What travelling taught me about living in Australia

There’s something to be said about heading overseas with an Aussie passport; you pop out to see the world, and end up learning more about where you came from.

Perhaps it’s because us Aussies inhabit a bone-dry desert in the middle of nowhere (or at least, that’s what the world seems to think) that we’re so ready to explore and absorb all that travelling has to offer.

Or, perhaps it’s just within our own culture to be open and interested in other people and places, contrary to the popular belief that we’re a ‘cultureless’ bunch down under.

While we may be a diverse people who don’t share the same cuisine or taste in sport, what I discovered from my adventures abroad is there’s much more to being ‘Australian’ than I realised… and it’s the odd things that you miss the most when away from home.

We love our space and big backyards

It may be that colder climates call for more intimate and cosy spaces, or it may be that a great deal of Aussies were raised with a rear lawn or nearby park amidst sprinklers, roller blades, cricket bats and plenty of injuries. But while space to live is something we cherish in Australia, other countries have moved on – particularly in population-dense areas of Scandinavia, where it’s not uncommon to have a large family comfortably occupy a tiny apartment without any desire for more room (or even a patio!). Perhaps the great Australian backyard will become a thing of the past as the cost of living rises – or perhaps we’ll always love our grass and summer barbies.

We’re open and friendly.

‘Thank you’. It’s not so universal – and perhaps Aussies do use the word too much – but only because we’re so polite! We like having a laugh and connecting with others, even if it’s a simple smile, greeting or how are you when entering a shop. And we’ll be the first to help a neighbour in times of crisis, as we’ve shown in our current and horrific bushfires.

We have really, really great bacon. And wine.

Is there any more to say? I know our homegrown produce is great, but I didn’t realise how extremely great until having the tasteless equivalent overseas. We give our Yellow Tail and other cheap bottles a bad wrap – yet here they are, sitting on menus in Denmark and Russia for +$40 a pop. Spoilt for choice?

We have a smorgasbord of cuisines to choose from… other countries don’t.

To answer the last, yes we are. Thanks to our rich diversity in Australia, you can walk through any main strip or suburb and encounter a wealth of dining options, from tachos, chicken tikka and pasta to sushi, pho or a good dirty kebab on a hangover. Not to mention our cafe culture and ‘hav’n a cuppa’ that’s a huge part of living in this country. All in good taste!

We take our beaches for granted.

To set foot on the world’s most beautiful beaches and coastal walks without having to leave the country is a sweet deal. In fact, there’s so much demand for our little golden grains overseas, even the UAE had to import our sand for their own building projects. The outdoors contributes much to our laidback Aussie culture, and we’ve got some pretty amazing landscapes to thank for it.

And free access to public toilets. Everywhere.

When you have to pay for a toilet that you wish you hadn’t entered in the first place, either by tap-and-go or awkwardly cashing up the toilet attendant (yeah they exist) in Northern Europe, you really do realise how good we’ve got it back home. In fact, the most convenient (and cheap!) substitute is to deprive yourself of any water, just enough to get you around without passing out. Perhaps we’re precious in Australia, or perhaps we’re just decent human beings who believe that a few blissful minutes to do our business in privacy, should be free.

Our deadly animals scare the world.

Foreigners are terrified of our wildlife. And so they should be. We’re famous for living in the thick of danger over here, which is certainly a point of curiosity with every local in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. Whether it’s from thong-ing a huntsman on the wall, throwing the odd python over the fence so it doesn’t eat the dog, having a barbie under the industrial bug zapper or Mick-Fanning a shark at the beach just to stay alive, all of which we do every day for survival obviously, Australians are basically glorified heroes overseas. Let’s keep it that way.

We’re an orderly sort. 

This I discovered in Norway, and in Sweden, and again in Russia, where it’s not common to wait in a line. In many cafes, take-away joints and a number of shops, a free-for-all system is the adopted norm instead of the usual queue-in-line to order. This was certainly the case at McDonald’s, where I had to compete for eye contact with the cashier in a mosh pit of people just to order a packet of nuggets – and instead of serving the next person after I paid, the same cashier would then prepare my food tray. (Hello? One person on orders, one person on food prep?). A good half an hour later I received my order and was able to escape the hungry jungle. 

As for holding-the-door open for strangers, we do this a whole lot better in Australia too… other places, not so much.

Bianca Camilleri Centrone is a freelance writer and marketer for Prudential Real Estate.