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Roadtrip Australia: Van-Tastic Northern Territory - WILLIE & ANDREW Americans Willie and Andrew embark on the ultimate Aussie roadtrip as they motor around Northern Territory with Van-Tastic Adventures for six action-packed, free-wheeling weeks of adventure.


AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 17 April 2010 | Views [1341] | Comments [3]

 When I first arrived in Australia, I knew what to expect in terms of sites and attractions – my Lonely Planet guidebook took care of that for me. What I didn’t know is what kind of culture shock I would experience, and what kind of customs would go straight over my head. I was warned that Australians loved to ‘take the piss’ out of somebody – essentially excessive teasing. That’s all I knew.

But all in all, it’s been the easiest culture transition I think I’ve ever had to make in all of my travels. There haven’t been any big shocks anywhere along the road – nobody is eating live koalas or lassoing strangers for fun and profit (why these were my big fears, I’ll never know).

But because the transition has been so easy, it’s made the little things stand out. And so what follows is a list of all the little things that threw me for a loop.

1. Green Toilets – One of the first things that I did when I reached Australia was run to the bathroom. Partially because I just got off a fourteen hour flight, yes. But mostly because I couldn’t wait to see a toilet flush in the wrong direction (although, come to think of it, I can’t actually remember which way toilets flush in the States. Is it clockwise or counterclockwise?). Regardless, my experiment was a failure. Almost all toilets here flush straight down. So that’s no fun. But what is interesting? All toilets have two flushing options. One for the piss and one for the poo. If you press the smaller button, you’ll only get a half-flush. The toilet won’t put much effort into it. But if you pres the big button? That’s when the toilet goes all in. It’s fantastic; the States need to catch up!

2. Bathrooms and toilets – In Australia, a bathroom is literally the room where you bathe in. If you don’t say ‘toilet’ then people might not understand exactly what it is you’re looking for.

3. Driving on the left side of the road – For us, driving on the ‘wrong’ side hasn’t been too much of an issue. Since the steering wheel is also on the right side of the van, we’ve just been trying to keep this piece of advice in mind: “Always stay in the center of the road.” If we catch ourselves near the shoulder… we’re in the wrong lane. The only time this is actually hard to remember? Sometimes, on turns, our gut instinct places us in the right lane by accident. Thankfully, we usually correct.

4. Gas – Is sold in liters. In the Outback, liters tend to run about $1.70. Which, at first, seemed remarkably cheap, compared to the $2.50 most US gallons go for! Then we remembered that there are nearly four liters per gallon. So gas here is really $7 per gallon. It’s been taking a toll on our wallets, to say the least.

5. “Cash Out” – If you ever use a debit card, you don’t receive Cashback like you might in the states. Instead you receive “Cash Out.” I discovered this at a pub while buying lunch. The man offered me cash out and I said, “I don’t know what you mean.” And he said, “Cash… That comes out.”

6. CANDY!! – Hershey’s and Nestle don’t dominate the candy market here quite like they do at home. There are some of the most popular ones – Snickers, Twix, Kit Kat bars. But most of the other candy bars are brands we’ve never heard of. Milo, which is a chocolatey-brownie type candy bar. Several candies come with honeycomb inside it. There are Turkish Delights, which are fruity-jelly candies dipped in chocolate. (Willie and I couldn’t finish them.)

7. Moneys – Everything here seems to be slightly more expensive than it is back in the States. The money itself is plastic-y and extremely colorful and you can see through the bottom right corner. It’s bizarre. Also, the lowest bill is $5. They have one and two-dollar coins. Which means you could be holding ten dollars and it would feel like you’re holding fifty cents. You can burn through cash easily that way. It must be great for the economy. Also: no quarters, but they do have twenty cent coins. And there are no pennies. Everywhere rounds up or down to the nearest 5 cents. It’s lovely.

8. Job Wages – An American expat came up to me one day after hearing my accent and said, “You! You! Are you moving to Australia?!” and when I said I was working with Tourism NT, she told me that I’d probably never go home. The average wages here are twice what they are in the States, according to this completely reputable source. She told me most Starbucks baristas make $15 an hour, minimum.

And I think that about covers it. So if you can handle that amount of culture shock… Come to Australia!!

-by Andrew Adams

Tags: andrew adams, candy, culture shock, gas prices, money, northern territory, the little things, toilets, vantastic



fabulous and funny! thanks!

  Carla Moreno Apr 20, 2010 8:00 AM


you guys are cute. also the milo "candy" bar comes from the milo drink, duh. it's like nesquik but better to eat raw!

  jennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnizzle Apr 21, 2010 11:02 PM


I love the option flush toilets! They had them in Japan, but they also had this spout that filtered the tank water when flushed so you washed your hands in that.
America is way behind

  Morgan Apr 27, 2010 12:28 PM

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