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10 things that surprised me about Australia, from a Chinese student’s perspective

By Peng 10 Apr 2019
USQ International students studying on beanbags in the sun.

I come from China and have been studying in Australia for over one year. When I first came to Australia, these ten things are what surprised me the most:

1. Hello, Sunshine state! Please, no umbrella

Queensland, also known as the ‘sunshine state’, is where USQ is located. Sunshine here is strong in the daytime, so Queenslanders are used to wearing sunscreen when going out. Very few Aussies would use an umbrella to block sunshine, but you do see some Asian tourists doing this.

Picture of a scenic view.

2. Set up your own business?

Many Chinese students develop their own business opportunities while studying in Australia, which was quite surprising to me at first. These opportunities provide them with a form of income and a sense of personal independence.

3. What is rugby?

Aussies and New Zealanders love rugby so much. This sport looks like American football but players don’t wear helmets and pads and only strong and bulky guys dare play. Personally, I regard rugby as one of the most dangerous sports I have ever seen and I don’t think most Asians would enjoy this event. Basketball is not as popular in Australia as it is in China, and in my experience, people here are not familiar with some famous NBA players.

Picture of two football players.
(Daily Telegraph, State of Origin, 2016)

4. Shorts and thongs in winter

It really shocked me when I first met Aussie locals wearing shorts and thongs in winter, when I was wearing long pants and boots. But the funny thing is, they still need hoodies and sweatshirts. It seems like the lower part of the body doesn’t feel the cold.

5. I miss Chinese food and the delivery service so much

In China, I can easily order hundreds of different kinds of food and get delivery online at any time, even after midnight. Some delivery services are even free of charge! However, it is a different story in Australia. Normally you won’t be able to get any food late at night. You might have a chance to find some traditional Chinese food near Asian neighbourhoods, like Sunnybank, but the foods have been modified and taste differently. However, the beef and steak here is good and cheap!

Picture of a steak and salad on a plate.

6. Time to sleep, children

I have noticed that a child’s life is so different here than in China because Chinese children have to face more fierce competition when growing up due to the huge population. Most Australian school children go to school from 9am to 3pm and have little homework to do and are asked by their parents to go to sleep before 7pm every day. In contrast, Chinese children cannot go to sleep unless they have finished their heavy homework load and they also have to develop different sorts of skills from the early age of three or four years old. One of my cousins started to learn piano at age three and her weekends are fully filled with maths, English and Chinese calligraphy classes.

7. It’s easier to drive than get public transport

Having your own car will make your life easier in Australia. Public transport is not that developed except in large cities, such as Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. I remember the first week when I had just arrived, I missed a bus and it took me half an hour to go to the nearest supermarket, just to buy some groceries. My life was totally changed after I bought a used car. In Australia, used cars are considerably cheap and the market is mature. You will be able to purchase a used car with confidence from a dealer or a private seller.

8. No window shopping at night

In Australia, most shops and food stores close early, especially in rural areas. For instance, most shopping malls in the famous Queen St Mall in Brisbane close before 5pm or 6 pm. If you would like to have some fun at night in Australia, pubs and bars will be good choices. But I miss the old times in Shanghai when I dined out and finished shopping with friends at 10pm and I could still catch a subway home.

Picture of a city building.

9. You are not alone on this planet

Wildlife and humans are living in harmony here. Aussies respect other creatures living on this land and you can easily find action on environment protection everywhere. Before I came here, I had never seen such brave birds, like seagulls, which dare rob humans of snacks. Look at what I saw around USQ Toowoomba, a wallaby!

Picture of a wallaby.

10. Do you have a spare room?

Most international students choose to share accommodation with others, as this is an effective way to reduce your living expenses. However, most of them also feel strange at the same time, since normally we all live in our own house or apartment back home.

Laura also moved to Australia to study at USQ. You can find out more about her experience by reading her blog.

To discover five popular destinations you can visit during your time in Australia, check out how to get the most out of your Aussie experience. To apply to study at USQ, visit the USQ international website.

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