Saturday, August 18, 2012

What it is like in Oz.

Life Down Under. As far as foreign countries go, this one isn't that extreme. We speak the same language and both our countries are from the 1st world. But there are several subtle differences that I'm beginning to understand. And in case you are ever planning on coming down under yourself, let me share with you the cultural knowledge I have gained.

First...the obvious: Australia is some sort of English extremity. So the obvious differences you would expect to see in England are also found here. Driving on the left side of the ride for example. The first several times I rode in an automobile were quite strange. After going to the wrong side of the car to sit shotgun about ten times I finally figured it out. Then I started driving. I often drive my housemates all to work in the morning due to blood alcohol levels still being too high from the night before (legal drinking age is 18). So I've driven quite a bit. There have been a few moments of turning onto the right side of the road, which is the wrong side, and freaking everyone out. But for the most part remembering to stay on the left is the easy bit. Driving from the seat on the right side of the car is more difficult. Luckily, the foot pedals are all in the same spot, but the gear shift is on your left hand and the blinker is on the right side of the steering column. These both took lots of concentration to master. Which I still haven't. And checking mirrors is weird, plus I'm always driving too far left in the lane. I forget that there is more car on that side than on the right side, so staying on the right side of the actual lane is hard. I still haven't crashed into anything yet, so I'm good. I still have no idea how fast I'm going at 100 k though. The speedometers don't show MPH. A little inconsiderate I think, we show KPH after all!

Another really obvious difference would be the language. Obviously they speak English here, so I can usually understand everything. Every once in awhile though the accents are too much to understand or the words and phrases are so different I get lost. I would describe their accents as adding etra syllables to words. Like saying here, would sound more like he'ur. And they don't pronounce the last syllable in words. The letter Z is called zed. And for some reason as confusing to me as using different measurement variable for everything between our countries (mostly our fault), there seems to be another word for just about anything... For Example:
Candy = Lollies
Diapers = Nappies
To Crash, fall over = Stack it (skiing)
Ski poles = Stocks
Trunk = Boot (car)
Gas = Petrol
Bar = Pub
Well done = Good on ya
Friend, Buddy = Mate
Bathroom = Toilet (makes more sense)
(there are a lot more, but thinking about them isn't fun right now, go here instead)

The Landscape is pretty much what you would expect. The vegetation and wildlife are all very different, but movies and TV have painted a pretty accurate picture. Imagine The Man From Snowy River, and that's my drive to work every day. The weirdest part is the whole snow thing. It's very different. Here in Jindabyne it usually just feels like an early October day. All the trees still have leaves. This is the case pretty much all the way up to the base of the ski resort, where suddenly there is snow on the ground, but still leaves on the trees. From the top of the ski resort you can almost see all of the snow in the entire country. Powder is a very relative term... The kangaroos don't live in zoos here. In fact, they're pretty common roadkill. They're all over the place, equivalent to our deer. Instead of porcupines there are wombats, instead of moose there are Brumbys (wild horses) and there are even wild emus walking around. Most of the birds look like a mix of parrots and pigeons.

Some other more subtle differences:
The kids curse all the time. I can't tell yet if these words aren't considered cursing or if it's a cultural thing. Adults seem to curse a lot more as well (though this may be a product of my Utah upbringing, though it's still worse than Maui, Kansas, Alaska, and everywhere else outside of UT that I have lived) But for whatever reason, I have already given up trying to regulate the foul language, unless it gets too out of control. They usually think I'm weird for thinking those are naughty words...

Toilets don't flush in a swirling motion. Leaving the myth of the southern hemisphere flush direction a great mystery. They all flush from front to back. And as of now I have only seen one urinal. There are only pee troughs. Economical...sure, but much more awkward. The number 1 and number 2 flush buttons are quite genius though.

Light switches are a little less user friendly, I would place them somewhere between our original switches and the newer flat type switches. A quick swipe up or down won't do it here, gotta find the thing and carefully push it. Electrical sockets are obviously different, but the biggest change is that every individual socket has an on/off switch. Kinda nice actually.

All the zippers are on the wrong side. At least for me. (the zippers are on the left side) Isn't that how girls clothes are? I'm always angrily tugging on my coat zipper thinking it's stuck until I remember, and feel like an idiot.

There is no Dr. Pepper, or Root Beer, Mountain Dew, or Pepsi. In fact, there is only Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite (which they just call lemonade). And no fountain machines anywhere. If you want a soda with your burger (which is also quite different) you gotta buy a bottle.

The only sport I've seen reported about on the news is Rugby. And I've learned that there are several versions/leagues of rugby, or 'footy'. There is the National Rugby League (NRL), Union, and Australian Rules Football. All similar, yet very different. After rugby, I guess it would be soccer, at least among the youth. Gambling on racing is pretty big. All gambling is actually, I heard that Australians loose more money to gambling than any other country. Field hockey is pretty big as well, they just call it hockey, it gets confusing.

Sydney is not the capital. Canberra is. Pronounced Canbra.

The sun is in the north, not the south. This should probably be in the category of obvious differences though. Like I mentioned before, there really isn't a winter here like we know winter. It's not nearly as cold. And as far as I know, there isn't an actual city in the country where it commonly snows. You literally have to go to a ski resort in the highest mountains to find snow. And there still isn't very much of it. The constellation on their flag is easily seen, yet the dippers and orion and the other ones I'm used are no where to be seen.

Money is more colorful. There is no one dollar bill, and no one cent coins. There are one and two dollar coins though. The two dollar coin being much smaller than the one. Tax is included in all posted prices, which is nice. The queen (of England) is on most the coins and bills, I suppose they will have to redo them all when she departs. Everything is considerably more expensive though. My $80 dollar ski goggles are $210 here. Needless to say, I don't do a whole lot of shopping. Retirement here is nice though, every paycheck you get regardless of job or age earns you a percentage that goes into your retirement fund (called superannuition). You don't pay a dime of your own money, it's all from the Gov. As far as stores go, the only crossovers I've noticed (no surprise here) are Macdonalds (called Mackers), KFC, Subway, and Target. Most of the car manufacturers are familiar, but all the models are different. The ski/snowboard brands are all the same. But no other brands really are. People drive a two hour trip to “Mackers” to buy a stock of burgers then freeze them in the fridge for later...weird. Cell phone plans are way better here. You pre-pay and get credit. When you have used all your credit, you pre-pay again. No contracts. Its the one thing that is way cheaper here.

The food isn't all that different. Most of the same types of food here, just prepared quite differently. The biggest differences I have noticed are the bread to meat ratio on burgers, hot dogs, etc. Way too much bread, or not nearly enough meat. I don't understand why the buns are so massive and the patties are so tiny. In the morning I get a breakfast roll. Which is just a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. The bacon is cut much differently. A thing called sausage roll is quite popular. I'd compare it to a crisp beef burrito from Taco Time. Fries are called chips, unless their from Mackers. Chips are crisps, and cookies are biscuits. They don't pronounce kebob correctly and this has become a topic of considerably heated debate. And no one drinks Fosters.

Well, obviously there are so many other differences I could write about but frankly I'm bored of writing about it so I'm sure you're bored reading about it. Right then, g'day mate!