5 Culture Shocks Australia vs France
Updated: Dec 7, 2018
When I left France to go to Australia at the age of 23, I literally had no idea what this country was all about. I wanted to go to Canada. But I met a random cute guy who’s now my partner, and told me about going to the complete other side of the world with him instead. I was like ‘Cool, I’m gonna see kangaroos !’ I gave up Canada, and followed that guy. Well, 4 years later, I’m still here ! I actually love Australia, I love the people, I love the weather … I don’t want to leave !
However, I’m still a Frenchie. There’s still things here that I find weird. There’s still things that I can’t get used to and that I’m still shocked about. There’s still things that I also particularly love about Australia.
So if you are French like me and you want to know more about Australia, or if you are Aussie and you want to go to France, here are 5 Culture Shocks Australia Vs France. Grab yourself a cuppa coffee or a beer and enjoy what comes next :
1 - THE FOOD
Sorry I HAVE to start with it. You can’t compare anything with French food.
We definitely have one of the best cuisine in the world and it is really important in our culture. Australian people on the other hand don’t really care about what they eat. Food is food. However, they have an absolute conviction that Vegemite, which is proper to their country, is the best thing on Earth. They put it on EVERYTHING : toast, burger, chocolate, even pasta ! I tried Vegemite once, and it was the most horrific thing I ever tasted. Sorry, not sorry !
In France, we also tend to be quite disciplined with food, especially the time we are getting our lunch and dinner while in Australia, people just go with the flow. Although, frenchies have dinner way later, at around 8 pm, while aussies get it done by 6. This is something that I found hard to get used to when we were living with australian families because I just wasn’t hungry !
So if you are French and you are going to Australia, be prepared to have dinner early as kitchens in restaurants close at 9 and don’t be surprised if you see people having a burger at Macca’s at 8am. Also if you like barbecue, you are served ! You can find barbies everywhere in parks and near beaches, and they are all CLEAN.
2 - GREETINGS
The first time I walked into a shop in Australia I didn’t know what to respond to the person that said « Hi ! How you doing ? » I couldn’t understand why you would ask some random people you don’t know how they’re doing. Then I realised that it was just a normal form of greeting here and now I know why we say French people are rude !
In France, you only say that when you actually know the person. In the countryside, people tend to be a bit more cheerful because the towns are smaller and almost everyone knows everyone. But if you go to a bigger city, this is where you can find the typical ‘French arrogance’. People avoid eye contact and they just don’t smile !
But this is just a generality from a personal experience ! French people are like coconuts, you need the time to break the shell, and loads of us can be very nice and friendly !
And by all means, let’s talk about La Bise. The common cheek kisses that we use to greet people ! This can make foreigners very uncomfortable so let me reassure you : you don’t have to do it to everyone ! We only use it with our friends and family and during casual gathering. And yes, some people do two kisses, some three, some four, it’s confusing but it’s okay. Shaking hands is also fine !
I am not really a touchy person myself so greeting in Australia suits me perfectly. You just say Hi, you shake hands, or if you really close to the person you give a quick hug. No fuss, no problem.
3 - ALCOHOL USING
It is a big thing. And in Australia, it is EX-PEN-SIVE. First of all, there is no such thing as a $3 bottle of wine in your local supermarket like in France. Alcohol is found in a liquor store, and it’s a minimum of $20 for a NICE bottle of wine. And no need to talk about spirits, guys ! However, no matter how pricy booze can be, Australians drink a lot. Beer is the new water. It makes it even easier with the drive-ins ! Not only fast-food drive thru are really common in Australia but now, you can get alcohol without even getting out of your car !
In France, we swear by WINE. Of course. We also have a thing called ‘aperitif’ : It’s basically an excuse to drink alcohol. Before lunch and dinner , we have wine, beer, or spirits with some appetizers. It’s probably just me but on Sundays, I used to start the aperitif at 11am with my parents.
In Australia, because people have dinner earlier, it’s not a problem to start having a beer at 5pm just after work.
So if you are French going to Australia, and you are a drinker and a smoker, be careful on your budget. Especially when cigarettes cost $28 a paquet. Good luck !
If you are Australian and you’re going to France, get smashed ! $12-$15 for smokes, and $6 for a beer. Enjoy mate.
4 - RELATIONSHIPS
I feel like I have better friends in Australia than I used to have in France. This is probably because people are way more open-minded due to the fact that it’s very multi-cultural. You find people from all around the world, that are traveling a lot so of course, very easy to get along with. This is not a criticism against French people at all, but it’s just a personal experience. I’ve met a lot of frenchies here and most of them were really friendly. But in France, I felt like I never fitted in. People judge you very quickly from the way you think, the way you dress, the way you talk, your political opinions, … and it was pretty stressful for me because I always had the feeling that people didn’t actually like my personality, or that I wasn’t important enough in their life. Anyway, let’s put the violins away shall we !
Australians don’t really care, you just need to be a nice person. I am more free to be myself, and I don’t actually feel that pressure anymore, people just like you for who you are. There is this beautiful positive vibe from the majority of the population that puts a smile on your face.
So if you are French and you’re coming here in Australia, you are going to make loads of friends. People love the french accent, and they love foreigners. They are so helpful, relax and super casual. Of course, there are idiots like everywhere so if you come accross one of them, just ignore it. People will love you.
If you are Australian and you go to France, you can expect to have a great experience. People are a bit more formal and distant, don’t overthink if they look at you in a weird way, they are just analyzing you. And again, they also love foreigners, so they will love you too.
5 - CHRISTMAS IN SUMMER OR CHRISTMAS IN WINTER ?
I can’t get over Christmas in summer. It just doesn’t feel right. Christmas is by far my favorite holiday and I like it traditional. Let’s put it like this :
- In France, or in Europe actually, it’s cold, it’s snowing, you put your thicker jumper on and your Christmas hat, you feel great and warm. You’re going to a big family gathering on Christmas Eve, everyone is around the table, Christmas music in the background, we have a hot dinner. Foie gras, turkey, hot potatoes … OKAY I AM HUNGRY NOW.
At midnight, everyone opens their presents and it’s a big celebration until the day after on the 25th, when we have a huge lunch from 11 :30 to 7pm. This was every year with my family and I loved it !
- In Australia, it’s super hot, although there is ‘cold climate Christmas’ theme everywhere, which seems a bit odd. People watch ‘Carols by Candlelight’ on TV on the 24th. On Christmas morning, they turn-on the air-conditioning and open presents. It is usually a big lunch outdoor with barbecue and/or seafood with family and friends. And still with the Christmas hat !
I love both. It is still a traditional Christmas no matter where you go, however I miss my White Christmas. It’s always this big time of the year when I feel a bit homesick and I miss my family. I’m still not used to Christmas in summer !
Anyway, there is something about Australian Christmas that I particularly love : The Boxing Day ! It’s another holiday celebrated after Christmas Day and originated in the UK. Basically, you have the day off and you go shopping as shops hold sales with dramatic price reductions ! I wish we could have a day like this in France !
So wherever you come from and wherever you are going for Christmas, have fun !
I hope you enjoyed this little piece of experience from a French girl living in Australia. One of the main thing I love about traveling is the opportunity you have to discover different cultures and learn about new social norms and lifestyles.
So next time you go on a holiday abroad, don't stay just around your hotel but try to get out of your comfort zone and explore, share with the locals and experience a new way to live.
Eileen – Pretty Little Mantras.