Australia Jet Set

Ten Telltale Signs You’re Down Under

Australia is famous for its laid back attitude and delicious accents.  Originally inhabited by indigenous populations (which can be classified into ~250 groups linguistically), Britain then began penal transportation in 1788 – a.k.a. sending their prisoners to New South Wales, which is where I spent most of my trip.

There is a distinctly British feel to the place due to cultural underpinnings and geographic elements like grassy headlands.  But did the decision-makers realize they were sending their prisoners to the sunny counterpart of Great Britain?  You broke the rules?!  You need some Vitamin D!  Get thee to the beach!

Between the natural beauty and the jubilant character of the Aussies, I loved it.  Here are ten telltale signs you’re in Australia and ten reasons to make the trip.

1. Awesome Aussies

Those accents, that attitude.  The nicest people to sit next to on an airplane for 14 hours (even in a middle seat). I spent most of my time in Byron Bay, where half the people are barefoot with surfboard in hand – sun kissed, windswept, and down to earth.

Mate, I got up at sparrow’s fart and had a dingo breakfast. (I got up at dawn and didn’t eat anything.)

Good oil!  Too easy, it’s only 20 clicks away. (Useful info! No worries, it’s only 20 kilometers away.)

Good onya!  Bloody heaps of amber fluid. (Well done. That’s an extreme quantity of beer.)

She’ll be apples. (It’ll be alright.)

2. Kangaroos

My first morning in Byron, I arose before the sunrise and made my way through Arakwal Nature Reserve to the beach.  On the way there, I startled a Kangaroo and he hopped away into hiding, much to my chagrin.  After admiring the sunrise over the ocean and taking some 87 pictures, I headed back, this time on tiptoe.  I came upon the kangaroo again, munching on some undergrowth, watching me watching him (cue Bill Withers, “watching youuuu, watching meeee”).  A special sort of eye contact of mutual voyeurism from creature to human, human to creature.  Magic marsupial moments, in the wild.

3. The Stars

Seeing the sky sans north star (polaris) feels exotic and bewildering in itself.  Add in the Southern Cross, Magellanic clouds (two irregular dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way galaxy, our galaxy), and Centaurus – all unique to the southern hemisphere – and the long haul trip is worth it just for the nighttime viewing.

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See the 2 cloud-like shapes up top? Those are the Magellanic clouds (irregular dwarf galaxies) that are orbiting us. Pretty cool, eh? (Photo cred: ESO.org)

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This is the Southern Cross. Simple and brilliant. (Photo cred: EarthSky.org)

4. Waterfalls

There are dozens of waterfalls interspersed through the hinterlands.  Come cool off from the southern sun where unicorns roam and the water is fresh.

5. The Toilets

The toilets in Australia drain the other way!  Lisa Simpson says it’s because of the Coriolis effect, which is where a rotating force moves perpendicular to the rotating axis.  On Earth, this causes cyclones to spin one way in the northern hemisphere and the other way in the southern hemisphere.  Now, Lisa is pretty smart, but some scientists disagree with her because they think your toilet is too small a scale to experience this axis-driven effect.  Yet for whatever reason, toilets flush clockwise in one hemisphere, and counterclockwise in the other.  What’s your theory?

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The Simpsons, investigating the big questions of life on Earth.

6. The Coastline – Beaches on beaches, sets on sets.

There are so many amazing beaches and surf breaks. The pictures speak for themselves.

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7. Koala Bears

These little buggers are at risk!  While koalas were taken off of the endangered species list in 2014, they are still in declining numbers due to loss of habitat and predators.  Signs are posted up and down the Pacific Highway encouraging koala spotters to call in and report any sightings.  Koalas are marsupials that thrive on eucalyptus, and are gosh darn cute.

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8. Flat Whites

Originating from Australia in the 80’s (such a great decade), the Flat White was added to the Starbucks menu in 2015, so you may have already tried this Aussie latte.  If not, swing by the drive-through for a taste of this velvety steamed goodness.

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9. Driving on the Left – A Lefty’s Paradise?

The British history in Australia leads to a flip-flopped traffic pattern from what we are used to in the U.S.  Drive on the left side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right side of the car.  Your blinkers and wipers are swapped as well, so it took me several tries to actually turn on the blinker when I was changing lanes.  Three decades of habit were working against me.

Meanwhile, I was surprised that the gas pedal and break pedal were still in the same spots, and the key was still on the right.  I had been mentally preparing to drive in mirror image completely.  The good news is that after a week I had it down pat, and then it became difficult for a few days once I transitioned back to driving in the states.  Basically felt like a high stakes brain exercise – good for keeping the mind sharp.

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10. Back to the Future

You’re a day ahead in Australia, living in the future and proving that there is always tomorrow.  In the children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day his answer to the litany of mishaps that befall him are:

I think I’ll move to Australia.

Or as Scarlett reminds us in Gone With the Wind:

After all… tomorrow is another day.

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  • fhaleyf
    February 28, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    Ahem, you’ve entered dangerous territory with that claim that flat whites are from Aus, missy! 😉 Any kiwi will claim that straight away!

    • Sally
      March 1, 2017 at 1:03 am

      Uh oh! I’ll have to do more research. I did first experience the flat white with you in NZ! But then read that it came from Australia…