Photo: Jan Jerman/Shutterstock

9 Signs You've Been in the Australian Outback Too Long

by Jaye Bailey Feb 10, 2015

1. You’re no longer surprised to find wildlife in your washing machine.

From green tree frogs to cane toads and even snakes — they can find their way into a washing machine and set up home until you open the lid. Finding a frog is surprising, but nothing compares to finding a snake hanging out in there. Lesson learned — don’t make the assumption that a snake could never get into a washing machine, despite what long-time locals tell you.

2. You believe a swim is as good as a shower.

When your day involves pumpkin picking in 40-degree heat, nothing beats a swim in the pool at the end of the day to cool off — which then turns into beers by the pool, dinner at the local pub, by which time a proper shower has been long forgotten.

3. You automatically check the toilet for frogs.

In addition to various wildlife found in the washing machine, green tree frogs will often make themselves at home in the toilet bowl. I had friends from the city visit me a year after I moved to the Outback. I’ll never forget the look of fear on their faces when I told them to make sure they checked before sitting down. They went to the toilet in pairs for their entire visit.

4.You don’t expect cold water to actually be cold.

When I first moved here, I’d turn the cold tap on and wait. And wait. The water is never cold up here. It’s closer to lukewarm, which isn’t surprising considering the temperature can still hover around 30 degrees Celsius at midnight.

5. You reach for your jacket when the weather drops below 25.

Moving from Canada back to Australia I thought I’d never feel cold again. When I then got a job in the Outback, naturally I didn’t bring anything but summer clothes. Stupid mistake. Temperature is relative — when it’s been 40 degrees for 2 weeks, 25 feels positively freezing.

6. You don’t flinch at a $20 cocktail.

The Outback is by definition the most remote part of the country, meaning freight is expensive. Which in turn makes everything you buy, really expensive. On a recent trip to Sydney, I went out with a friend for drinks. When the cocktail list came around, the prices varied from $20 to $30. While my friend complained about how expensive Sydney is, I felt right at home.

7. You only know two seasons: wet and dry.

The seasons don’t vary much here. It’s either hot, dry, and dusty or hot, wet, and humid. Then there is the torturous buildup which precedes the wet — when temperatures hover in the high 30s to low 40s, the humidity sits somewhere between 80 and 90%, and the promise of a thunderstorm to cool everything down is months away.

8. You constantly smell like a combination of sweat, bug spray, and sunscreen.

Wearing perfume is futile. Once you’ve been outside for more than 10 minutes your fragrance has been diluted by sweat. Never mind that it’s competing with the sunscreen you slathered on before stepping outside, and the bug spray that’s necessary unless you want to be feasted on by march flies, mosquitoes, and sandflies.

9. You’ve become used to not having too many options.

When there are only two supermarkets, two pubs, and five restaurants around, you’re not exactly spoilt for choice. Deciding where to do your grocery shopping? Coles or Tuckerbox. Deciding where to go for a drink on Friday night? The Hotel or The Tavern. When you find yourself in a city being overwhelmed with joy at the sight of McDonald’s, it could be a sign it’s time to move on.

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