Strangest Australian Customs and Traditions
Our Australian friends live about as far away from the United States as you can get, and they have a culture that's equally different. Sure, they may speak English — whether or not you understand them is another question — but that might be one of the only things the two countries have in common.
If you've never heard of thong throwing or "schoolies week," you're in for a treat — check out these strange Australian customs.
Canned Spaghetti and Toast
For many Americans, a good breakfast includes coffee and eggs. In Australia, they have their own way of doing breakfast, and it's not what you'd expect. There’s a tradition of starting with a slice of toast — seems simple enough — but then topping it with canned spaghetti.
While Australians technically speak English, they have so many slang words and abbreviations that it can be impossible for Americans to understand them. For example, "afternoon" becomes "arvo," "mosquito" becomes "mozzie," and a "cup of tea" becomes "cuppa." And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
This is one of Australia's most fun — and perhaps ridiculous — traditions. Every year on Australia Day, January 26th, people get together in bars and watch cockroaches race to the finish line. People even place bets on which cockroach they think will win.
No, we're not talking about underwear, we're talking about flip-flops. They’re called thongs down under, and they're another important part of Australia Day. All around the country, people join together in a fun thong-throwing contest. Whoever throws them the farthest wins.
Sausage sizzles started out as a means for local fundraising, and you can now find them outside of many hardware stores in Australia. What you get is a hot sausage, a slice of bread and sometimes condiments like ketchup or onions. After all, you can really work up an appetite doing all that shopping!
It seems like there is no end to the amount of strange food combinations that Australians manage to invent. One of these combinations is fairy bread, which consists of white bread, butter and many, many rainbow sprinkles. That's it! Three simple ingredients and you have a favorite Australian snack.
Drinking Out of Shoes
You probably know that Aussies like to drink. They also know how to party, and it's not uncommon for someone to shout "do a shoey!" during a celebration. As you may have guessed, doing a "shoey" means drinking alcohol out of your own footwear.
If there's one thing Australians love to do, it's giving people nicknames. Visitors to the country might be surprised at just how fast they create these nicknames — after a recent introduction, they may be calling you "Bethie" instead of "Elizabeth."
Try a Bite of Their National Animal
Australia is unique in that they offer their national animal on the dinner menu. That's right — step into many Australian restaurants, and you can find kangaroo steaks available for eating. They're not so popular that every Australian has tried them, but they certainly aren't hard to find.
Australians, like Americans, love their sports. This is something to which many foreigners can relate. The way they celebrate their sport of choice, however, might be a little more involved than other countries. If you go to a sports game in Australia, it's not uncommon to see the whole crowd dressed in the same costume.
The festive spirit doesn't stop there. Australians are known for decorating their cars depending on which holiday is around the corner. Approaching Christmas? Expect to see antlers. For Australia Day, the Australian flag proudly flies from many vehicles. Cars and holidays are not taken lightly by the Aussies.
Bring a Plate!
An invitation to an Australian dinner party might include the sentence, "Bring a plate!" For some outsiders, this means literally showing up with a dinner plate in hand. That would be a mistake, however — in Australia, it means you should bring food of some kind.
In the United States, we have boxed wine. In Australia, they have goon. Goon is essentially a boxed wine that people lift above their heads and chug from a foil bag. It's inexpensive and can get you intoxicated quickly. If you ever backpack through Australia, you'll probably be drinking this on your nights out.
When Australians talk about Acca/Dacca, they're actually talking about AC/DC. It seems strange to change a name that's already short and sweet, but as you know, Australians love to nickname things.
No White Christmas
This one is a bit of Australian culture that some US citizens can relate to. In Australia, Christmas is never white. Snow doesn’t fall on Christmas Eve and there is no "winter wonderland" to frolic through. Plenty of tourists find this strange — after all, what's Christmas without fuzzy sweaters and cups of hot cocoa?
Magpie Swooping Season
Anyone who's ever heard that Australia is home to many dangerous animals is right, and one of those animals is the magpie. These smart birds have gotten used to living around humans in Australia, and this has brought with it some unfortunate consequences.
Lemonade = Sprite
Lemonade as Americans are used to drinking is not very prevalent in Australia — that is, lemonade made from lemons. As a result, Australian often call drinks "lemonade" if they contain even a hint of lemon, which includes drinks like Sprite.
No Shoes, No Worries?
Visitors to Australia might find that some areas are more, shall we say, casual than they're used to. This means that seeing someone barefoot on the street, or even inside the supermarket, isn't entirely out of the ordinary. No shoes? No problem!
They Love Big Things
Australia has something of an obsession with "big" things, and they dot the country serving as tourist attractions. The Big Banana, for example, marks an amusement park in South Wales, and the Big Prawn can be found at a carpark in New South Wales.
Not only do Australians abbreviate words and give things nicknames, but they have mountains of slang words, too. This is another reason why it can be so hard to understand an Aussie even when you speak the same language. A "bogan" refers to an uncouth and uneducated person, "chockers" means you're very full, and "ripper" means something's really great.
While Australia has some pretty cool cities, much of the country is made up of desert and other wilderness areas. In conversation, Australians refer to this land as simply "the bush." After all, it is covered in bushes and vegetation. Venturing too far into the bush can be dangerous; high temperatures and lethal animals abound.
No matter what country, graduating high schoolers usually have some form of celebrating. In Australia, seniors experience "schoolies week" after graduating, which is essentially a week-long holiday to party and have fun with friends. This is a time to have one last hurrah before parting ways.
Triple J Australia Day
Australians have many ways they celebrate Australia Day — including thong throwing and cockroach racing — but they also listen to one specific radio station. Many Aussies tune into Triple J on this holiday in order to hear which song was voted number one of the year.
Seafood for the Holidays
When Americans think of Christmas food, they often think of hearty dishes like potato casseroles, turkey, and gravy. But of course, every culture has its own holiday foods, and in Australia, a Christmas dinner usually consists of lobster, salmon, shrimp and any other food that comes from the sea.
If you know anything about Australian culture, you probably know that they eat Vegemite — a lot. They often spread this dark paste on bread, biscuits and sandwiches. It has a very distinct taste that most foreigners don't like, but as a tourist, it's a must-try.
Emu for Dinner
Not only do people eat kangaroo in Australia, but they also eat emu. It's not as common as kangaroo, but indigenous Australians have been eating it for thousands of years. It makes sense, too, considering emu are abundant in Australia. You can definitely find emu dishes in some restaurants.
No Hot Pink Pants?
There are several wacky laws that exist in Australia (as in any country) that outsiders may find funny. For example, it's technically against the law to have more than 50 kilograms — or 110 pounds — of potatoes. Why you may ask? This law dates back to the Great Depression when the government had to regulate certain foods.
Laws About Vacuuming?
One of the weirdest laws, and perhaps one of the best, is one that the city of Melbourne enforces. This law states that it is illegal to use your vacuum cleaner between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekdays, and 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. on weekends.
Savory Meat Pies
Even though Americans tend to prefer sweet pastries, the meat pies of Australia might still be pleasant to their taste buds. These treats are loved all over the continent and usually include fillings of sausage or beef. Top it off with tomato sauce and you have a finger-licking lunch.
This Australian gambling game isn't legal to play on most days; in Victoria, it's only allowed on Anzac Day. It's history, however, is a long one, and so it's a beloved tradition in Australia. It consists of flipping two pennies and betting on the results — will they land both heads, both tails, or one heads and one tails?