I recently joined the growing throng of Aussie expats living in Los Angeles, and after only one month in the palm tree-lined Golden State, it's easy to see why we continue to flock here. Los Angeles is so much like home: Blue skies, beautiful beaches, perfect weather, and fantastic restaurants. While we share many similarities, culturally we are a little different, and I’m not sure my new American friends really know what happens in the land down under. With that said, scroll down to be schooled on what you didn't know about the sun-drenched country.
There Are Crocodiles, But Life's Not Like Crocodile Dundee
When it comes to wildlife, Australia doesn’t have a great reputation for having many of the cute and cuddly varieties. It's home to some of the world’s deadliest animals, including the predatory saltwater crocodile, which has the most powerful bite of any species. But don’t stress; there’s a very slim chance of you being death-rolled by a croc. The prehistoric creatures only live in the northern tropics, and you usually view them from a safe tourist attraction. Don’t expect everyone up there to be dressed like Mick Dundee, either. Despite all our best efforts, the 1986 fictional character from the famous Crocodile Dundee flick seems to have made a lasting impression on our American friends. While we do have our fair share of eccentric personalities, Mick is the minority.
We Are Sun Worshippers, But It’s Killing Us
Australians love the outdoor life; whether it’s swimming, running, surfing, skating, riding, or just hanging out at the beach, we certainly get our fair share of vitamin D. The beach is our home, and the Australian bronzed body look is an iconic part of our culture, but it’s killing us. Australia has one of the highest incidences of skin cancer in the world, two to three times the rates in the U.S., Canada, and the UK, and it continues to rise. According to the Cancer Council Australia, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70. It’s outrageous, and despite major “Slip, Slop, Slap” campaigns to raise awareness of sun protection, the prevalence of sunburn is 17 percent for adults, and 26 percent for teenagers.
Most of Us Prefer to Live on or Near the Coast
Australia is a massive continent, but unlike the U.S., the majority of the population lives along the coast. You can drive for miles through the middle of Australia without seeing anything. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 90 percent of Australians live within 65 miles of the coastline of Australia. This is also due to the fact that seven of Australia’s capital cities are located on the coast, but there’s been major growth in coastal areas outside these cities too. We all have a natural affinity for the ocean; being near the water is medicinal for us, and it’s healing and a powerful source of happiness. Even if you don’t swim in it, just looking at it can be very therapeutic for many Australians.
We all have a natural affinity for the ocean; being near the water is medicinal for us, and it’s healing and a powerful source of happiness.
Not All of Us Love Vegemite
This tiny yellow-labeled jar of salty, dark brown spread is so iconic to Australians, it’s the best hangover cure, and it tastes great with avocado or cheese on toast. But despite Vegemite’s 90-year heritage, not everyone likes the brewer’s yeast paste. There are plenty of people who never developed a taste for it as a child and screw their faces up at the thought. I actually prefer the UK’s Marmite.
Australia’s Obesity Rates Are on Par With the U.S.
Despite our love for the outdoors, obesity rates are rising faster than anywhere else in the world and are now on par with the United States. A staggering 27% of Australia’s teenagers and children are now overweight or obese, according to a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Too much screen time and not enough time outdoors are partly to blame, and it’s sparked a nationwide campaign to increase the physical activity of all Australians.
We Have a Voracious Appetite for Technology
Aussies absolutely love their tech, from handheld devices to smartphones, 3D televisions, and wireless headphones, and we can’t get enough. In fact, recent data shows 91 percent of Australians own a smartphone, 56% a tablet, 39% a gaming console, and 30% a set top box or streaming device. And we aren’t afraid to spend our hard-earned cash on it too. In 2015 alone, a report on nearly 3000 respondents found Australians spent $20 billion on digital devices and services. Maybe it’s our isolated position at the bottom of the globe that compels us to stay connected and keep abreast of what’s happening around us.
