Culture shock for Brits

Culturally speaking, Australia is pretty similar to the UK, so if you’re a Brit moving over here then things will mostly be plain sailing. However there are a few oddities that’ll catch you out when you first arrive:

  • Saying “Alright” to someone doesn’t mean “hello”, it means “are you OK?”. So you’ll get some strange looks if you go up to someone and say “Alright mate!”
  • A “hotel” is sometimes an actual hotel, but more often than not, it’s a pub. (Aussies also use the word “pub” for the same thing, just to add to the confusion.)
  • Manchester isn’t a city over here – it means bedding and linen. So don’t be surprised when you see shops selling Manchester.
  • Woolworths isn’t a cut-price department store flogging music and pick & mix – it’s a supermarket like Tesco.
  • Speaking of supermarkets, you can’t buy alcohol in supermarkets here. You have to go into the bottle shop, or “bottle-o” – otherwise known as an off-licence – next door and make a separate purchase. (Crazy, but them’s the rules.)
  • Most banks charge you for the privilege of banking your money with them. The concept of “free banking” is relatively novel here, despite existing in the UK for over 20 years now. HSBC’s online accounts were some of the first to abolish charges, and other Aussie banks are slowly starting to follow suit.
  • And speaking of banks, Aussies call a current account a “savings” account, just to confuse the foreigners. Sometimes they call them “check” accounts too, just for fun. When you pay via a bank card in a shop, you have to press either the “cheque” or the “savings” button, depending on your account type.
  • 9/532 Sydney Street is the Aussie way of writing “Flat 9, 532 Sydney Street”. Except they don’t call them flats either – they call them units. (Not quite so romantic sounding, is it?)
  • Contrary to appearances, “Sydney” isn’t, strictly speaking, the whole city, but just a small suburb in the middle. (Much like Kensington isn’t London.) So if you’re addressing a letter to someone in the central-ish Sydney suburb of Newtown, you must write “Newtown, NSW” on the envelope, not “Sydney, NSW”. Assuming you want your letter to get delivered of course.
  • You’ll find that locals will call you a Pom quite a lot. This is quite normal and they’re not trying to be offensive.
  • Automatic transmissions are much more common here. In fact, most cars are automatics. If you hire a car, you’ll probably be given an automatic by default. (Suits me – one less pedal to worry about.)
  • In the UK, a B&B (bed & breakfast) is often cheaper than a hotel, and often consists of a mouldy old room in a ramshackle terrace house with a deaf host. In Australia, a B&B tends to be more of a luxury option when compared to a standard hotel or motel. (Although we have stayed in a couple of fairly grotty B&Bs here too.)

These are just off the top of my head. If you’re British then no doubt you will encounter (or have encountered) many more!

3 Responses to “Culture shock for Brits”

  1. Ali Khan Says:

    :) I Read ur article and liked it , though i have lived for three years in the UK but it was an experience, and i did understand the differences u pointed(intresting to hear about the bank accounts and shocked by woolworths ) but anyways UK is the best place to be..

  2. Kimble Says:

    Shopping Comment

    Just wanted to comment on how difficult shopping can be when you first arrive here.

    Simple things such as clothes, electric toothbrush, even food – you know where to head to in the UK and the brands you like but you have to learn it all again here. Even furniture – the shops are very much more ‘local’ so all takes a bit of getting used to.

    I do miss Waitrose and M&S when I’m looking for a ‘gourmet’ ready meal on the nights I can’t be bothered to cook. Which leads me on… The selection of ‘ready meals’ that the supermarkets offer isn’t a patch on UK supermarkets and I’m thinking the reason for this is because Aussies will throw something on the barbie as a quick fix meal instead of piercing the film lid and putting in the microwave.

    Just a few of my observations.

  3. Matt Says:

    Kimble, that’s very true about having to learn everything afresh. One thing that got me is there are no equivalents of Boots and WH Smith over here – stores you take for granted in the UK!

    Interesting point about the lack of choice with ready meals. It might also be due to the fact that takeaways are that much cheaper in Aus. Of course, it might just be a symptom of the generally smaller range of food in Aussie supermarkets!

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