Criminals vs Rebels

Departing Australia

Australian friend: Well, we are a bunch of criminals over here.

Us: Is that considered better or worse than the bunch of violent rebels we come from?

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One of the things that has amazed us about Australia has been its similarity to the United States.  In some previous articles we talked about how the “imperfect mirror” taught us some pretty profound lessons about racism (theirs and ours) but the little things were just as fun.

We have the same TV shows
(2 and a half men is a big deal down under…who knew?)

we drive big cars
(Mad Max was an Australian movie…)

and we speak
(…’a horribly maimed version of’…)
the English language.

After all, we we’re both colonies formed by the same father country!

So as a salute to the continent that is a country and that constituted one of the largest single portions of our journey, here are some of the little things that made “down under” so interesting…

Here’s a brief list of some of differences we encountered:


  • Australian’s drive on the wrong (left) side of the road.
  • Which means their steering wheels are ALSO on the wrong side and you have to shift gears with the wrong hand!

(Amusing fact: the way locals can tell an American is driving in Australia / New Zealand?  Their windshield wipers come on at the intersection.  Think about it…;-) )

  • They use European road signage.
  • Young people have no idea how to think in Imperial units (Feet and lbs and whatnot), but like Canadians, people over 40 can!
  • Like parts of the United States, Australia has a large herbivore that constitutes a significant road hazard.  Unlike the United States, that animal is not a deer, it’s a kangaroo.
  • Road trains can be four trailers long.

(They shimmy going down the highway.  Freaking TERRIFYING)

  • Australia really does have a multi-party election system with more than just 2 political parties in their parliament.
  • Third party car insurance is mandatory, paid annually, and proof of payment in full must be presented to the DMV before you can register your car.
  • Registering your car costs almost $1000.00 USD as opposed to the roughly $60 USD we’ve paid in the US.
  • Prescription medication and doctor’s visits can be pretty cheap (benefits of universal healthcare).
  • Also, the flying ambulances are cool.20110405 (19)
  • Road side rest stops, city parks and some campsites frequently have nice, electric BBQ grills.
  • and free overnight camping spaces on the side of the road.
  • Speaking of barbecues…they call shrimp “prawns”

(…and therefore do not understand the phrase “put another shrimp on the barbie.”)

  • We have a very different sense of humor.

(The whole “taking the piss” thing was difficult to really understand)

  • Very few people live in the middle of the country.  Only about 15% of their population…
  • Ketchup is called “tomato sauce”.


  • They put beets and eggs on their burgers.
  • Large areas of the northern part of Australia regularly become flooded in for weeks or months during the rainy season.


  • They are a social drinking culture, unlike our social eating culture.
  • Their main coffee drink is a “flat white”.
  • And they don’t have drip coffee.  At all.
  • Each denomination of their money is a completely different color and the notes are different sizes.  Also dollars are in coins only.
  • Cigarette tax makes the price of smoking extremely high – $17 for a normal pack.
  • They have strange and regional names for their beer sizes: bottles are “tall-ies” or “stubbies”, drafts are “pots”, “middies”, or “schooners” and are different sizes depending upon where you are in the country.
  • Drink tax makes all of the above stupid expensive.
  • Cockatoos are not exotic animals and are considered pests…as are kangaroos
  • They’ve never heard the Chili’s Baby Back Ribs commercial and can’t sing along.  When enough North Americans sing it together they get scared.

(Funny story that…)

  • Fuzzy Wuzzy was not a bear.  He was a tribe of Papa New Guinea natives who led Australians through a hazardous journey across PNG to defend the northern coastline from the Japanese during WWII.
  • They eat Vegemite, “tiger toast,” “fairy bread” and Milo…and they eat it all in very specific ways.

 Australian / American similarities:

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(Yes, you can drive in a straight line for 24 hours straight and still be in the same country.)

(Though, with currency conversion it’s technically about $0.54 in OZ)

For more of our adventures in cultural differences, check out our exploration of how the people of Tahiti’s views on Sex & Jesus differ from our own.

About the authors

Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures.  If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagullsopening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out!

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