7 Myths About Australia That Americans Get Wrong
1. Everything in Australia tries to kill you.
It’s a common belief that everything in Australia is just waiting for the chance to bite. While it’s true that we have the highest number of deadly snakes of any other country in the world, and are home to more than 2,000 species of spiders, the dangers of Australian wildlife are grossly over exaggerated, and it’s much more hype than actual reality.
Yes, Australia is possibly the only place on earth you’re likely to see a python swallow a salt-water crocodile whole. And we do have a snail that can fire a poison dart. But I could easily make the same case about the United States: cougars stalk mountain bikers, grizzly bears invite themselves to dinner in your backyards, and rattlesnakes join joggers on jaunts through the Californian mountainside.
Realistically, in Australia you’re more likely to be eaten by a domestic cat than by a shark, and bees pose more of a threat throughout Australia than our spiders do. The real dangers you should be worried about in Australia are crossing the road (FYI we drive on the left), ocean currents, and the sun.
2. We all drink Fosters.
Let’s get this out of the way quickly; Fosters might be an Australian brand, but let me assure you, it’s certainly NOT an Australian beer. Ordering it will ruin your attempt at pretending to be Australian.
Somehow the myth took hold that this is our national drink, though I’ve never seen an Australian citizen voluntarily drink a Fosters beer. It doesn’t happen. Don’t order one at the pub. Don’t ask an Australian if they drink it. We DO NOT drink Fosters beer. We would quite happily drink almost anything else.
If you don’t want to scream to the world that you’re a tourist, order a VB instead.
3. Our men look like Chris Hemsworth.
I wish! But no. Not all Australian men rock looks that resemble the king of the Norse gods. Despite being the very definition of a multicultural society, it seems to shock many Americans that not all Aussies are men with blonde hair, a golden tan, and crystal blue eyes, and spend their lives at the beach. Some of them don’t even like the beach. They might all have the same accent as Chris Hemsworth, though we’re certainly not a country of look-a-likes.
And while we’re at it, there are 24 million people who live here. We’re not all related to Wolverine. So please stop asking.
4. Australians live in the Outback.
I don’t blame Americans for believing this. Hollywood blockbusters have a tendency to depict us all as bushmen and women who live off the land and fight over the size of a knife.
But life for the majority of Australians is quite urban. Most Australians (19 million of us) live near the coast in big cities like Melbourne, Brisbane or Sydney. We live in modern homes with running water and wifi (though I don’t know if I would call it “high speed”). We drive our children to school while they’re preoccupied with their iphones (Yes, we have cars. We do not ride kangaroos), and spend our way into debt on things we don’t need just like Americans do.
4. Our seas are full of sharks.
Contrary to popular American belief, sharks are not circling our coastline just waiting for you to go swimming at Bondi Beach. In 2015 there were a total of 33 unprovoked shark attacks in Australian waters, 2 of which were fatal.
Want to know what killed more people than sharks? Tourists taking selfies. So while we’re all going to meet our end one day, the good news is that statistically speaking, it’s highly unlikely your demise will be at the jaws of a shark. Heed warnings about sightings, avoid the ocean at dawn and dusk, and you’ll be fine.
And if looking to completely avoid death by shark in Australia, head to the ACT. Though avoid picking mushrooms while there. Two people were killed by Death Cap mushroom in 2012.
5. A koala is a bear.
Nothing irritates a koala more than hearing a tourist call it a bear. A koala is not a bear. Nor is it related to one. They may look like a teddy bear, which is likely how the name “koala bear” came about, though koalas are marsupial mammals related to the kangaroo and wombat. (Though there is scientific evidence to suggest they are distant relatives of the drop bear.)
And while there’s no doubt that they’re cute and cuddly, please don’t hug them. In some parts of Australia 90% of koalas are infected with chlamydia.
6. We like to throw “shrimp on the Barbie.”
This is another one of those phrases which will instantly expose you as a tourist. Australians do not barbecue shrimp. We barbecue prawns.
This expression came from Paul Hogan in 1984 in probably one of the cleverest tourism campaigns for Australia. It’s stuck around for 32 years since.
7. Toilets flush in reverse in the Southern Hemisphere.
This one was perpetuated by an episode of the Simpsons in 1995. The reasoning behind this myth is the Coriolis effect; a force that makes us believe the direction of moving objects is reversed due to the opposite rotation of the earth in the Southern versus Northern Hemisphere. And while this does actually make hurricanes rotate in the opposite directions, it’s not strong enough to apply to toilets.
If you do see a toilet flush in Australia in the opposite direction, it’s because the water jets are pointing that way.