Brandon Gustafson is an official CAPA blogger for Fall 2015, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A finance major at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, he is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.
In this week's post, Brandon takes a look at some of his earlier expectations of what Australia would be like and, having lived there for a few months now, the reality.
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Before coming to Straya (Australia) I had no idea what I was going to encounter. I knew some of the stereotypes associated with Australia, so I had some vague expectations. But in reality, a lot of my expectations have turned out to be just plain wrong! I’m going to go over my top 10 expectations that I had coming to Australia and answer whether or not I’ve found them to be true. Hopefully this will help you if you ever wondered what the Land Down Under is actually like!
1. THE WEATHER IS ALWAYS SUNNY AND REALLY HOT. Well, this one is a bit conflicting and a bit subjective. While it is sunny like 300 days out of the year here, it does get cloudy and rain (particularly in spring). The temperature does get below 80 degrees… or well 27 degrees Celsius as they use here. It actually can get to be about 10°C or 40-50°F. So some warmer clothes might be in order. But if you’re like me, from northern Wisconsin, you can sit back on the beach when it is around 50-60°F with only your swimsuit on, as you watch people in parkas shuffle along like it’s the Ice Age.
2. EVERYONE IS A SURFER AND A BEACH BUM. This can’t be true because of the “chilly” weather (see above). However, there are a large number of people who do surf and the use of wetties (wetsuits) allow them to surf even in colder weather. Despite what some people may think, possibly from viewing my Facebook photos, people actually do work in Australia and don’t have time to go the beach every day. Also, some people just don’t surf. Yes. Really. I met a guy who grew up on Bondi Beach who had never surfed in his life!
3. THERE ARE DIRT ROADS & THE "OUTBACK" IS RIGHT NEXT TO THE OPERA HOUSE. This one isn’t as serious of an expectation, but more of a hope. I guess I just really wanted to see kangaroos hopping around the Opera House… (sigh). Sydney is a sprawling city with near 4.8 million people and, despite what some Americans may think, they ARE in the 21st century.
4. I'M GOING TO GET LOST IN THIS NEW CITY & PEOPLE WON'T UNDERSTAND ME. This one also isn’t a very serious expectation, but more on a subconscious concern. Sydney seemed just like every other large city that I’d been to, minus the unique sights. Everything was really cool, but it felt natural… like a parallel universe to the United States. And for some odd reason, whenever I went to talk to someone at a shop, I thought that they’d be speaking another language. Silly, I know. But nevertheless, I had that thought. Luckily that passed.
5. EVERYONE IS GOING TO BE A REAL AUSTRALIAN AUSTRALIAN, JUST LIKE CROCODILE DUNDEE. Wouldn’t it seem logical that you’d meet a lot of people from Australia who sounded Australian? I thought so too. But I’ve met way fewer people from Australia with Aussie accents than I was expecting. I’ve met people from the US, France, Germany, England, Switzerland, Belgium, China, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Philippines, Fiji, Canada, Sweden, Finland, India, the Netherlands, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Wales, Spain, Hong Kong, and probably more places! And 99% of Aussies don’t talk with a deep drawl like Dundee. Below is a native Aussie!
6. PRICES WILL BE JUST LIKE IN THE UNITED STATES. Hahahaha… ohhh boy… that’s a good one! According to an article from The Telegraph from the UK, $1 million USD will buy 41 square feet of residential real estate in Sydney! And that is just property. EVERYTHING is more expensive. Groceries, alcohol, clothes, and transportation all cost significantly more than in the good ol’ US of A. But you can find some good deals; you just have to know where to look! Btw, this is about what 40 sq. ft. looks like.
7. EVERYTHING HERE IS BIG, SCARY AND COULD POTENTIALLY KILL YOU. I’m sure that you’ve seen some horror pictures of giant, crazy, poisonous, man-eating creatures that are said to reside in Australia. Fun fact: Of the top 10 most venomous snakes in the world, Australia has 4: ranked #2, #4, #6, and #9. Those are on land, but (this is where it gets even better!) the most venomous snake in the world, Belcher’s Sea Snake, lives in the waters of Australia. A few milligrams of its venom can kill 1,000 people! Oh, and I forgot to mention some other critters including: crocodiles, great white sharks, tiger sharks, bull sharks (a lot of sharks are just misunderstood creatures and many are actually harmless), many poisonous jellyfish, flying foxes (aka bats), dingoes, large and hairy spiders (see below, hehe), cassowary (deadliest bird in the world), mosquitoes, snails (wait, what? Yeah they poison harpoon kill people), and the blue ringed octopus whose paralyzing venom has no cure, are all in Straya. Excited to travel to Australia!? Well, I haven’t actually encountered any of these things and I’ve been here for two months. But my friend did: see this gorgeous fella…
8. COFFEE WILL BE JUST LIKE IN THE US WITH STARBUCKS EVERYWHERE. Don’t get an Australian coffee drinker started on Starbucks! Aussies take great pride in their local cafes and unique coffee blends. Having never been a coffee drinker before, I almost had to start just to fit in! New terminology like long black and flat white had me trying all sorts of new stuff. And while the coffee servings are not supersized, they have one heck of a kick!
9. A CITY WITH 4.8 MILLION PEOPLE WILL BE LOUD. Yes, some parts of the city, construction, and bustling restaurants can be quite loud, but overall it is extraordinarily quiet. I’ve been on the train with about 100 people around me and it was near silent. Same thing on the buses. I learned Australians speak much quieter than Americans and are very considerate of other peoples’ conversations, not wanting to be overbearingly noisy.
10. I'LL HEAR ALL SORTS OF NEW MUSIC. If you count new songs released in the US, then yeah, this is true. The only Australian music that I’ve heard has come from popular Australian artists… that are also in the US. Oh and it kind of seems that the music played lags a little behind the US. For instance, they (Aussies) play a lot of throwback songs from the 90s and real oldies from the 60s. I suppose I’ve heard a sampling of Aboriginal music, but not enough to consider it anywhere near commonplace. No matter where I go in Australia, I always have American music to listen to.
I hope that you enjoyed this list of expectations, which is by no means an exhaustive list. This is just a little bonus. Some expectations hold very true. Australia holds many wonders that make this beautiful country a mystical place. The beaches are beautiful, the natural landscapes are breathtaking, the Opera House is amazing, you can pet kangaroos, and the Great Barrier Reef is a natural wonder of the world. Hopefully, I have been able to shed some light on what Australia is actually like!
Brandon's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned!