Why I don’t want to holiday in Australia again!

First, let me get something out of the way. I love Australia, I really do. Obviously, being a Brit means there’s a lot of rivalry between our two nations (mainly about sport), but most of the time it’s merely ‘friendly banter’, and it’s very much a place that we British long to visit and explore.

Nullarbor Plain, Australia, at Cook.
The Wide Open Spaces of the Nullarbor Plain. Flies not pictured.

I love the people (they are all, uniformly, completely barmy); I love the laid-back attitude as befits a country with too much sun (in a supermarket on the Sunshine Coast, in the middle of Winter, around 10-15% of the clientele were barefoot) and too much wildlife (‘eh, you don’t need to worry about the 10 deadliest spiders mate, you’ll never see them. The 10 deadliest snakes eat them long before they reach you’); I love the friendly relaxed familiar towns, the long open roads, the glorious empty skies …

A quokka looking cute on Rottnest Island.
A quokka looking cute on Rottnest Island.

The problem comes, ultimately, precisely because of the fact that I’m British.
For many people, Australia is seen as a vast unexplored continent, full of unknown dangers and exciting journeys, with strange musical instruments and even stranger animals – visitors have been raised on tales of kangaroos and platypuses, of outback adventurers and native populations blowing into tubes and painting on rocks.

Man playing music on the street in Adelaide.
The nearest most people get to traditional Australian music.

However, to a Brit, the reality is much more mundane.
The vast bulk of the population lives in what amounts to large glorified English country towns. Suburbia. Endless roads of townhouses and bungalows, and town centres with familiar layouts, designs, and even shops, that wouldn’t look out of place in Hertfordshire. Add to that the fact that everyone’s speaking English, they drive on the left, the buses look and operate the same, the television’s pretty identical, and even some of the product branding matches, and it very much feels like home. Especially when you consider that around 5.5% of all Australians were born in the UK (based on 2011 census), and presumably considerably more have family over here.

In fact, it feels too much like home. And that’s my problem.
I’ve travelled to quite a few places in the world, and I’ve grown to accept things that are a little out of my comfort zone. From currency you have to carry around in bags rather than wallets, to indistinguishable insects deep-fried to within an inch of their nutrition; from cramped minibuses occupied by 7-8 people more than the recommended maximum, to trying to negotiate at market stalls or with guides in a language that neither of you are fluent in.
Australia, on the other hand, is easy. For a Brit, backpacking around Australia is like backpacking around the UK, except marginally cheaper and with longer coach rides. After going to the Middle East, to SE Asia, Australia feels less like a holiday destination and more like spending time with family. It’s not ‘unusual’, it’s not ‘challenging’, it’s not (dare I say it) ‘exciting’ – it’s the travel equivalent of walking into a clothes shop and settling for a new patterned cardigan rather than the tie-dye shirt you’d originally wanted.

Adelaide, main street.
Birmingh…no, wait, it’s Adelaide 🙂

Sorry, Australia; for me you’re a great place to visit, but not a place to go on holiday to. And anyway, your beer’s worse than our cricket team :p

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Oh, Australia, it's complicated with you! Me looking out to sea on the Sunshine Coast at dusk.

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10 Comments

  1. Monique

    I’ve never been to Australia, but I know what you mean. Going to a place where you can’t find the challenge and it feels all too familiar and comfortable defeats the purpose of discovery we all look for when traveling!

    1. I suspect it’s the same to some extent for any combination of Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and British visiting any other of those countries (certainly my experiences of the USA are similar), but I think there’s something ‘particular’ about the relationship between the UK and Australia; I think we’re culturally a bit closer to each other and have a similar mindset. For me, the USA and Canada just feel that bit more ‘abroad’ than Australia; Adelaide and Perth felt like they could *be* in Britain and I’ve never had that feeling from any North American city.

  2. Serendipity Tess

    Interesting post 🙂 i can see why you felt the way you did! When my English boyfriend & I arrived in Perth, we thought we had landed at Heathrow somewhere. And when we sat on the underground, we had the feeling our travels came to an end and we were back in London. However, as we travelled through Australia by car and effectively lived in it for a month, Australia felt like a totally new land for us. Especially out in the outback – we loved it! But, as a Swiss girl, I felt exactly the same way when we set foot in New Zealand. NZ is a bigger Switzerland – it’s too similar and somehow I feel disappointed that I did not feel the same ‘wow’ so far…it reminds me too much of home LOL. We will do some travelling after our housesit – hopefully I’ll fall in love with it!

    1. Hope you do too – it would be very disappointing to be somewhere for so long if you don’t ‘click’ with a place!

      The outback is different, is true, but growing up in the UK we obviously had a lot of ‘imports’ from Australia and examples of Australian culture, so for me it almost feels like ‘it doesn’t look much different than it does on the TV’! Maybe I should have explored it a bit more rather than spending most of my time in towns/cities, but conversely I was planning to spend time in more ‘different’ countries with less-familiar scenery and culture (hmm, maybe this post was self-fulfilling!!).

  3. Emma

    This is a great post, and it sums up how I feel about visiting the UK. There are room any similarities, it’s almost too comfortable. Couple of things though, in response to to above comment – I live in Perth and we don’t have an underground train system. Also, I’d love to see the Heathrow you’re confusing with Perth Airport. Perth is literally the same size as terminal 3 at Heathrow.

    I’m also mortally offended by your hatred of our beer. You must have been stuck with the shitty ones, the Aussie craft beer market is a delight on the palate.

    1. Haha 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

      To be fair, I’d imagine the beer situation in Australia is the same as the USA – the reputation belies the truth, if you know where to look (and I’ve had some great beers in small pubs across both the USA and Canada).
      As far as I remember (and it was a year ago now), I only found one proper craft beer place in my Australian adventure – it was in Adelaide and a short walk from the hostel I was in – but to be fair in Perth I had other things on my mind, and my time on the Sunshine Coast was spent with a friend who doesn’t really drink proper beer. Certainly, like in the UK, bland corporate lager dominates the scene.
      (As an aside from that, one of the UK pub chains, Wetherspoons, often has craft beer imported or UK-brewed ‘on license’ – it’s usually from the USA, but occasionally I’ve seen South African and NZ beers. Interestingly, I’m not sure I’ve seen an Oz beer yet, boo!)

      I’m guessing “the underground” that Tess referred to was the Perth suburban railway – there’s a bit underground in the centre of the city, isn’t there? And no, Perth is much smaller than Heathrow, but because all the signs are mono-lingual and all the staff are native English speakers, and the customs/admin for arriving in both are very similar, it does feel even there a little like coming ‘home’.

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