Ten weird things you'll miss about Oz when you're on exchange

March 04, 2015
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When heading off to study abroad, you already know the major downers that are gonna induce homesickness: no Vegemite, no Milo, no Tim Tams, having to refer to thongs as “flip-flops” so people don’t think you’re a pervert. But sometimes it’s the strange, little things from our land Down Under that you’ll miss most. Here’s some stuff I’d transplant straight to Amsterdam if I could.

Familiar supermarket layouts

There’s something so comical (and mildly offensive) about seeing the feminine hygiene products conveniently stacked next to kitchen appliances and aprons.

In the Netherlands, the laundry detergent is at the front of the store next to the fruit and veg, the bakery is at the back shoved between freezers, and sauce. Don’t even get me started on sauce. Soy, tomato and chilli are each in separate aisles. It’s a bloody madhouse.

Pedestrian crossings that make a satisfying ding

Aussie pedestrian crossing makes so much sense. You press the button to cross the road and that slow, reassuring beeping starts. Then you know it’s time to cross because goddamn, the dinger is so loud and violent it could start a small earthquake. Here the pedestrian crossings are cold and silent, just like your ex.

Aussie slang

While you’re abroad, you might as well be speaking a foreign language half the time. To Europeans, getting on the piss and having a pash and dash because you didn’t have a franger for a root means absolutely nothing. It’s batshit.

Knowing how to cross a road

In Europe, simply stepping out your front door will put your life in mortal peril. Which way are cars coming from? Fucked if I know. Look left, look right, look left again, then look right and left a few more times. No matter how much you will your brain to get it right, you’ll almost definitely get hit by a cyclist at some point.

Crispy M&Ms with a sufficient amount of chocolate

Several nights ago I encountered my first taste of Dutch Crispy M&Ms and let me tell you, these people are being lied to. The ratio of chocolate to crispy innards was a travesty. Without a sufficient amount of chocolate, Crispy M&Ms just taste like cardboard and sadness.

Plastic bags

At the supermarket, every plastic bag costs money. Every bag. Say goodbye to a large weekly shop and hello to trying to cram all of your groceries into a single flimsy bag (that cost you 25c).

Familiar currency

Euro coins are baffling. The 10c, 20c and 50c coins are all gold, meaning you’ll constantly reach for them whenever something costs $1 or $2. Then the 5c coins are larger than the 10c coins (just…why?) and the €1 and €2 coins are silver and all of them are round (long live the dodecagonal 50c piece). Fair warning: you’ll look like a dickhead for the first week as you check the denomination of every coin at the supermarket.


Down Under, cider is the fastest-growing category of alcohol. You’d be hard pressed to wander into a bar and not find at least one or two ciders on tap. And why not? It’s bloody delicious.

Apparently the cider revolution hasn’t quite reached Europe (or at least the Netherlands) yet. Here you might stumble across the odd bottle of Strongbow, but for the most part, asking for cider will only get you blank stares.

Free toilets

God forbid you’ve gotta take a piss if you don’t have any cash on you. Everywhere from public libraries to nightclubs will charge you for the mere privilege of stepping inside their facilities.

Free water

On the topic of things that should be free but aren’t, you know how it’s a legal requirement in Australia for places that serve alcohol to offer complimentary water? Yeah, nah, none of that nonsense is going on in Europe. Water in nightclubs in literally more expensive than beer.

Krystal Sutherland

Krystal Sutherland is a Worcestershire sauce addict and pyjama pant enthusiast. She studies English and creative writing at UNSW. Krystal is currently undertaking an international student exchange program in Amsterdam and is Hijacked’s 2015 Foreign Correspondent.

Image: Gerard's World, Flickr Creative Commons license