Warning signs in Australia don’t really do much in the way of nuance. Travel writer Mike Barish offers a collection of cautionary signs from Down Under.
Caution! ¡Cuidado! Achtung! No matter the language, you’ll know a warning sign when you see one. Traveling the world, we’ve all encountered signs telling us to stay behind safety railings, use caution on slippery rocks or refrain from diving at the risk of paralysis. If that last one seems a tad harsh, don’t be surprised. Here in the States, warning signs are pretty low-key. But our friends down in Australia have taken a different tone with their signage. Calling it blunt is an understatement.
Australia is home to some of the deadliest snakes and spiders in the world. Their population is spread out over incredibly harsh terrain, and often hours from medical care. As such, they don’t mess around when it comes to trying to keep people safe.
Thinking of swimming in that billabong? Don’t. Don’t believe that crocs will stalk your boat? They will. Human-sized jellyfish waiting to give you a deadly hug? Oh, you betcha. The signage may seem outlandish, but the repercussions of ignoring them are significantly more extreme.
You don’t see death referenced much on signs in the United States. The Aussies, however, have no qualms about hitting you over the head with just how dangerous a scenario could be. It may seem excessive, and some may scoff at the morbid vernacular of the signs Down Under, but when your small population is scattered throughout a vast wilderness and your healthcare is socialized, you tend to put a premium on accident prevention.
Still, it takes some getting used to when you see signs referencing your seemingly imminent demise. And it’s not just the fauna that Aussie’s fear. They don’t trust their peers much either.
When it comes to drunk driving (or drink driving, as they call it), they don’t mince words.
I can’t say that I disagree with their assessment, but I don’t foresee an American ad campaign choosing those words anytime soon (and not just because we don’t say bloody).
The next time you’re in Australia, keep your wits about you and your eyes peeled for warning signs.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Whether they give you pause or a chuckle, be sure to heed their advice.
And whatever you do, if you hear someone yell, “heads up” duck and cover immediately.
Photos: Mike Barish