True Blue! 7 Bits of Everyday Australian Culture

expat issues 8 Replies

Everyone has a learning curve when you move to a new place. Tourist books will get you so far, but there are always little things that are so ingrained in the culture that you probably won’t read much about them, and sometimes you just have to smile and nod until you can find someone to quietly ask about it, or work it out yourself. I’m not talking about big things like how to rent an apartment or get around on public transport, nor do I mean just regular bits of slang language (we all pick up on the “arvos” and “brekkies” pretty quickly, I think!), but just day to day things that give a person pause.

So, here are 7 Aussie-as cultural bits that, if you know about them before landing, will make you feel like a true blue Aussie when you run across them!

The Bunnings Sausage Sizzle 

Let’s unpack this one point by important point. First, there’s Bunnings. Oh, sure, you can think of it as “just a hardware store,” but if I can translate this for my Yank ladies, Bunnings is a “just a hardware store” in the same way that Target is “just a department store.” People lose hours of their lives wandering the aisles. Marriages go on the brink when the credit card statements show up. And, most importantly, it’s a place where families might end up hanging out for a couple of hours on a weekend. It’s actually a fun place for kids. They have those little, child size trolleys (carts) and free balloons. A lot of them even have play area. And, most importantly, on the weekend, you’ll often find a local charitable group running a “sausage sizzle.”

There is little in this world more Aussie than a sausage sizzle. You give volunteers a small amount of money, and they give you a sausage on a piece of white bread, maybe with some fried onions. Top it with tomato sauce (ketchup to us Yanks) or BBQ sauce. Lunch!

Get in on the Bunnings Sausage Sizzle, and you’re at least half way to your Australian citizenship.

Gold Coin Donations

Hand in hand with the sausage sizzle is the “gold coin donation.” In Australia, gold coins are worth $1 or $2, and that’s usually the going rate for your sausage at the sausage sizzle, or any number of other charity activities. But, make no mistake, just because it’s called a “donation,” that doesn’t mean it’s optional. It would be very un-Aussie to try to pass up on giving your gold coin to people doing good work in the local community.

Slip Slop Slap

The tourist book might warn you about sun protection in Australia, and it really is no joke here. You can still often hear people talking about the concept of “slip slop slap,” which came from a marketing campaign in the 1980s. It means:

Slip on a shirt.
Slop on sunscreen.
Slap on a hat.

If you have school aged kids, you might also hear the phrase, “no hat, no play.” To be allowed on the playground, children are required to wear a hat. Primary school uniforms are pretty well guaranteed to include a wide brimmed hat for this purpose. And, if you walk past an Aussie playground on a sunny day, you might notice that most of the kids will have sun hats on.

Fly Buys

The first time you do your grocery shop at Coles, you might be a little taken aback when the cashier asks you if you “have any Fly Buys?”. Do what?

“Fly Buys” are a shopping rewards card for Coles and its affiliated stores, including KMart, Target, Liquorland, and others. Given that is has “Fly” in the name, I initially thought that maybe you could earn airline miles with it, but alas, what you actually earn are points towards … I don’t know … toasters and movie vouchers, I think. There’s a whole book. I’ve ever actually earned enough points to get anything, but now that I do have Fly Buys, I just keep on swiping at the checkout.

The Bonds Baby Search

If you happen to be in the child-bearing age demographic, get ready because once a year, your Facebook feed is going to explode with friends and acquaintances asking – nay, pleading – for you to vote for their tiny humans in a mysterious contest called the Bonds Baby Search. Bonds is a popular clothing brand in Australia, perhaps best known for their baby “Wonder Suit.” It’s not 100% clear to me what the actual prize of winning the Bonds Baby Search is, but I don’t think it’s, like, a million dollars or anything that would seemingly make it such a coveted prize. Except for the Bonds corporation for whom the free advertising must be worth gazillions.

Hey, friends, all of your babies are gorgeous!

Infomercials On the News

So, there you are, coffee in hand, catching up on the Sunrise-Today-G’Day-To-You-Australia morning show. They’ve covered whatever Trump tweeted yesterday, and some outraged thing that Barnaby Joyce told reporters, and the latest sacking in the sportsball, when all of a sudden, the news reader gets down to business of reporting on an amazing new folding ladder … or, a life changing foundation makeup … or, fire insurance. It’s all very serious. This real life reporter is asking some well-rehearsed marketing manager serious questions like, “Kyle, why do we need an Ultra Green Blender?” and then listening intently to the answer like it’s actual news. It’s basically The Home Shopping Network pretending to be news, and it seriously blew all of my mind cells the first few times I saw it!

(Sensational!)

Hip, hip, hooray!

Yay, you’re invited to a birthday party! And, even more yay – it’s cake time! You sing the birthday song  – all normal – and then at the point where we Americans would think we were finished, some extrovert bellows, “HIP, HIP…”, to which everyone else replies, “HOORAY!”. Repeat two more times. “Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hoooooray!!!”. I’m not sure if any other Commonwealth countries do this, but it will probably be a surprise to any Yank. I think it’s good fun, I just want you to be prepared for the birthday surprise. Hooray!

Hooray!

I’m sure there are many more Aussie-as cultural bits and pieces that you don’t know until you just know.
Expats, what small differences came as a surprise to you?

8 thoughts on “True Blue! 7 Bits of Everyday Australian Culture

  1. Kylie Purtell

    Bahaha, I really love this post. Being a born & bred Aussie I’ve always taken these things for granted and never thought they would be strange to other people because they are just so a part of my life and basically have been since birth. And honestly, I had no idea that people DON’T do the Hip Hip Hooray at the end of the birthday song, how is that possible?!

    1. Cristin Post author

      I know what you mean – I always get a kick out of reading what others find weird that we Americans do (and there’s plenty!).
      In the U.S., we’ll sometimes do, “And many more” at the end of the birthday song – but, I am quite partial to hip-hip-hooraying now. 🙂

  2. Cosette

    Great post, so true. The thing that surprised me most about the sausage sizzle is that the sausages are usually served on plain white bread, the sandwich kind, not rolls.

  3. Jennifer Herb

    “Hip, hip, hooray!” definitely took me by surprise. What happened to, “…and many moooooorre!”? Also, for Americans coming in, it would be good to know that credit cards here “tap,” which I had never experienced before. We spent months apologizing for our old school credit cards that required signing until we finally got Android pay on our phones. Now we are tapping away with the Aussiest of Aussies. And for the love of all that’s holy, you better stand on the left side of the escalator, else you will be on the receiving end of some elbow throwing from some (apparently) very busy people. Tipping was also a weird thing to navigate. I’ve had Woolies delivery guys flat-out refuse a tip over and over, almost seeming insulted. I’ve also tipped at the nail shop to very grateful employees. It is nice that it’s not expected (and that people’s livelihoods don’t depend on it here), because more often than not, the servers at restaurants around here don’t earn it. Australian restaurant service is VERY different than American service, although there are some wonderful exceptions.

    1. Cristin Post author

      Great ones! We moved here long before “tap” became a thing, so I wasn’t sure whether that was done in the States or not. So convenient!
      I always forget to tip the first time when I go back to the States – AWKWARD!

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