Australian Husbands Prefer Their Wives at Home
There is a huge shift happening in homes all over the world as more women enter the workforce, especially post-baby. In Australia, a very traditional view of the family home still remains; a man’s role is the breadwinner, and the woman’s position is as a housewife who takes care of the kids. While many will probably read this and say it’s not true, a recent study by Associate Professor Roger Wilkins of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research all but confirmed it. In his Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia study, Wilkins found men whose wives do paid work outside of the home—both full-time and part-time—appear to be less satisfied in their relationships than those whose partners do not work. “When you look at men’s relationship satisfaction, it’s at its highest when their wife is not in the workforce. It does seem that that’s what is behind it; those traditional gender roles die hard. I guess all things being equal, men would prefer their wife at home and managing the household.” But thankfully, attitudes are changing.
We're Obsessed With Fashion and Design
Thanks to our unique geographic positioning and love for smartphones, Australians are hyper-aware of what’s happening around the world. From fashion to interiors, we love to have our finger on the pulse and pride ourselves on keeping abreast of the trends. While we’re super style-conscious, we’re also really savvy and love a high-low mix both in our homes and our closets. Despite all of this, thongs are still hugely popular, which brings me to my next point.
Thanks to our unique geographic positioning and love for smartphones, Australians are hyper-aware of what’s happening around the world.
Thongs Are Really Popular (But Not the U.S. Kind)
It must be our strong ties to the beach that keep this cheap, rubber footwear in our wardrobes. I personally loathe them, but thanks to brands like Havaianas, their popularity continues. Thongs, for your feet, not your derriere, are a real Aussie icon and, for many, a cultural institution. There are plenty of varieties too: The cheap $2 store style with the Aussie flag painted on them or the $25 pair with diamantes or gold accessories. At home in Australia, there’s always a line up of them outside every front door, from the adult size down to the kids. Despite my distaste, I don’t think they’re going away anytime soon.
It’s Still an Expensive Place to Live
We have everything going for us: Beautiful beaches, great weather, the Great Barrier Reef, and cities with culture galore; it really is a wonderful quality of life. But I guess if you want the best, you have to pay for it. According to Deutsche Bank’s annual world consumer price index for 2019, life down under is still consistently expensive. Sydney has the 6th priciest monthly ticket for public transportation in the world and retail therapy isn't cheap either: an average pair of athletic shoes in Sydney come in at the 10th most expensive in the world.
Melbourne Is the World’s Most Livable (and Happiest) City in the World
Despite how much it costs, Melbourne continues to be close to the top of the list as the world's most livable and happiest city (it was nominated seven years in a row.) As someone who lived in Melbourne for four years, I can attest to its beauty, culture, and excellent public transport system. On top of those attributes, Melbourne is consistently at the top of the list as having the best coffee in the world, even above Italy, and its restaurants are next level.
They Are World-Renowned for Furniture and Fashion Designers
While we may live on a very large island far away from most other countries, our designers have been met with critical acclaim on the world stage. For example, Kym Ellery from her fashion line Ellery is one of the first to show on schedule at Paris Fashion Week, and Dion Lee is a mainstay at New York Fashion Week. In décor, we love Kip & Co for its bright colors and fun designers, and Jardan for its minimal and cool furniture line.
Adame MF, Jardine TD, Fry B, et al. Estuarine Crocodiles in a Tropical Coastal Floodplain Obtain Nutrition from Terrestrial Prey. PLoS ONE. 2018;13(7):e0200983. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0197159
Cancer Council Australia. What Is Skin Cancer?
Cancer Australia, National Cancer Control Indicators. Sunburn and Sun Protection. April 4, 2019.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. Interesting Facts about Australia’s 25,000,000 Population. August 7, 2018.
Vegemite. Vegemite Story.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. A Picture of Overweight and Obesity in Australia. 2017.
Han E. Australians Breaking Their Wallets to Stay on Top of Technology. The Sydney Morning Herald. April 6, 2015.
Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research. The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: Selected Findings from Waves 1 to 17. 2019.
Deutsche Bank Research. Mapping the World's Prices 2019. May 16, 2019.
Time Out PR. The World’s Best Cities Revealed: New York Tops the List, Followed By Melbourne, Chicago, London and Los Angeles. Time Out Magazine. March 12, 2019.
Reid S. World's Best Coffee: 8 Cities to Visit for a Great Cup of Java. CNN Travel. April 7, 2017.