The other day I posted a photo I took from a plane flying over the snowfields in New South Wales and a comment was made “I didn’t know it snowed in Australia”. This got me thinking to just how little we sometimes know about other countries.
So today I plan on a little edumacation for those who wish to know more.
Therefore, in no particular order are some facts about my country, starting with snow.
1. Yes it does snow in Australia but only in certain parts of the country and generally those areas that are closer to Antartica than where I live. Although it does get bleedin’ cold where I live in sub-tropical Queensland sometimes, the worst we have seen are black frosts. Snow falls on the snowfields of New South Wales (near Canberra) and in the Victorian alps where dedicated ski resorts are located. Snow also falls on the higher points of Tasmania.
It has been known to snow a few hundred kilometres away from us but the snow doesn’t usually last long on the ground. Some schools have yearly trips for certain grades to see Canberra (the capital) and the nearby New South Wales snow fields however many Australians live their lives without ever seeing snow (or the ocean).
This little fellow was built by the Tween and the Son last year at Mt Buller in Victoria.
2. Canberra is the capital of Australia and is the only planned city contained within the country. It was decided upon as a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne and is located about halfway between them. The site was selected and construction began in 1913 after a competition for designs was won by Chicago architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin. The city has a geometric design of circles, hexagons and triangles and is centred around the landmarks of Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial. It also boasts the largest man-made lake in Australia “Lake Burley Griffin”.
This photo was taken from the roof of the current parliament house looking toward the Australian War Memorial with old parliament house in the foreground. The roof of parliament house is covered in grass and the Tween actually turned cartwheels on it!
3. Kangaroos don’t actually hop down the streets of any city in Australia unless they are lost or have escaped from a zoo. They are more prevalent in country areas or outlying suburbs of the major cities. We often get wallabies in our front garden but I live in a country town and my housing estate backs onto farmland.
Most ‘roos (that’s what we call them) are pretty scared of traffic and have no road sense which is why large numbers of them litter the edges of country roads as road kill. They can do real damage to a car if they are hit and motorcyclists have been killed after hitting them. The problem is that they jump out onto the road without warning at times. I have had a couple of run-ins with them whilst driving and it’s a scary experience. Kangaroos are prolific and often hunted and yes, we Australians eat the animals (kangaroo and emu) on our Coat of Arms. Roo meat is actually low in fat and quite good for you although it has a rather strong taste. (I’ve never eaten emu so can’t comment).
4. Kangaroos and koalas are not as cute and cuddly as they look and they can inflict injuries. During mating season, I have heard of ‘roos who have attacked people in their own back yards. Although their front paws are tiny, they have powerful hind legs with pretty ugly claws that can inflict serious damage upon a person (or other animal).
Koalas are not bears and they too have claws. Many of the koalas that visitors to the country see are housed in zoos or sanctuaries and are used to human contact. In the wild, they can be quite cantankerous if cornered. My sister in law has a koala living on her block of land (way out in the country). She has sometimes seen it but more often than not, can hear it growl and roar at night.
5. Australians have a very different sense of humour. They laugh at themselves and they are not afraid to poke fun at others. It’s all done in good fun and there is no malice involved. Unfortunately due to political correctness, many of the quintessential Australian comedies from the 1970’s and early ’80s can no longer be shown on tv because they poke fun at other ethnic groups, religion, sex and other taboo subjects these days. The funny thing is that some of the ethnic groups (e.g. Italians and Greeks) also made shows poking fun at themselves. What can I say? It’s an Australian thing to ‘pull someone’s leg’ and have a bit of fun.
6. The Australian way of life is extremely laid back and the majority of my countrymen have the attitude of ‘she’ll be right mate’. This means that we are generally extremely tolerant and understanding of others. (Unfortunately this trend appears to be disappearing).
7. We drive on the left hand side of the road. This is obviously extremely confusing to many from other countries who visit some of the more popular tourist areas such as the Great Ocean Road where signs like the following are everywhere.
8. Australia uses the metric system of measurement. This means that I sometimes have great difficulty in converting recipes and I am incredibly thankful to Google at these times.
9. Australia has a free health care system and free hospitals. This is funded through tax levies. We also have the option of joining health care funds and accessing private health care if we can afford to. I’m not saying either system is perfect and I have been treated under both but it is what it is and I am still alive and somewhat healthy so that’s a bonus.
10. Voting is compulsory in Australia. Once a person turns 18 they are expected to register for voting in their electorate. When it is voting time, your name is crossed off a huge list at the polling booth. Apparently you can be fined for not voting. I personally have never met anyone who has been fined but then I’ve personally never met anyone who hasn’t voted. I have met people who turn up and have their name crossed off and then put in what is called a ‘donkey vote’ that is totally invalid for whatever reason. Turning 18 is a big thing in Australia as it also means you can legally drink alcohol.
11. The national minimum wage for any adult is $16.87 per hour. This amount increases under different awards and according to age in some cases. Tipping is not compulsory although many cafes and restaurants have tip jars on their counters that is shared amongst employees of the establishment. I used to work in a restaurant and I have been tipped on occasion. I was under no obligation to share this nor was it included as part of my wage. It was a nice bonus.
Employees in Australia are also entitled to between 2 and 4 weeks annual leave each year dependent upon whether they are employed in a full-time or part time capacity. This leave is paid with 17.5% leave loading.
12. A person is able to get their driver’s license at the age of 17 years. A learners permit can be given at the age of 15 years and 9 months. The driver must clock up 100 practice driving hours and also take professional driving lessons before taking their test that consists of both theory and practical. Many young drivers fail their tests on more than one occasion before finally getting their driver’s license. They are issued with a provisional license and must display ‘P’ plates on their car for the next two years until they receive their Open license. In the first year, they have red P plates and in the second year they are green.
13. We very rarely throw a ‘shrimp’ on the barbie we call them prawns anyway). Thanks to tourism advertising in the 1980’s many people overseas believe that this is what we do. Whilst we love a good ‘barbie’ (or bbq) the food cooked is generally sausages (snags), rissoles (meat patties) or steak and served up with salads and an ice cold beer or glass of wine.
14. Most Australians wouldn’t be caught dead drinking a Fosters beer. The most popular beers in Australia are VB, XXXX (Fourex) or Carlton although boutique beers are gaining a big following. Beer can be purchased in cans, stubbies or tallies. If you are in a bar, you can order a pot, a middie or a schooner (depending on which part of the country you are in).
15. Australians speak a different language although it is often disguised as English. We do our shopping in large shopping centres and often snack on lollies (candy) and biscuits (cookies). We love chips – either hot or cold. I guess you’d call them crisps (cold) or fries (hot). We wear our thongs on our feet not on our butt. We love paw paw (papaya) in summer and wear togs or swimmers when we visit the pool or the beach. Most of us will take an esky with cold drinks as well. I’d be ‘spitting chips’ if I got to the beach and realised I’d left my boardies (shorts) at home. There are a great many others that I am sure someone will remind me of but you get my drift right?