Eleven things Australians get wrong about Australia

You would think that if anyone was going to be an expert on Australia, it would be an Australian. And yet there's plenty we don't know about this wide brown land – and plenty we always get wrong.

Whenever foreign visitors come to stay you can guarantee Australians will fill them in on all the information about our homeland that they possibly can. Only problem is that some of it will be complete garbage.

Alice Springs is just near Uluru

In the grand scheme of things, these two places are fairly close to each other. But most Australians seem to think they're within stone's throw, that you could stay in Alice when you go to visit Uluru. In reality, however, the two are 463 kilometres apart – it's almost a six-hour drive. That's like staying in Dubbo when you're visiting Sydney, or going to Melbourne and camping in Wagga Wagga.

Uluru: It's not close to Alice Springs. Not even remotely.

Uluru: It's not close to Alice Springs. Not even remotely. Photo: Tourism NT

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There's "an Aboriginal language"

This might be a problem with our education system. I grew up thinking I was being taught a few words here and there in "the Aboriginal language", as if there was one that could be mastered, as if this was a homogenous group whose single tongue I was going to learn. But there are more than 150 Indigenous languages spoken in this country, the most popular being Tiwi and Pitjantjatjara.

We're the world's largest island

This has become part of our national identity, that this place we call home is not only a continent but an island as well, and by that definition it's the largest island in the world. But here's the thing: you can't be both. If you accept classification as a continent, then you cease to be considered an island. And if we decide we're an island, then we have to class our neighbours – New Zealand, PNG, the Pacific Islands – as part of the continent of Australia. So which is it?

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Australia isn't really dangerous

Foreign visitors often come over here petrified of the dangers in Australia, of the snakes and sharks and spiders and drop bears, which is probably part of the reason why locals like to downplay those fears. "She'll be right mate," we say, adding that we've never seen a brown snake in our entire lives. And yet… Australia is extremely dangerous. The only country that has more shark attacks is the USA. We have three of the world's 10 deadliest spiders, five of the world's 10 deadliest snakes, and even one of our cutest native animals, the platypus, can inject poison through spurs on its hind legs. Oh, and just the other day a redback bit some bloke on the penis. Screw this place.


We have five or six wine regions

Most Australians are justifiably proud of our wine industry, given we pump out some of the world's best. And if you asked anyone they'd easily be able to name the five or six regions where that wine is produced – the Barossa, Yarra Valley, Margaret River etcetera. Thing is though, there are far more than five or six wine regions. In fact, there are more than 60. Time to brush up.

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Qantas has never crashed

Dustin Hoffman said it in Rain Man, so it has to be true, right? Qantas has never crashed. This unblemished safety record has become a source of national pride, another of our defining characteristics. And yet it's not quite accurate. True, a Qantas jet aircraft has never been involved in a fatal accident. However, Qantas planes crashed 10 times between 1927 and 1951, with the loss of 80 lives. Admittedly though, some of those were due to the planes' involvement in World War II, and there has been no loss of life for 65 years.

The stone columns on Sydney Harbour Bridge are there for a reason

They are there for a reason, it's not the reason most people think. The two granite pylons at either end of the bridge serve no structural function whatsoever – they were included in the design to reassure a general public who, at that point in time, couldn't get their heads around the strength of solid steel.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge's pylons are there to reassure the public only.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge's pylons are there to reassure the public only. Photo: iStock

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Australia is affordable for travellers

"Yeah mate, come on over, it's pretty cheap." When you live here, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that we get charged a hell of a lot more for most things than everybody else in the world. While Australia might seem reasonably affordable to those of us earning cushy Australian wages, it's actually the fourth most expensive country in the world for tourists, according to the World Economic Forum, behind only France, the UK and Switzerland.

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We have the world's longest straight road

This is another one we like to tell tourists as they head off for their road trip around Australia: we have the world's longest stretch of straight road. It's the Eyre Highway, a 146.6-kilometre arrow across the Nullarbor Plain. However, there's bad news. Highway 10 in Saudi Arabia, a stretch from the town of Haradh to the UAE border, goes on for a mind-numbing 260km without a corner.

The Eyre Highway: Not the world's longest straight road anymore.

The Eyre Highway: Not the world's longest straight road anymore. Photo: iStock

We're the world's biggest boozers

Another one of the national characteristics we like to quote – whether out of pride or shame – is that Australians are up there with the world's biggest drinkers. In fact, according to the World Health Organisation, we rank a lowly 19th in terms of alcohol consumption per capita, beaten by the likes of Portugal, Russia, and even South Korea.

See also: What we need to learn from Europe about drinking

The Sydney Opera House roof forms a perfect sphere

It's a common misconception that if you pulled all those beautiful white sails off the Sydney Opera House and assembled them in the right way, they'd form a perfect sphere. Not quite true. Yes, the shape of the sails is determined by the plane of a single sphere – but the bits aren't a jigsaw puzzle. They're just really nice to look at.

The Sydney Opera House: Just really nice to look at.

The Sydney Opera House: Just really nice to look at. Photo: Brook Mitchell

What do you think we're getting wrong about Australia?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

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