifestyle Down Under.


1. Australia Has ‘Milk Bars’

If you have an image in your head of milk-drunk toddlers with white moustaches perched on stools arguing with the bartender about why they can’t buy another pint with gummy bears, then you’d be imagining exactly what I did when I saw my first ‘Milk Bar’.

Milk bars are in fact simply corner shops selling groceries and newspapers, often with a little cafe or hot/fast food counter. Historically when they were first introduced in the 30s by the Greeks, they only really sold milk, ice-cream, milkshakes and American-style foods, hence the name. However seeing a modern day one from the outside still makes me smile as they look so outdated and some don’t even sell milk.

If you’re in Melbourne and want to get as close as you can to an authentic Milk Bar Cafe, you can find the very cute Rowena Corner Store in Richmond which has been operating since the 50s.


2. They’re Coffee Snobs

– Like real snobs

When I first moved to Australia on my working holiday visa, I did a trial shift for a cafe. The owner asked me if I could make a coffee to which I eagerly agreed – having previously made coffees at a restaurant job, I knew I could do them pretty well.

After berating my method every step of the way, the owner then proceeded to pour the end result (in my eyes a perfectly fine latte) down the sink right in front of me. If you think I didn’t get the job – then you’d be right.

Unbelievably you have to be barista qualified to get a job operating a coffee machine. Coffee drinking is definitely something taken very seriously in Australia, no matter what your social class or background.

A little word of advice: if you’re ever asked to make a coffee, say no to save yourself the embarrassment.


3. They’re Crude

Australia – the only country in the world where strangers are called mates and mates are called the derogatory ‘C’ word. But trust me, if you ever get called this word then it’s the biggest compliment in the Australian vocabulary.

Being a Brit and consequently naturally prudish, I’m probably more sensitive to this than many. But I can’t help but snort out loud when I see trucks plastered with business names such as ‘Erect It’, ‘Loves a Dump’ and ‘Always Pumping’. How can they be so damn cheeky yet still find people take them seriously as a professional and competent business?! Only the Aussie’s with their quirky, slightly ballsy sense of humour could get away with that.


4. They’re Monsters Behind the Wheel

Road rage – you haven’t experienced it properly until you have driven in an Australian city.

Hesitate for a second at traffic lights and they will beep you into oblivion. Get into the wrong lane and you have literally no hope of getting to your onward destination. Undertaking, overtaking, cutting in front of you with an inch either side to spare, Aussies will literally not let anything (even other road users), get in the way of where they want to go.

Out here you can even can drive a manual car with just an automatic driving licence. It’s no surprise that during my daily commute I see the aftermath of a crash or hear a fleeting argument shouted from rolled down windows basically every day.


5. They Abbreviate Everything

The Australian’s are all about saying what they want to say with as little effort as possible. Words with any more than five letters get chopped and an ‘o’ often added to the end. For example, afternoon becomes ‘arvo’, average become ‘avo’ and a service station a ‘servo’.

Then there’s the slang. You should have seen my perplexed face when I got asked ‘are you coming for a smoko or are you saving it for ron?’ Firstly, who the hell is Ron and why does he want my ‘smoko’ when I don’t even smoke? The literal accurate translation is in fact: ‘are you coming for a break or are you saving it for later this afternoon?’ It’s like speaking in riddles that you get the gist of but can’t quite fully work out.


6. There are More Kangaroos than Humans

Australia is the 6th largest country in the world with a population of over 24 million. Considering the vast size of the country this population statistic is relatively low, especially as most people are concentrated around the cities. Away from the people, there are parts of the outback, the massive expanses of wilderness, that have not even been gazed upon by the human eye. It is especially here that the native kangaroo thrive, with an incredible 50 million of these cute but aggressive beasts residing in Australia, outnumbering humans by an incredible 26 MILLION!

Away from the inner city suburbs they are really easy to find – if they don’t unfortunately find your car bonnet first.

7. They have a Public Holiday for Football

Australian’s suck at all sports (or so my work colleagues tell me). This being said, they instead rather ingeniously created their own game, the AFL (Australian Football League) which is vaguely similar to American football.

The Australian’s are absolutely crazy for their national game, so much so that I was forced to declare who I supported on my first day in my job as if it were a prerequisite for how much I was going to fit in.

The grand final of the AFL which occurs at the end of September is such a big event, they even have a day off to celebrate it!


8. Going Out for Breakfast is Life

If you plan to visit or move to Australia, be prepared for your biggest financial outgoing to be on breakfast. Taking breakfast in a trendy cafe on a sunny Sunday morning is an essential part of everyday Aussie life. Moreover, a necessary rite of passage for anyone wanting to smoothly transition into life here.

Avocados are very rightly a national obsession that are a staple on most cafe brunch menus. Buying Avo on toast is also apparently the reason why millennials can’t afford housing but who would choose a house over avos anyway..?

9. They call Sweets/Candies ‘Lollies’

It’s such a trivial observation, but my Aussie mates I spoke to had no idea that the rest of the world don’t call them this. I can’t for the life of me work out why they use another word that has confusing similarities for something that already exists in the English language.


10. You Can’t Buy Alcohol From a Grocery Store

Drinking alcohol is an integral part of the European culture. Be it the French and their great wine, the Greek with their Ouzo aperitif or the Germans with their steins of beer. They however seem to manage it with considerably more class and moderation than us binge drinking Brits and Aussies.

Australia seems to have unfortunately adopted our own bad relationship with alcohol but the government (at least attempts) to be a lot more proactive with controlling it.

Alcohol can only be bought from dedicated bottle shops and not down an aisle in a grocery store; a law which seems to be purposely set out to inconvenience you. But walk your heavy shopping bags 10 steps from the check out and you can often find a dedicated bottle shop attached, which is just plain annoying.

Oh and forget a late night spontaneous pit stop for booze – they often close around 10pm.

I could go on with many more trivial points about the lovable annoyances of this incredible, laid back country but I hope 10 these made you smile.

Let me know if you have any other observations that you’d add to this list in the comments section below.