Sometimes I forget that I live in the middle of Australia. Well, not the middle perse, but I do reside on the edge of a massive desert continent floating in an ocean somewhere in the furthermost corner of the earth. I perform periodic reality checks where I jolt out of bed and rip the curtains open just to make sure the cars are actually driving on the left side. Strange, I know, but Melbourne seems so much like any city in the U.S. that I often forget. That is, until (on the rare occasion) I happen to venture outside of the city, and I’m unmistakably in the middle of nowhere, Australia.

It wasn’t long ago that I went Melbourne crazy and set off on a weekend road trip. Not only was I in for a massive wrong side of the road driving adventure, but I also got a big mouthful of Aussie culture. People often ask what the biggest difference is between living in Australia and America, and I whimsically respond, “it’s all the same, just change the accent and drive on the opposite side of the road.” In retrospect, I would like to add in—just take away all signs of civilization and you’ve got Australia.

With a landmass nearly the size of the continental US and only 1/7th  of our population, you can expect sparse dribbles of human settlement here and there. I though parts of the Midwest were rural, but Australia takes the cake. There’s a distinct dividing line where it goes from big city suburbs to rolling hills nothingness for hundreds of miles.  Country? Yes. Creepy? Little bit. Bogan? Oh yeah! [Refer to Lesson in Boganism for cultural refrences]

My Kiwi bud, Chris and I set off for Mt. Beauty, a town three hours northeast of Melbourne. Along the way we popped into a few towns just to get a feel for rural Australia. I was expecting quaint Sunday brunch then stroll down the main street for shopping type of country town. You know, the kind of place you would take a day trip to in upstate New York? It was more of like a THERE IS ABSOULETLY NOTHING HERE except a grocery store and gas station and oh wait…where are all the people and houses?! type of town. Country? Yes. Creepy? Little bit. Bogan? Oh yeah!

Bottom line? Apart from kangaroo watching and gumtree gazing (and yes, there are plenty) the Australian countryside does not have much to offer in the way of entertainment. The perks of having no civilization in sight? It was the perfect place to practice my left side driving skills and not have to worry about hitting anyone! And, I did get to see snow in Australia, so I’d say the weekend was a success!

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Road through the middle of nowhere, Australia
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Chris & Me in Mt. Beauty
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Playing in the leaves!
 
1. Abbreviate, abbreviate, abbreviate.

When in doubt just cut the last few syllables out from a word and you will sound unforgettably Aus. Here are a few of the key abreves you need to learn:

university=uni
mosquitoes=mossies
vegetables=veg
breakfast=brekky

Even city and tram signs for Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market read Queen Vic Market. If the government approves, your new Australian friends surely will too!

2. Don't forget, walk on the left.

Nuff said. Try walking on the right side of the sidewalk and the Aussies burst out into a funky chicken dance sort of move trying to figure out which side you are passing them on, and they barely avoid running into you at the last minute. It seriously freaks them out. But then again, maybe you should try walking on the left side of the sidewalk in the U.S. and see what happens! 

3. You don't have friends, you have mates.

4. Voice your enthusiasm for Vegemite. 

Vege-what?! It's a sodium-loaded black paste used as a pastry filling and toast spread. It was invented by Kraft as a means for recycling the otherwise useless yeast extract. It's an Aussie staple and repulse to the rest of the world. Here's what President Obama has to say about it: 

"It's like a quasi-vegetable by-product, that you smear on your toast," going on to exclaim that it's horrible! I agree.

5. Forget your thank you's. It has now become ta and cheers. While the Aussies still use thank you, ta and cheers have so much more character and will prove your true inner Australian even if they don't sound very Australian coming from your mouth. It's easy to work on the accent once you've got the lingo down!

Start practicing these five steps on a daily basis and you will be rolling with sheilas and blokes down under in no time! Australian slang lesson coming soon...