20 Things NOT to Do in Australia
It’s easy to conjure up a list of things to do in Australia. It’s a vast country/continent with a myriad of natural wonders, diverse cultures, metropolitan cities, unique wildlife and more to explore. But that’s not what this list is about. This is more about the behaviors to avoid, words to refrain from and what not to wear when traveling down under. Sometimes knowing what to abstain from is as important as knowing what to do. So if you don’t want to get into trouble, rub the locals the wrong way or piss mother nature off, here are 20 things NOT to do in Australia.
1. Don’t Say “Put Another Shrimp on the Barbie”
This lame slogan was part of a 1980s ad campaign featuring Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee fame, targeting an American audience to come to Australia. Not sure how the campaign impacted tourism, but the catch-phrase sure stuck. It’s one of the first things that springs to mind when Americans think about Oz, and something that makes most Aussies cringe. Australians call those tasty crustaceans “prawns”, not “shrimp”, and saying that tired cliché won’t win you any friends down under.
2. Don’t Take Beach Safety Signs Lightly
When you see those warning signs about crocodiles, jellyfish, sharks, octopus and other dangers on the beach, go on and take a picture – but take them seriously, too. Every year people are injured at the beach, some fatally, for not heeding these warnings. However, don’t avoid Aussie beaches altogether because of these potential threats. They say you’re more likely to be hit in the head by a falling coconut than encountering one of these menacing creatures. Definitely pay attention to the red flags, as rip tides are the biggest danger.
3. Don’t Underestimate Distances
Australia is one huge landmass. In fact, England can fit into Australia almost 60 times. Don’t expect to drive from Sydney to Perth or Adelaide to Darwin in a two day road trip. Those are particularly long hauls through unforgiving desert, with roadside amenities few and far between. Even the more populated routes up the east coast can take longer than you think. Give yourself lots of time to travel from place to place on the road, peppered with plenty of rest stops along the way. Consider flying between far flung destinations to save yourself time and fatigue.
4. Don’t Tip
Tipping is not the custom in Australia as it is in America, where 20 per cent is the expected norm. Service workers are paid a fair wage here, and don’t expect to be topped up with a bonus for doing their job (unless particularly exceptional service is given). They won’t necessarily be insulted or not take your change, but its not an expected part of the local service culture. *A reader has pointed out that tipping is becoming more customary in the big cities and touristy areas of Australia, so leaving 10 per cent or so might be a good idea these days.
5. Don’t Climb Uluru
Many of the 400K annual tourists to Australia’s Red Center climb Uluru, otherwise known as Ayer’s Rock. The views at the top of the rock are phenomenal, and it’s one of those iconic bucket-list activities people seem to want to do. It’s not a particularly difficult 348 meter climb, but there have been about 35 deaths (mostly heart attacks) and injuries throughout the years. Not everyone is aware, however, that the local Anangu people prefer tourists not to climb Uluru because of its spiritual significance to them. There are other activities and sites around the base of the rock that they are happy to share with visitors, but climbing this sacred monolith is considered offensive and disrespectful. So for cultural, environmental and safety reasons, give some thought to your decision to climb or not to climb. If you want to be sensitive to the local people, put this on your list of things not to do in Australia.
6. Don’t Just Ask for a Beer
Brush up on your beer lingo before hitting an Aussie watering hole. There’s a whole amber fluid slang you need to learn before a trip down under, with some regional variations thrown in just to confuse you. For starters, a brownie is a bottle, a tallie is a long-necked bottle, a stubby is a small-necked bottle, a tinnie is a can and a slab is a case of 24 cans. Don’t miss the Darwin stubby, a Northern Territory specialty up to a 2.25 liter capacity. Then there’s the glass size which, ranging from larger to smaller, could be a pint, schooner, middy or pot. When it’s your turn to buy a round, say “my shout”.
7. Don’t Surf Without Knowing the Etiquette
There’s a strong surfing culture in Australia and its a great place to give the sport a try. However, beginner surfers must be safe and respectful of others trying to catch a wave by following the code of conduct. For example, the person closest to the peak of the break has the right to ride it. Don’t drop into someone another person’s wave. Paddle outside of the zone where a lineup of surfers might be coming at you. Hang onto your board and secure your leg rope, as a rogue board can be very dangerous. Don’t be a wave hog, so make sure you let others have their turn.
8. Don’t “Root” For a Team
That word has a different meaning down under than it does elsewhere. “Root” is the local word for “f*ck”, so when you ask a local which Aussie rules football team they’re rooting for, you might get some strange looks. Canadian travelers, beware of wearing your favorite “Roots” brand tee-shirt with the cute beaver logo. You’ll definitely get some double takes.
9. Don’t Wear a “Fanny” Pack
Hands-free carrying belts may be practical, but they are hopelessly out of style. But its more the word that’s the problem here. “Fanny” may mean “backside” in North America but in Australia (and Britain), the word is used for “female genitalia”. Use the word “bum bag” for those dorky things unless you want to raise some eyebrows.