The 14 mistakes first-time visitors to Australia make

"G'day mate!"

That's probably the friendly greeting most first-time visitors to Australia would expect when they land at the airport and make their way to the customs desk. So the stern look and the barked questions from the person checking their passport would probably come as a surprise.

The thing is, not everything in this country is as foreigners would anticipate (that first "G'day mate", for example, will probably be heard at a pub). In some cases visitors will be in for a pleasant surprise. Other times it might be a nasty shock.

Thinking they can drive from Brisbane to Cairns

An English cousin of mine once came over to Australia and asked my dad if he could borrow the family car, because he wanted to drive up to Cairns. For the weekend. From Brisbane.

Responding honestly to the question, "How's it going?"

When you first arrive in Australia you could be forgiven for assuming the locals actually care about your welfare when they ask, "How's it going?" You could also be forgiven for being confused by the blank stares and the awkwardness when you launch into a detailed confession of how things have actually been going. Correct answer: "Yeah good mate."

Not putting on sunscreen

It only takes one bout of extreme sunburn to sort this out. Foreigners tend to underestimate the Australian sun, to think it will be like the Mediterranean, or LA, where you can wander around all day with no sunscreen and probably not get burnt. In Australia though? Do that and you're in for days of pain.

Thinking everything is out to kill them

In 'Wolf Creek 2', the outback is first a playground then a place of unspeakable horror.

In 'Wolf Creek 2', the outback is first a playground then a place of unspeakable horror.

Those newly arrived in Australia tend to think there are redbacks lurking under every toilet seat, Eastern Browns in every patch of grass, Irukandji at every beach, crocs in every river, and backpacker murderers in every ute or van. But they're wrong. We only have those in some places.

Not checking for redbacks

On that note, if you're staying in the countryside and using an outdoor dunny, it's not a bad idea to have a quick look under the seat for redbacks.

Advertisement

Spreading Vegemite like it's jam

Vegemite toast.

Vegemite toast. Photo: Alamy

I completely understand this, because as a non-Vegemite eater I've done it myself. The stuff looks like Nutella. It goes on toast. People love it. So surely you'd just slather it on like any other condiment, right?

Expecting to see kangaroos everywhere

No, there are no kangaroos on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. In fact you'll do well to see roos even on the outskirts of a major city in Australia, and you'll probably never see a koala, anywhere. (There's actually only one place you will be certain to find a kangaroo in a major Australian city: on the supermarket shelf.)

Not wearing shoes

I had another English cousin who came over to Australia and complained that she couldn't get a job, despite handing out CVs for weeks. One of the potential problems, I pointed out, was that she hadn't been wearing shoes. "But it's Australia," she said. "You don't have to wear shoes."

Asking for "shrimps"

No one throws shrimps on barbies around here. We might chuck a few prawns on, but even that is a rare occurrence. It's usually steaks and sausos all the way.

Taking people seriously

Sarcasm is a language that doesn't always translate. When an Australian comments on your appearance ("Geez, you didn't have to go to so much trouble…"), or gives you directions ("Ah, yeah, you're close…"), or describes their home town ("It's a bit like New York"), or talks about anything else really, it would be tempting to take that on face value and just believe what's being said. But that would be a mistake.

Going to Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour.

Darling Harbour. Photo: James Brickwood

For some reason this area of Sydney is a major tourist attraction, often included on lists for foreigners alongside the likes of the Opera House and Bondi Beach. But unless you're into overpriced restaurants and a large convention centre, Darling Harbour is probably worth giving a miss.

Complaining about the coffee

Australians take their coffee seriously. We're proud of our café culture. We love our espressos and our flat whites. It's usually not appreciated when residents of certain countries to the north of Mexico moan about not being able to get a good cup.

Travelling by train

Ah, the romance of train travel. The clickety-clack of wheels on rails. The bunk beds. The dining cars. The scenery. I'm sure all of that is great on Australia's long-distance trains, too – but they're also ponderously slow, and surprisingly expensive. Just go with a budget airline.

Trying to do everything in one short trip

It is a serious mistake to try to see all of Australia in a single, two-week stint. I'm sure plenty of people attempt it, cramming in all the hits in the knowledge that it may be a long time before they come back. But this is a large country with long distances to travel, and you don't want to spend your entire holiday sitting in airports.

What do you think are the mistakes first-time visitors to Australia make?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: Instagram.com/bengroundwater

See also: Eleven of the dumbest things Australian tourists say

See also: The 13 things you will never hear an Australian traveller say

LISTEN: Flight of Fancy - the Traveller.com.au podcast with Ben Groundwater

To subscribe to the Traveller.com.au podcast Flight of Fancy on iTunes, click here.

Comments