Eight niche discoveries I experienced as an Aussie in Durham

Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not down under anymore


Moving countries quite literally turns your entire life upside down, from saying goodbye to family, to clutching to the culture of your childhood. Exploring the world is exhilarating, with mild symptoms of home sickness. Hopefully this fair dinkum guide can help relay both the difficulties of adjustment and the magic of discovery that this little Aussie has undertaken.

1. Oodies are my new best friend

Never before have beanies or scarfs been a part of my wardrobe, but now I have to wear at least five of each to prevent my Aussie blood from freezing over. The Durham winters are especially harsh with no use for our singlets or stubby holders and getting out of bed on those icy mornings becomes a serious test of will power.

Despite being unbearably cold for this tropical tourist, I deeply admire how cozy Durham winters can feel, from flat roast dinners and hot chocolate dates to simply enjoying a book while snow flutters outside foggy glass.

The city also wraps itself up in breathtaking Christmas decorations and it feels so magical to just wander around pretending you’re in a movie, it’s a special way to escape the stress of university life for a little while.

2. Rain rain go away… seriously. Leave

Suncream and a bucket hat are the Aussie essentials, but in Durham you’re much better off packing an umbrella and… another umbrella (am I only one who breaks these things way too quickly?). Australians are no strangers to rain, in fact we get a lot of flooding from our tropical storms, but we get a lot of rain very quickly while Durham inhabits an almost constant drizzle.

Few things are more gorgeous than seeing Durham’s colourful city lights reflecting in puddles from the safety of a café window. However, this rain does grow tiresome when that cozy coffee is needed to help swallow vitamin D3 tablets.

3. Ripe with history

The respect and determination Durham has for its history and preserving it is nothing short of awe inspiring, especially for someone from a country that is very young in comparison to Britain.

The respect and determination Durham has for its history and preserving it is nothing short of awe inspiring, especially for someone from a country that is very young in comparison to Britain.

Between the city centre and Gilesgate I’ve noticed six different supermarket chains to choose from with an additional eight to be found if you’re brave enough to venture further out.

In Australia, we have only one big supermarket rivalry: Coles vs Woolworths, with IGA and Aldi being our other main choices. This simplicity makes finding the best food deals incredibly easy and rarely would you find a Coles without a Woolworths nearby, but we also don’t have those juicy meal deal debates!

The extra choice found within Durham is simultaneously refreshing and overwhelming; you’re guaranteed to find what you need, but you may need to walk to three different stores to get the best deals. In some areas you may be stuck shopping at a chain you may not personally like (especially if you don’t drive!).

5. The obsession with soc-football, I said football!

Trying to find a pub in Durham without a TV showing a game of soccer reminds me of something about needles and haystacks. This sport is essential to mention when discussing British culture and it is admirable to see how it can bring people together, united under pints that are thrown around in celebration (us Aussies are confused at the willingness to throw your coldie into the sky).

The sport is nowhere near as popular in Australia and instead it will be the cricket glued to the pub TVs, but even then the popularity of Australian cricket cannot match the popularity of English football. Despite not personally enjoying the sport, I’ve still made great memories singing chants and jumping around frantically with my more football-obsessed friends.

6. The breathtaking architecture

I have spend so much time just starring at the Cathedral as it is painted by so many different skies. Walking around the streets can feel like I’ve wandered into the TARDIS or that just around the corner I’ll find a market stand with chocolate frogs for sale.

Australian architecture is very modern in comparison, so Durham really does feel like a whole other world. Until my time in Durham is up, this muggle will make the most of every twilight by the Cathedral.

7. Watching the seasons change

In Australia, seasons do not really change, it just gets less or more hot. Leaves barely change colour, if at all, very few places have snow and as a result, Spring is not really a noticeable moment of nature blossoming.

My favourite memory of Durham is a very simple one that I get to experience every year here: standing on the bridge by the racecourse and just starring at the leaves. For the Brits, this is probably just another Autumn, but as an Aussie, it is a uniquely beautiful part of nature to finally witness and Autumn has quickly stolen my heart and become my new favourite season.

I still have not adjusted to the sun setting at such wild times such as 3pm and 10pm (for us, it always between 5 and 7pm). Leaving home in the dark and then returning in the dark or queuing for clubs while it is still light out will never not be weird experiences for me.

8. There are so many Greggs… and it’s beautiful!

Please don’t cancel any plans to visit Australia, but I’m afraid we do not have Greggs, at all. Instead, most of our bakeries are local family businesses with very few dominating chains, there is a special charm to this but typically it is also more expensive.

In Durham, there are FOUR Greggs and the queues I’ve seen from them compete with even the housing crisis! The popularity of this bakery is unmatched, and there is very good reason for that.

I can confidently say that Greggs is the most consistent food chain I’ve ever bought from, food is almost always warm, always delicious and it is relatively affordable with some great student deals! It is very easy to see why Durham students all unite under the Greggs flag, seriously, when have you ever met someone who hated Greggs?