If you’ve made the decision to move to Oz and are looking to assimilate with the locals, it helps to know some of the more weird and wonderful aspects of our national character. Aussie culture is made up of a patchwork of traditions, habits, and quirks that many outsiders find bemusing, to say the least. If you want to better understand your adopted countrymen, or if you’re just in the country on a flying visit, here are some of the lesser-known Aussie traditions that you should brush up on.
1. Chatting with the Cabbies
While every country has its own set of customs and standards when it comes to taxi rides, many newcomers find Australia’s most bewildering. It is customary in Australia to always, always have a natter with the cab driver, often to the point where you know each other’s life stories by the end of the journey. You may even be expected to sit up front with the driver if you don’t want to risk making them think you’re rude. Don’t worry though, Aussie cabbies are a famously friendly bunch.
2. Cockroach Races
This is one tradition that can be pretty difficult to explain or justify to newbies, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Traditionally but not exclusively played on Australia Day (26 January), cockroach races can be found in pubs up and down the country. Punters gather and place a wager on a cockroach of their choice, before all of them are released from their holding pens into the centre of a 6-meter ring, with the winner being the first roach to leave the ring.
3. Playing the Pokies
Aussies love to gamble more than anyone else in the world, with Aussies spending $24 billion a year, or 40% more per capita than anywhere else in the world, on gambling. Nothing is more illustrative of this national pastime than the ‘pokies’, which is Aussie slang for video slot machines that are ubiquitous at corner shops across the country. Nowadays, more and more people are playing real money slots online, thanks to the proliferation of digital platforms such as Wildz, which offers hundreds of slot titles that are popular in Oz. Nonetheless, the love of the Pokies remains as strong as ever.
4. The Sausage Sizzle
If you ever walk past a hardware store, public building, or polling both and see crowds of people jostling to get a barbecued sausage and a slice of white bread, then you’ve come across a sausage sizzle. Originally started to help raise funds for community initiatives, sausage sizzles are simply any public event where someone sets up a grill and starts hawking sausage and bread for a couple of dollars apiece. Sausage sizzles started to pop up outside polling stations on election days about a decade ago, resulting in so-called ‘Democracy Sausages‘ now being an expected treat for any voter turning out to cast their ballot.
If you can wrap your head around these classic Australian traditions, you’re ready to become a true local. Make sure to consult our Moving to Australia section for more tips on how to fit in.