Any Aussie moving to London would expect to find a few differences between the golden sandy beaches of Aus and the rainy grey city of London, but it’s not just the weather that’s the difference between living in Australia and living in England. We speak the same language, but there are heaps of cultural differences between the Brits and the Aussies, which you’ll discover living in the UK. I’m a Brisbane girl, and I moved to London when I was 21 to personify that Aussie-in-London stereotype, and I discovered some big differences in culture. And before anyone jokes about Aussies having no culture, you’ll start to recognise the Aussie culture as soon as you move to England and see what Aussies look like to a Londoner. You might be a bit embarrassed (and secretly a bit proud) of your own Australian culture.
This one was a surprise to me when I moved to London. In Australia, pretty much everyone has an iPhone, so everyone uses iMessage to text, or at least uses Facebook Messenger to contact friends. No one’s even heard of Whatsapp down under.
In London, everyone uses Whatsapp to text their friends, which baffles me, because I think (despite the fact Whatsapp is owned by Facebook) that the design and functionality of Whatsapp is shoddy. No one seems to use iMessage in London.
Going on holiday
In Australia, the only place anyone goes on holiday is the Gold Coast or Bali (which we treat as the equivalent of the Brits going to Ibiza). Aussies rarely travel, because there’s nothing around! But when we do travel, we go on giant backpacking trips, and really see the world.
In London, there are flights from five airports to anywhere you want to go. Which means for an Aussie living in London, you’ll be spoilt for choice, and jet setting somewhere new every weekend. Brits, however? Despite having all of Europe on their doorstep, a lot of them have never gone anywhere except a family trip to Mallorca.
Sunny days, golden beaches, and warm ocean water are the norm down under, and Aussies don’t know how lucky they are. But in summer, you need air conditioning 24/7, and just getting from your house to the car can feel like walking through a sauna.
In London, it rains every week. But the winters are actually bearable (I know, even this Brisbane girl thinks so!), and when it gets to summer, it’s never unbearably hot. When the sun comes out, everyone gets outside to enjoy it. The seasonality really makes you appreciate the warm weather.
After work, for the most part, Aussies just go home. A lot of people drive to work, or at least drive to a train station, and so a beer after work takes coordination. Plus, there aren’t really any casual pubs in Aus (other than pubs overrun by dodgy tradies). It’s mostly about cool bars, where you’re expected to be in at least smart work clothes. Drinking is reserved for weekends, or at the very least, Thursday night.
In London, there’s a big culture of going for a beer or two after work. No one drives, and the tube is so convenient that you know you can get home at 10pm or 1am after a few drinks. And classic English pubs are the go-to after work, rather than trendy bars. Drinking a pint becomes a much more relaxed, casual after-work activity. If you go into any pub in London, even on a Monday night, you’ll find plenty of people having a pint.
Going clubbing in Australia is much more of a thing. You prep beforehand, you plan your outfit, you spend time on hair and makeup, you get together with your friends for pre-drinks, you drink as much as humanly possible, you get a cab, and you go to the club, where you’re wasted after one drink and go home by 2am.
In London you can definitely find that same attitude to clubbing, but there’s also more of a casual clubbing vibe. It’s acceptable to go clubbing in flats, or dare I say it, trainers. London’s huge variety of clubs, bars and pubs means there’s a different clubbing style for everyone.
In England, Sundays are for Sunday roasts, which are a big deal. After stuffing your face, you might go for a walk or just veg out in front of the TV.
In Aus, Sundays are for hungover brunch and then day drinking at a rooftop or riverside bar.
I didn’t realise until I moved away from Australia just how fresh and healthy Australian food is. We have really good quality fruit and vegetables year round, and there’s a big focus on cooking healthy food at home, with a strong Asian influence. It’s easy to find healthy ingredients for any style of recipe you want to create, but especially Asian food.
In London, however, there is hardly any Asian influence, and if you want to make a pad Thai or Vietnamese noodle salad, good luck finding Oyster sauce or Fish sauce, except in a speciality Asian grocer. In London, the grocery stores are generally smaller, designed for shopping every few days. Vegetables come packaged, and often pre-cut, which is more expensive and horrible for the environment. So much plastic, everywhere! However, you have to pay 5p for a grocery bag, so you’ll hopefully remember to bring your own along.
In Australia, if you say “Asian”, as in “Asian food”, you’re referring to food (or culture, people, etc.) usually from south and eastern Asia, like China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, etc.. If you’re referring to people/food from India, you would usually say “Indian”, rather than “Asian”.
In the UK, confusingly, the word “Asian” refers to Indian food/people. To refer to Chinese/Japanese/Korean/etc. people or food Brits will use the term “Oriental”. I remember being confused when a Brit pointed out her friend to me by saying, “She’s the Asian girl over there,” while pointing to someone who was ethnically Indian.
Everyone knows Aussies say “thongs” and the rest of the world thinks “g-string”. But there are a few other differences in the Aussie/British vernacular. When Brits say “pants”, they are actually referring to their underwear, or underpants. If they’re referring to pants, they say “trousers”. So probably don’t say to a Brit, “I like your pants”. They’ll be very weirded-out. A few other differences in vocabulary:
Australian / British
Zucchini / Courgette
Capsicum / Bell pepper
Lollies / Sweets
Chips / Crisps
Eggplant / Aubergine
Pants / Trousers
Undies / Pants
For women’s fashion – there’s a big emphasis in Australia on shopping in independent or micro chain boutiques that stock local Australian brands and designers.
In London, good luck finding a boutique clothing store or local designer that isn’t extortionately expensive. Instead, everyone shops exclusively at huge macro chain stores, like H&M, Topshop, and Zara.
I mean I shouldn’t need to say this, but obviously the coffee in Australia is better. The only good coffee you’ll find in London is in Australian cafes. Duh.
Have you spotted any other differences between British and Australian culture that I’ve missed? Anything you found really strange in London or Australia? Let me know in the comments!