For many Asian tourists, Australia is a popular destination. Not only do we have breathtaking landscapes and a unique culture, but our country is also much easier to apply to than many others, making it a favourite destination among young travellers. So whatās it like to travel Australia as a foreigner?
Words: Jas Rawlinson & Stephanie Yi-fang Chang
WHEN 24 YEAR OLDĀ Stephanie Chang came to Australia two years ago to work and travel, she had no idea of the exciting, challenging and hilarious cultural exchanges awaiting her. In the days leading up to her return to Taiwan, she shared some of her favourite photos and memories with me, reminiscing the highlights, the challenges of living in a car, and how a Taiwanese movie star is inspiring locals to travel down under!
When I got to Australia I was surprised by how different it was. Iāve never seen this sort of natural environment before! I didnāt like Sydney much, but I liked Melbourne city; the culture and streets. My favourite place was Tasmania ā you can see so much diversity in one island, and eating oysters is not a luxury thing to do ācause all you have to do is to drive three minutes down the road and dig them off the bay! Itās like eating in your own kitchen.
I also loved Uluru, itās just so different from any other places Iāve been; the red sand and the clear Milky Way. The wildness is very unique for me; I donāt have this kind of scene in my country.
[During my two years] I travelled from Brisbane to Gatton, Toowoomba, Cairns, Whitsundays, Uluru, Coffs Harbour, Sydney, Tasmania, Melbourne and Western Australia.
One night when we were in Bay of Fires it was raining really heavily, and [as we were trying to hide under shelter] a man we had been talking with at the park said, “Life isn’t about avoiding the storm, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” It really gave me goosebumps ā that was one of my favourite memories. This man had always had a really stable job, then one day [nine years ago] he thought, āIf this is the rest of my life, I donāt want itā ā so he quit his job and started to travel with his little dog! He doesnāt even have a car, he just walks everywhere! Itās so cool.Ā [Another favourite was] seeing Quokkas! They are so cute! Taking a selfie with them is hard āĀ it takes a lot of time to make them look into the camera with you.
Unique challenges of travelling Australiaā¦
Australia is very spread out, so you really need to have friends, a car, and money to travel around ā especially in Western Australia. Itās worth it though!
The challenges of finding workā¦
When I arrived I got a job working in a restaurant, but the pay was very bad so I ran away (laughs). Finding a good job is very hard [for tourists]. When I was cherry tomato picking [on a farm] the contractor made us work from 5am until 5pm with no break, in 38 degree heat…I made 36 dollars [before tax] that day.
The best job I had was cherry picking in Tasmania. We worked very hard and the pay was good! I also worked in a few massage shops, and even a Cake Factory in Toowoomba. After work my friends would say āletās go and get some cake,ā and I would be like āNo, no more cake!ā (laughs). Even now I still donāt really feel like eating it!
Staple items for travelling Australiaā¦
Money, water, the internet, and definitely a camera (I used an Iphone 5S for 99% of my photos). Also, a sleeping bag to keep your body warm, and a car! It was like our house and stopped us sleeping on the streets (laughs)! [When travelling] you need something you can eat for when you find a BBQ facility (it’s glowing when you see one), or uncooked for when you canāt. We would usually eat cereal and toast for snacks ā weād just eat it all the time (laughs)!
Also, my friends always talk about these things called Knoppers ā they are very popular with Asian tourists and you can get them from ALDI. They are like a chocolate biscuit.
Thoughts on Australian foodā¦
I didnāt get to eat too much Australian food as we were on a tight backpacker budget, but someone told me to eat Vegemite. Oh my god, itās so disgusting! Who would eat that?! Also, I didnāt really enjoy the Australian style of BBQ ācause itās just sausage, onion, and salad. Too much burn!
Top spots for Australians to see before they dieā¦
Lake Gairdner in South Australia ā itās really, really beautiful. There was a very famous and handsome star from Taiwan, Jin Tsheng Wu who did a TV commercial in that place, so a lot of Taiwanese people go there and do the pose with the product (BoMy). Itās a vegetable and fruit drink that is very famous in Taiwan.
Also, if you go to the Whitsundays you have to see the heart-shaped reef from the aeroplane!
Strangest thing about Australiansā¦
Aussies use a lot of slang and shortened words! Itās so confusing. Also, [Aussie men] like you in like 20 minutes (laughs)! Thatās one of the strangest things.
At the Great Ocean Road, I was taking photos and felt someone staring at me ā an Italian guy. I just looked at him and smiled politely, but still, he was staring! After about 10 minutes of him walking around me, he said āCan I have a picture with you?ā I didnāt really want to, but he kept looking at me with this passionate gaze and his friend kept teasing, āCome on!āĀ I just wanted him to leave me alone, so I said okay. Very very awkward (laughs)!
Funniest Australian word…
Most overrated places or tourist spotsā¦
Hobart, and also Wineglass Bay in Tasmania. I donāt know why people name it āWine Glassā? [I thought] Bay of Fires was so much prettier with its red rocks. I also have to say Vivid Festival [this year] was a bit disappointing. I stayed in Sydney to see it, but people said this year wasnāt as good.
Ā The place where I will leave a piece of my heartā¦
Tasmania! Freycinet National Park ā where I went paddle boarding ā is my favourite. Also, Little Blue Lake āĀ I miss that place.
What Australia has taught meā¦
One night I was sleeping at St. Claire Lake National Park; it was a cold night and I was still wide awake at 3am. Somehow I thought of my parents. It’s been so long since I last hugged them, and thinking of this suddenly made my eyes tear up. I was homesick for the first time in one and a half years. Maybe that’s why people have to leave their homes, to realize what’s most important in their lives. And for me, I guess I’ve found the answer.