19 Fascinating Facts That Prove Growing Up In Australia Is Way Different Than Growing Up In America

·8 min read

Hey there! I'm Mary, and I work in the BuzzFeed NYC office. (Well, right now I work in the BuzzFeed "the desk in my bedroom" office.) I was born in Australia to Australian parents, but I grew up in the US, so naturally I have a lot of questions about what the childhood of Parallel Universe Aussie Mary would be like.

White bread buttered with Sprinkles

Apparently, it would involve a lot of this stuff.

Bhofack2 / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Luckily for me, my fellow BuzzFeeder Jules Willing was kind enough to answer my questions about her Aussie youth, and help me solve that eternal mystery: Are Australian children taught how to fight off a shark?

1.So, you all have to wear school uniforms?

A group of five schoolchildren pose in their uniforms for the camera

Yep, throughout primary school and high school! There's probably some selective art schools where it's not mandatory, but I'd say 99% of Aussie schools have a set uniform.

But honestly, I like it that way! I can't imagine the pressure of having to dress myself everyday for school — I struggle enough as an adult. I think I've worn the same sweatpants and hoodie for five days running now, so...yeah, the uniform simplifies things.

Johnnygreig / Getty Images

2.How popular is the whole "fairy bread" thing? Is it overrated?

White bread with butter and sprinkles

Oh man, fairy bread is just one of those nostalgic vibes that you can't help but get on board with. Is it essentially just white bread, butter and sugar? Absolutely. But somehow, it tastes like absolute joy. So no, it's not overrated — but it's also not something you'll just chow down on for lunch.

Bhofack2 / Getty Images / iStockphoto

3.Bread with sprinkles aside, what were the most beloved or ~iconic~ childhood snacks?

Pizza flavored shapes

There are so, so many, but some of the most popular snacks would have to be potato smiles (essentially just a hash brown, with eyes and a smile), Shapes (flavoured, savoury biscuits) and Tiny Teddies (cute, lil', sweet biccies, or biscuits).

Buzzfeed / youtube.com

4.How about ice cream? I've heard rumors about something called a "Golden Gaytime."

A Golden Gaytime ad

The king of all ice creams. An icon for the ages. Gaytimes are just sublime — they've got this epic toffee and vanilla ice cream, which is then dipped in a delightful chocolate coating and finished off in biscuit crumbs. *Chef's kiss* superb.

GU / youtube.com

5.Are you taught to fear spiders? And jellyfish? And snakes? And the sun?

A warning sign on an Australian beach for jellyfish

Nah, we're made of tougher stuff down here. It's all you wusses overseas that lose your minds over our ~colourful array~ of wildlife.

As kids, we used to call jellyfish "jelly blubbers" and try to pick them up in our hands. And big spiders, like the huntsman, are considered friends, not foes. You'll generally leave them alone if you find one chilling in the corner of your house.

When it comes to snakes, I've maybe seen three in all my life? Never indoors, but I do live in Sydney and not out in the sticks, so maybe they're more of a menace outside major cities.

The sun, we love. We worship. But yes, we do occasionally fear her wrath.

Auscape / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

6.In that same vein, have you ever had to fistfight a magpie?

A menacing looking magpie bird

Okay, real talk, magpies are the one animal you should be shit scared of. These maniacs do not mess around — when spring time rolls around, it's every man for himself. So yeah, as a kid, you're pretty much terrified when you're walking down the street and you feel the flutter of wings on the back of your neck.

When that happens, you drop everything and flee.

Rosalie Cheyne / Getty Images / EyeEm

7.Are Australian elementary schools filled with tiny children calling each other "mate"? Please say yes.

Channel 9 / giphy.com

Honestly, because I'm as old as dust now, I can't remember how ocker (stereotypically Aussie and male) the youths of Australia really are. But I do know that in high school, kids really do seem to ascend into their most Aussie selves. Lots of "mates", a few "cunts" — you know, just CuTe, AuSsiE tHiNgS.

8.How big of a deal are sports in school? And how do you get through gym class without passing out from heatstroke?

Children playing rugby at school

From my experience, school sports in Australia are nothing compared to what they are in the States. They seem to reach a kind of scary, cult-like status over there (or, at least, that's what I've gleaned from binging American teen dramas), but here, it's a lot more casual.

