by Luis Gonzales
Money—an aspect of life that affects people no matter where they may end up, anywhere across the world. When I first arrived at the airport in Brisbane, Australia the lobby was full of different ATM’s and currency exchange locations ready to charge a hefty fee in order to change one’s money to the local currency. I simply figured this as a typical set up at an international airport such as the one in Brisbane, little did I know the outrageous charges I was getting charged for these services. A fact I did not realize until much later but a lesson well learned for the remaining time I have spent here in Australia—never use a debit card at an international airport ATM. Throughout the time I have spent here in Australia I have found dynamic differences between money in America and Australia some of which include prices, the dynamic economy and the most obvious the currency itself.
One of the most difficult parts of living in Brisbane, Australia is having to deal with the insane prices of just about everything. It becomes extremely apparent when one attempts to go to the grocery store for a couple items and the total amount is more than 50 dollars. I was shocked when I realized my milk, bread, eggs, jam, bacon, and some kangaroo sausages—“Kanga Bangaz”—amounted to this price. One of the professors at the University where our study abroad takes place, stated it best, “Take whatever price you would pay in America, multiply it by about two and a half times, and you will obtain the Australian price of the same item.” This statement could not possibly be more true, clothes, meals, and living in general amounts to a ridiculous price here in Australia.
Furthermore, one of the most interesting aspect of Australia is their amazing approach to their economy and how people live their lives. I was amazed to find how much minimum wage amounts to here—a staggering 23 to 25 dollars an hour, and 14 year olds can begin working at that wage. This means that someone working at a place like McDonald can make an average of 50,000 dollars a year, producing a decent living. This is absolutely incredible, it signifies a very small gap between those with and without a college education. This allows for more of the population to live healthier, more financially stable lives, even if they were unable to obtain a college education. This is something extremely unparalleled to American society—where one must obtain a college education to insure financial stability.
Finally, the currency would have to be the absolutely most obvious difference within the two countries. Growing up in the United States of America I understood that us, as the American people have grown accustomed to obtaining currency in the form of dollar bills. Arriving in Australia I had no idea what to expect when it came time to handle Australian currency, but I did not expect to find such a difference. First of all, every one of their bills from the five dollar bill to the 100 dollar bill are slightly different in size—incrementing in size according to the bills value. The most amazing part of the dollar bills in Australia is the fact that every single one is a different color, from blue to red to green, something completely different from American currency. Furthermore, in America most individuals are used to not seeing much in coin change and usually don’t look much into it because of the lack of value coins can add up to. This is something completely different here—both dollar and two dollar currency are made in the form of coins. One might not look too much into this but it gives a whole new idea to the value of coins in Australia when simply five coins easily add up to ten dollars. Furthermore, 20 and 50 cent pieces are given in change quite regularly—this becomes a nuisance when one takes into account the fact that these coins are about 1.25 inches in diameter!
Overall, I have found the Australian currency, economy, and price ranges a complete culture shock. I find myself intrigued at the designs on all the currency from all the coins to the intricate designs on all the bills. Although I still have to be careful when I am paying in cash, from making sure I hand them the correct bill to insuring I don’t accidentally give them more coins than necessary. Money conflicts have just become another one of Australia’s amazing cultural experiences—giving me a completely different view on currency, and how the different people of the world may view it.