Welcome to Aussieland!

Rebecca Pomerantz Sydney, Australia


April 12, 2023

If you’re bored of studying domestically and think Aussie life is for you, then you’ve come to the right place. I have a few words of advice that might make your transition easier.

#1: Remember that you have the accent, not them. As soon as you open your mouth to speak, the secret is out. You turn from a shy, anonymous Australian to a loud, opinionated American in a matter of seconds. This might sound daunting, but it’s not all bad! Being the only American in the room has its perks. For one thing, everyone wants to hear you talk all of a sudden. They’re dying to know what the biggest difference is between Australia and the US. This is your chance to make a good impression, so don’t blow it on answers like “We’re standing upside down” or “School is much harder there.” Your mere presence has piqued their interest and you have an easy way in. Australians are lovely creatures, so solidify the friendship by answering all their questions. Go on! Give them a taste of your intriguing, right-side-up perspective, and soak up all the attention you can get. But don’t expect to walk away without enduring a jab or prank. 

This brings me to #2: drop bears. During your time in Aussieland, someone is bound to play the drop bear trick on you. I’m sorry to ruin it for the mischievous Aussie who would have chosen you as their next culprit, but I’m sure they can find plenty more gullible Americans wherever they found you. Here’s how it usually goes down:

“How ya going, mate?”

“Hello, sir.” (never call them a mate)

“Be careful on your way home from rock climbing tonight. We have these animals - not sure if you’ve heard of them - called drop bears. They like to linger in trees and pounce on unsuspecting pedestrians.”

“But there are no trees on the way home from-”

“I reckon you walk through a park at some point in your journey, correct?”

From there, the fear sets in. Regardless of whether you genuinely believe it, you will scurry home that night with your head down.

The next time you run into your new friend, they’ll give you helpful bear-avoidance techniques that they forgot to mention during your first encounter, like smearing vegemite behind your ears. 

#3: Don’t try vegemite unless you want to be gagging for the next hour. How did they bring this revolting substance into existence, you might ask. I’ll tell you. They use one hefty, reusable container because they respect the environment. They fill the container with salt, grind it up, and solidify it. And then they sell it to the masses.

On a tastier note, I assume you’ve heard of the most delicious snack in the world: Tim Tams! Always opt for the dark chocolate kind, not the original.

#4: Do not utter the phrase “shrimp on the barbie.” First of all, Australians don’t even say shrimp. They say prawns. Unless you come across someone from the outback, barbie means exactly what it sounds like to us: a barbie doll. So the phrase is practically gibberish. In conclusion, leave your barbie shrimp at home with the American friend who taught it to you. 

#5: Australians will bombard you with talk of their celsius and centimeters, claiming that no one else uses the American measurement system. This argument can be avoided with one simple question: how tall are you? Five foot seven, they might respond. Bam! You win.

#6: Swim under or get demolished. You choose. Don’t go into the ocean thinking that it will be a relaxing swim. It’s treacherous out there. If you try to face a powerful wave head-on, it will consume you and probably your swimsuit too. The only thing scarier than wiping out is getting caught in a riptide, which is the only thing we learned about during USYD orientation. Their advice was mostly to stay calm, which seems to be the Australian motto. Worst comes to worst, you’ll be the new star of Bondi Rescue. 

My final piece of advice is to know what you’re getting into. You will get lost, waste time, say the wrong thing, and feel embarrassed. Just accept that it’s all part of an incredibly valuable, formative experience. And remember to reapply sunscreen and vegemite to avoid the top two causes of death here: skin cancer and drop bears.