1. How to “go green”
In America, going green means you make Instagram posts about recycling and follow “Wake up America” accounts on Twitter. In Australia, going green isn’t a social fad — it’s a way of life that’s completely normal. We didn’t have a clothes dryer in our apartment in Australia, there was only air-conditioning in one room, and everyone rode their bikes everywhere even though it took them longer to get there than driving would.
2. How to eat
I didn’t see one restaurant menu in Australia that wasn’t loaded with avocado, pumpkin, fresh fruit, and tons of other delicious things that weren’t fried. And the steak in Queensland is to die for. I know you can find these things in America, but they typically are in more expensive / exclusive restaurants (and aren’t anywhere in Indiana, where I’m from).
My favorite dish at the Coffee Club, a large breakfast chain in Australia, was toasted sourdough with feta and sliced avocado, drizzled in balsamic. Not quite IHOP. Maybe Australia has its own problems with obesity, but I’d rather overeat on these foods than at Taco Bell.
3. How to drink
When I first got to Australia and realized alcohol was expensive, and happy hour / drink specials were rare, I was disappointed. Then I realized Australians are so good at drinking (seriously, I don’t think hangovers exist in that country) that for their own safety, drinks are expensive at all times. There’s no socially unacceptable time to drink in Australia. Which is great, but the cheapest beer in pubs is typically $6-$8 (cases are rarely cheaper than $40 in a “bottle shop”), and if you find spirits for under $10 per drink, it’s a steal.
One of my favorite bars, Waxy’s Irish Pub, had a $3 Budweiser special on Sundays; however, if you didn’t get there before 10pm, they’d run out of beer after your first round. Weirdly enough, though, wine is cheap in Australia.
4. How to take vacation time
Or should I say, how to secure adequate time to take a vacation. Not two weeks, but four to six weeks paid vacation. Enough time to actually go somewhere.
One of my good friends in Australia is currently in the middle of his six weeks’ paid vacation to Europe that he goes on annually. I went to Wisconsin for five days last week, so 50% of my vacation time for the year is already used. Vacation time may seem unimportant in America, but it’s a valued part of Australian culture that Aussies take full advantage of.
5. How to attend “Uni”
College, but not the American way. For one, you don’t have to go. It’s just not that big of a deal. And if you do, it’s common to enroll after a gap year of traveling out of high school. Uni is also cheaper in Australia — my public relations degree would have cost me $22,000 (total) at Bond University, the school down the street from my apartment in Australia. I had a full ride to the University of Indianapolis, and still have more than $22,000 in student loans because of the cost of living, eating, buying books, breathing, etc, on top of the ridiculous interest on student loans and the whole “I had to defer my student loans after my unpaid internship that gained me nothing” issue.
Furthermore, neither of my managers at my Australian job had degrees — they were in their positions because they were the most experienced, and the best at those jobs.
6. How to travel domestically
I saw more of Australia in one year than I’ve seen of America in 23 years. Yes, there was more motivation knowing I had just 12 months to see all of Australia, but domestic flights are very affordable there. My round trip to Melbourne was $160, I found flights to Sydney for $80, and I also flew north to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef for less than $250.
My friends from Seattle just spent $600 each to get to Indiana to visit family, and my best friend’s flight to Cancun for a wedding was $200 cheaper than her flight to Vegas for the bachelorette party.
7. How to drive safely
Car accidents are so common where I’m from that I appreciated how strictly road rules were enforced in Australia. Cameras constantly enforced yellow / red light runners as well as speeders, and seatbelt rules were strictly followed. There was also no wiggle room on the cell phone laws — it’s not okay at any time in any situation to use your cell phone while driving a car in Australia. My Aussie friends would pull over into a parking lot if they needed to answer a phone call. I also had a friend who got a ticket for riding his bicycle without a helmet.
8. How to pay employees
Minimum wage is livable in Australia — about $16 an hour, depending on what state you’re living in. I can’t stress enough how amazing it is to have the ability to save money working an average job. Stress levels are lower, everyone is happier, people aren’t working two jobs to make ends meet. My Aussie friends commonly said, “You can be a receptionist in Australia and drive a BMW.”
In just eight months of working, I saved enough to visit Thailand and New Zealand, as well as purchase my flights home. This is also why they can afford to drink so much.
9. How to be laid back
My favorite Aussie slang I picked up is “no worries,” and I can’t think of a better way to describe the Australian attitude. Aussies are so laid back and relaxed you can’t help but let it rub off on you when you’re surrounded by such good vibes and happy feelings.
My Australian coworkers used to tell me, “You’re so American, you’re such a wanker” — I had no idea what this meant, but apparently a wanker is a complainer. My instant reaction was to complain about that label until I realized Americans, including myself, have the habit of starting conversations with “I’m so tired,” or “I don’t want to be at work,” or “It’s so hot out today,” or anything they can complain about. Spending a year in Australia completely erased this habit from my system, and I feel happier every day because of it.
This article was originally published on August 13, 2014.