Summer holidays in Australia: 13 things that shock foreign visitors

For visitors, it must seem bizarre. The TV is turned on, there's a game of sport playing, the commentators are droning on about nothing in particular, no one is really watching it or paying any attention, but if you so much as think about grabbing the remote to change the channel, all hell will break loose.

Yes, this is summer in Australia. The cricket is on, but no one's watching. The sun is out, but you can't go swimming. There's no air-con, but you do have an inflatable paddling pool on the patio.

It must seem an odd time for foreigners who come over here expecting just warm days at the beach. In fact, some things about an Australian summer must seem bizarre beyond description …

It's hot at Christmas

Christmas at Coogee Beach, Sydney.

Christmas at Coogee Beach, Sydney. Photo: Alamy

"But it just doesn't feel like Christmas, does it?" That's probably the most common refrain you hear from foreigners in Australia over the December break. Yes, they enjoy the surfing Santas and the half-arsed attempts at Christmas lights and the fake snow on trees, and they'll even get into beach visits and buckets of prawns on actual Christmas Day. But to those from the Northern Hemisphere, a hot Christmas will never be a real Christmas.

We have giant flying cockroaches

There you are, sitting in the lounge room, minding your own business, maybe watching the cricket, when you glance up at the wall and there's a gigantic insect just casually wandering over towards you. Where the hell did that come from?! For Australians, this is your cue to quickly whip a thong off and slap that cockroach with the minimum of fuss. For non-Australians, it's your cue to scream and run out of the room and swear to never come back to Australia again.

You'll get sunburnt, even in Tassie

This ain't no Mediterranean sun. You can't go out there in factor 10+ bronzer and expect to survive the day. In Australia, you get burnt. If you don't slip, slop, slap, and constantly reapply, you'll be hideously toasted by the end of the day. The surprising thing is that this is true for the whole country – especially in Tasmania, our southernmost part.

There are jellyfish…

Wow, you think. It's so hot. Can't wait to jump in the ocean for a swim. Except, you're in far north Queensland, and summer is jellyfish season, which means regardless of how hot it is, it's far too dangerous to go plunging into the sea. That must seem like a cruel joke to most visitors.

See also: What you need to know about jellyfish and stingers

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And crocodiles…

<i>A friendly inhabitant of the Adelaide River, Darwin.</i>

A friendly inhabitant of the Adelaide River, Darwin. Photo: Alamy

Oh, and of course you can't go swimming in the Northern Territory either, but that's not because of jellyfish – there, it's the saltwater crocs. One of the hottest places in the world, surrounded by water, and you can't go for a swim because you'll be torn apart by a prehistoric reptile. Australia: beautiful, isn't it?

And snakes

Oh yeah, and we forgot to mention the snakes. Don't go wandering through long grass – we have extremely venomous snakes here. Keep an eye out when you walking through the bush, too. And, depending on where your Australian friends live, you may even see a few in the backyard, or in the house. Have fun with that.

It's hot, and then cold, and then rainy, and then hot again

I'm pretty sure most visitors would arrive in Australia thinking summer here is all bright, sunny days and nothing else. So they're be fairly shocked to find that isn't the case. You do get hot days in an Australian summer, but then you also get the odd cold day, and then you get tropical storms, and drizzly grey days, and then days so hot that you can barely even move.

We really like wearing thongs

<i>The Havaianas Thong Challenge on Australia Day in Sydney.</i>

The Havaianas Thong Challenge on Australia Day in Sydney.

Yes, thongs. Not flip-flops or jandals. Thongs. Get used to it. And in summer we'll wear thongs pretty much everywhere. We'll wear them to the beach, to barbecues, to the cricket, to the pub, to dinner, and to anywhere else we might happen to end up. It's a stereotype, and it's kind of daggy, but it's true. After all, thongs come in handy – you might need to kill a cockroach.

Everyone is on holiday

For most of the world, there's a small shutdown between Christmas and New Years, and then it's back to work as normal until later in the year. So it must be a little surprising to come to Australia and realise that everyone has left town. Shops are closed, bars and restaurants have shut, everyone's packed up and headed to the beach (or to the cricket, or, apparently, to go snowboarding in Japan).

You can't have a fire

We have some spectacular national parks in Australia, places where you can hike and bike and camp and just enjoy the feeling of being in the great outdoors. Unlike other countries, however, you can't have a campfire. Even though you know all of the good reasons for that, it's still disappointing.

Prices go up (even more)

Australia is an insanely expensive country for most foreign visitors, so it must be a shock to realise that the prices get even higher in summer. Accommodation, as with most places around the world, goes up in high season, as do the prices of tours and attractions, which makes this wide brown land of ours a pretty pricey destination.

People become obsessed with cricket

<i>Cricket fans in Brisbane.</i>t

Cricket fans in Brisbane. Photo: AAP

Here's the deal, foreign visitors: cricket is a game that goes for five entire days, and at the end of those five days you still might not have a winner and a loser. There are also two other completely different versions of cricket, which are kind of silly, but we like them anyway. Also, no one really watches cricket. Everyone hates the commentators. But the cricket will always be on in summer, and you're absolutely not allowed to touch the remote, or complain about it, or point out that it's really boring. Clear?

Not everyone has air-con

You would assume, coming from countries where everyone has heating for when it's cold and air-con for when it's hot, that all Australian houses would be similarly kitted out. Except, they're not. Plenty of Australians who live in some of the hottest places around have nothing more than a ceiling fan that lazily chops up the humid air while everyone in the house gathers underneath it with a few frosty beers and maybe a paddling pool to watch the cricket. Summer in Australia: you gotta love it.

What do you think would be the biggest surprises for foreign visitors during an Australian summer? What are the best and worst elements of life in the warmer months? Post your comments below.

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

​See also: The things Australia does better than anywhere else

See also: 20 things that shock first-time visitors to Australia

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