Generally, you start in primary school with either soccer or netball, then in high school you might take an interest in something else — rugby, basketball, etc. But unless you go to a fancy, private school, it's unlikely you even have an official school sports team.

When it comes to heatstroke, I think there are legit rules in place where, if it reaches over a certain temperature, schools have to send everyone home? But I don't know if that's just an old wive's tale. I hope not.

Peter Cade / Getty Images

9.What games did you play during recess?

Some cartoon children playing handball

Everyone goes through a huge handball stage in school — whether that's primary school, or high school, it will come for you. And it's just incredible. Like, some of the best times of my schooling days was playing handball out on the asphalt. It was particularly fun if you accidentally tripped over and lost a layer of flesh to the fall.

Colematt / Getty Images / iStockphoto

10.What's it like celebrating Christmas during the summertime?

Two Australians on the beach in Christmas hats

Honestly, bliss. It's so great being out and about during such a merry time. People are just happier, ya know? The beaches are full, people are out having picnics, Santa ride in on a surfboard — I wouldn't have it any other way.

As a kid, I grew up on this little island community in Sydney, and we used to have Santa arrive on a boat and give out presents to all the children. It was incredible.

Laura Howden / Getty Images / 500px

11.Is it true that you don't have middle school? If so, jealous.

Hulu / giphy.com

Hell no, what a waste of time that is. High school covers grades seven to 12.

12.Are schools air conditioned there? (Please tell me they are.)

A woman tries to block the sunlight with her hand

Maybe fancy ones, but mine certainly weren't. So you'd just sweat it all out together, under a barely-moving, 50-year-old ceiling fan. It really bonded kids together.

Skaman306 / Getty Images

13.Did you ever get sent home from school cause it was too damn hot to stick around?

Nickelodeon / giphy.com

Okay, see, this is what I was talking about in question eight. I can vividly remember in primary school, you'd wait for it to reach, say, 35° Celsius (or 95° Fahrenheit) — because there was a rumour that schools were legally required to send you home.

It never happened, of course, and trusty old google reveals that there actually isn't a magic number that the mercury has to hit before kids get sent home. And that realisation makes me kinda sad.

14.Do kids eat Vegemite, and if so, why?

Vegemite on toast with an itty bitty Australian flag sticking out of it

Of course they do! It's the life blood of our people, it's incredibly delicious. Kids, teens, adults, the elderly — we can't get enough of the stuff.

Tap10 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

15.What TV shows did you and your classmates grow up watching?

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There are actually so many cooked kids' TV programs that we grew up with — and they explain why Aussie adults are all a little unhinged today.

16.And what are some childhood-defining books you all grew up reading?

The cover of Deltora Quest

This may be personal preference, but Deltora Quest is the best Aussie fantasy series ever written.

Set in the mystical realm of Deltora, the series followed three teens as they endeavoured to recover seven magical gems which would complete the Belt of Deltora — giving them the power to defeat the evil Shadow Lord. I'd re-read them all again today, it's so good.

Scholastic

17.Is there an equivalent to a high school prom or a homecoming dance?

Little Mix / giphy.com

Yeah, we just call it a "formal" though. Everyone gets dressed up — but not in ball gowns or some of those OTT outfits I've seen in American films — and then smashed on bags of goon. Ah, sweet, summer nights.

18.When do you get to learn to drive, and how hard is it to get a license?

A red P plate stuck on the back of a car

It's an exhausting process, truly. At 16, you can go for your learner's permit — which requires you to sit a theoretical test about road safety and rules. Then you have to do something like 120 hours of supervised driving time, including at least 20 hours of night driving.

You have to have held your L plates for at least a year and got the hours logged in a literal book, before you can then go for your P1 licence (what we call, your "red Ps"), which you have to undertake a practical driving test for too. After another 12 months, you can go for your P2 licence (or "green Ps"), which you have to hold for at least two years before you can get a full licence.

You'd think it would make us all really excellent, considerate drivers — but we're absolute dickheads on the roads. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Jamesbowyer / Getty Images

19.Okay, final question: Were you taught how to fight off a shark?

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Absolutely, it's taught in a highly-secret class once you reach the age of 16 — sharks and drop bears, a survivalist's guide.