Jillian’s Take on Health, Romance and Safety in Australia

TRAVEL: Jillian's Take on Health, Romance and Safety in Australia

Health in Australia

Feminine Hygiene Products: What’s available/what’s legal/where to buy them?

Since Australia is a Western country, all feminine hygiene products that a traveler from another Western country would expect is available.

Birth Control: What’s available/what’s legal/where to buy them?

Condoms are available over the counter. You will need a prescription for other forms of birth control from a doctor. If you are living and working in Australia, then you will have some form of Medicare. When I was on a student visa, I was given a student healthcare card and my visits to the doctor were free. If you are a traveler, you’ll have to bring enough supplies from home to get you through. You could also visit the doctor here and pay out of pocket for the visit. It would be expensive, but not exorbitant.

Gynecologists: Are there any that you recommend? How, if at all, is a visit different from at home?

A visit to the gynaecologist in Australia is no different than at home (for me, home is the United States).

I gave birth here in Adelaide, Australia, and had a wonderful experience. They focus much more on natural birth and midwives here, and have much less of a focus on medicalising pregnancy and childbirth. And, since I’m a permanent resident and have Medicare (and my baby is Australian), everything was free!

Breastfeeding: What are accepted places for women to breastfeed? Is it accepted to do so in public?

Yes, it is accepted to breastfeed in public. Some people don’t like it, but I believe it is more acceptable here than in the United States. I breastfed in public often and no one every seemed to notice or say anything about it. Go for it!

Romance in Australia

Dating Locals: What are the norms and traditions? What should women look out for?

I married an Australian, so I’m quite biased! The norms and traditions are basically the same as in the United States. From my experience, Australian men seem to move more quickly into the living together stage than their American counterparts. I think Australian men are a bit more straightforward than American men in terms of their feelings/emotions, but again, that’s just my experience.

Types of Men: Describe a few “typical” types of men.

  • There’s the typical ‘Aussie bloke’ who is physically strong and capable of surviving in the bush/Outback, lacking emotion, and great at drinking beer.
  • Sporty/gym junkies
  • Bogans — the derogatory equivalent to ‘white trash’ in America, meaning men (and women) who lack culture and taste, have wide-screen TVs in their home that they watch all the time, and like to watch car racing. (These are stereotypes.)
  • Hipsters, mainly in Melbourne. They love ‘artisanal’ things, just like in Brooklyn!
  • Other types include surfer dudes, the guys who brew their own beer, and the science nerds (my husband falls into the latter two categories).

LGBTQ-friendly?

I believe so, especially in the big cities. I’ve never heard of any problems / conflicts around people identifying as LGBTQ. (Although gay marriage is still not legal in Australia, and is the subject of ongoing political protests and debate).

Women’s Place in Australian Society

Women’s Rights: Do women have the same position in society as men? How can you tell?

Yes, they do. It is very similar to the United States. However, just like the United States, women are paid less than men for the same work. So the fight for equal pay continues here. There are still more men than women in positions of power. Women do get generous maternity leave here (six months from most employers). And if you don’t have a job, the government will pay for 18 weeks of maternity leave. There is much more support for families here, so that people are thought of as whole persons, and not just ‘workers’ without outside lives. They care more about work/life balance here (but it’s still not a worker’s paradise as one hears about Scandinavian countries, for example).

Local Women: What are some clear cultural differences between you and them?

I haven’t noticed too many cultural differences between myself and Australian women, besides my own lack of cultural knowledge. Generally, Australian men and women seem to me to be very practical and capable. For example, they generally know practical things like how to grow vegetables in a garden, or how to fix a small electrical item, and can identify flora and fauna. I found this unique and surprising.

There is also something here called ‘tall poppy syndrome.’ This means that no one wants to stand out. So, Australian women and men often shy away from bragging about themselves and are overly modest, at least to my American sensibilities.

Women-Specific Environments: Are there places where only women are or are not allowed?

There are no such places, just like the United States.

Perception of Foreign Women: How do local men/women react to you when you say where you’re from?

Honestly, no one seems to care that I’m from America. Most people are surprised that I’m not from Australia. The accent in Adelaide is very mild, and my American accent is also very mild, so few people seem to even notice. I also work with a lot of international students, and they are merely surprised to learn that I’m American. Everyone seems pleased/neutral about my American background. They usually ask me if I want to return to America, and I tell them that I don’t because I like it here in Australia so much.

Safety in Australia

Transportation: Any that are safer/less safe for women to take?

In Adelaide, there is a terrific tram and bus system. Just like the US, try not to be out too late on your own. Generally, though, I think it is safer here than most cities in the US. We regularly do not lock out doors and haven’t had any problems.

Dangerous area/s: Any specifically for women?

Nothing I can think of, besides the obvious dark alleys.

Clothing: What to wear/what not to wear?

You can wear anything you like here.

About Jillian Schedneck

AvatarJillian Schedneck is the author of the travel memoir Abu Dhabi Days, Dubai Nights . She runs a website for travel memoir writers called Writing From Near and Far. Jillian holds an MFA in Creative Writing and a PhD in Gender Studies. She lives in Adelaide, Australia with her husband and daughter.

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