I hope none of this comes back to bite me in six months’ time, but from someone who’s only just arrived in this awesome country, here are some of my first observations (in no particular order):
+ Everyone wants to be your friend
Australians are extremely social people and love to strike up conversations to strangers. I’ve never been any other place where it’s this easy to talk to people, to anyone. They smile, they joke around, they pat you on the back and shake hands with just about everyone. It’s a different kind of friendliness than the one I got to know while living in the US; a much more casual one. I adore the way every person I’ve met just once treats me a long lost friend the next time I pass them by on the street. This has got to be the easiest country in the world to live if you’re even slightly worried about how to make friends in a new place.
+ Australians seem to go out of their way to make it easy on foreigners
As someone who’s had to establish herself to a certain degree in a number of countries (cell phone, bank account, transportation, health care etc), I am blown away by how easy everything is in Australia. As long as you have an ID and a some sort of paper with your name and address on it, anything can be fixed on the spot. If all you have is an ID – no problem! We’ll get it done anyway and then just come by with the proof of address and/or money whenever you get the chance.
You know the Einstein quote “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”? That’s Australia, whereas Cuba, for example, was “everything should be made as hopelessly difficult as possible, but no more difficult than that.”
+ The days are much shorter
This came as a complete surprise to me; it hadn’t even crossed my mind that I would have to get used to the sun setting much earlier. Back home the nights are endlessly long this time of year and you’ll only run out of sunlight for a few hours in the middle of the night. Here, it’s dark by 6 pm year-round, which means that after 5 pm I automatically go into “end-of-the-day mode” and feel the urge to reach for my PJs. This will definitely take some getting used to…
+ It turns out kangaroos are not harmless
The University of the Sunshine Coast is famous for its location in the middle of a wildlife reserve. What this means is that we have wild kangaroos jumping around on campus every day (as well as exotic birds, frogs and snakes apparently. I’ll let you know when I see one). These kangaroos – while cute, funny-looking and fascinating creatures – are extremely territorial and will kick you to a pulp if provoked, so we’ve been repeatedly told to always keep at least a 3-meter distance.
You’d think this would be easy enough to maintain, right? The only problem is that in order to get from campus to our accommodation (a five minute walk) you need to cross a wooden pathway/bridge past a lake with a surrounding wetland. I heard a story last week of a girl walking home from the library one night who had the misfortune of wanting to cross over the wetland to get home to bed at the same time as a huge male kangaroo. Imagine walking home in the dark and seeing the silhouette of a huge rat-like creature standing 6 ft tall right in front of you. Not wanting to step closer than 3 meters and not having enough room on the pathway to go around it, the poor girl had no choice but to wait it out. They stood there and looked at each other for nearly half an hour until the animal finally jumped off in the other direction and she was free to go home.
+ Australians are extremely loud when intoxicated
I barely have words to describe how loud and wired and hyper these Australians have been in situations where alcohol has been involved. I’ve only been here a week++, but this is an observation I just can’t ignore. They’re like little Duracell bunnies jumping up and down while screaming. And smiling from ear to ear, of course. They look so happy while doing it that it’s hard not to love them, but holy crap – I’ve never experienced these levels of loudness for no apparent reason before. I’m going to try to dig into this a little further to see what all the yelling’s about, but so far I’ve just been staring them wide-eyed and flinching when someone goes YEEEEEWWWWWW!!!!!! in a high-pitched voice.
If you have any myths about Australians that you’d like me to investigate or debunk, don’t be shy – feel free to let me know! 😉