Saturday, August 06, 2016

Adjusting to Life Down Under

After a month in Oz, we are  catching on to the art of speaking Australian, knowing what to expect, and how to respond to the culture/environment. There are many phrases you'll find in lots of places: no worries, G'day Mate, barbie, etc. What has caught our attention are all the things that are abbreviated or altered or simply are different from what we are used to. Great fun all around.

Some of the abbreviations and local jargon that caught our attention include:
  • CBD - Central Business District. Most places in the US we go "Downtown". Here you drive to the CBD.
  • Rego - This is the registration for your vehicle.
  • Fisho - This is fisherman. We see places where a Fisho sells fresh seafood.
  • Doco - A documentary on TV.
  • Pokie - A poker machine/slot machine. These seem to be in nearly all hotels and many bars.
  • Avo - An avocado.
  • Brekkie - Breakfast.
  • Maccas - McDonalds.
  • Doona - A duvet for the bed.
  • Woolies - Woolworths grocery.
  • Bottle shop - Liquor, beer, and wine store.
  • Chooks - Chickens.
  • How ya going? - Instead of "How ya doing."Aussies ask how you are going, not doing.
  • Ute - A utility vehicle, ie. a pickup truck.
  • Footy - Australian rules football. More in common with rugby than anything else, but nothing like rugby except the balls are similar. Suggestive of American football in the same way lemurs remind you of elephants.

In addition, there are things that are simply different from what we expect.

For example, engine coolant is color coded. There's green, blue, yellow among other flavors and some can be mixed and some cannot. None of the fuel pumps at the petrol station have credit card slots. You drive up and when you remove the handle, the person inside resets the pump. After you fill, you go inside to pay. Everywhere. All the stations sell diesel fuel (which is good for us).

We find several stores with the same names and logos as the ones we are used to from the US, but it means something different here. K-Mart is much more upscale and filled with clothes and housewares. Target is similar. Neither have a pharmacy or grocery section. K-Mart sells tires (tyres) and does car service. Woolworths is only a grocery - no department store at all. Neither Target or K-mart have the breadth of selection usually found the states.

Beer and wine are not sold in the grocery, rather at the liquor store. The liquor stores are not state owned as they are in so many states. We have found one that has a really great selection of wine and distilled spirits. I can even find my favorite Scotch.

Of course, the distance are in kilometers and fuel is sold in liters. This means that fuel economy is rated in liters per 100 kilometers. To convert to miles per gallon (US), divide the liters per 100 kilometer into 235.2. So 10 L/100km equals 23.5 mpg. 

Everyone has a mailbox out front of the house, country or city. We see the mail-person riding a scooter and stuffing mail in slots as they ride past. In the country, mailboxes are often homemade from all sorts of cans and drums. In the city, they are often purpose made metal boxes enclosed in a brick column with only a slot shown on the street side. Some put a sign above the slot saying "No Junk Mail." Boy that'd really work in the states, right?

The national weather is shown on a synoptic map and the contours of rainfall are color coded in deciles. I'm pretty sure the use of such language on US TV would be considered a communist plot.

Not only are things upside down compared to the US with the equator to the north instead of to the south, there are also ways in which it is even more confusing. Consider turning the Australian weather map around so that Antartica is at the top and the equator is at the bottom, just as we are used to in the US. From Tasmania in the colder part to Darwin in the hottest part (roughly the same distance from the equator as Bangor, ME and Mexico City, MX, respectively). Now what you find is that the parts nearest the cold are green and habitable while the opposite end, nearer the equator is largely uninhabited. Kind of like Canada with the population flipped around. Even the reverse is reversed. 

There are lots of signs on the roads through the countryside telling you to do what you need to do to stay awake and warning about all the highway deaths from falling asleep white driving. There are of course signs with silhouettes of kangaroo and koala to warn you of these on the road just as we have signs warning about deer crossing the road.

Most older homes in the countryside are built up off the ground several feet. We read that is to keep them cooler in the summer by allowing air to circulate underneath. If I built a house in a place with so many poisonous snakes and spiders, I'd put my house up off the ground too. Maybe being cooler is a nice side-effect, I don't know.

There are termite mounds to be seen in some fields. Not the ones as tall those in Africa, but clearly mounds of dirt spaced out around the fields. We also see termite nests in some trees along the road.

The veterinary services here advertise "desexing" not spaying or neutering. Sounds like something we should consider doing to Washington politicians.

Since the British settled here and the connections to the UK remain strong even now, we of course, drive on the left. And apparently in an effort to follow the lead of the mother country, the roads are narrow. This feels counter-intuitive in such a large and sparsely populated country. Why not spread out and enjoy the space you have? City are  In many places in the country, the pavement is one lane down the middle with wider unpaved shoulders to use when meeting oncoming traffic. This makes sense: save money on paving little used roads. The narrow streets are taken to an extreme in parking lots and garages. Parking in a lot at the grocery or a mall is a shocking experience that produces lots of adrenalin and stress until you either are parked or back on the street. 

Every house seems to have a metal roof. The house we are siting the roof as a catchment for filling a cistern under the front yard. This water is filtered and pumped into the house for general use. This is  the best tasting, softest water you can imagine. Clearly, no acid rain here. We are also connected to the city water but I have to go close/open some valves to use it and we haven't needed to so far. Lots of solar panels about as well. The house we are sitting has them. I don't know, but I assume many others also use cistern water as well.

One of the more delightful things is that (this time of year?) we can go to a park and be the only people there. We can drive 30 minutes out of a city of over 100,000 people and stand in the forest and hear absolutely nothing but birds, water, and wind. And it is not just one or a few places where you can do this. Pick a dirt road and drive a mile away from the main road anywhere and it is same. It really is recharging to the soul to be so close to nature. Did I mention that it is very rare to see or hear an airplane overhead (I've only see one or two small planes and no jets overhead)? Or that we can see the Milky Way from our front yard?

All this makes being here fun and interesting...  something new around every corner.