Life Down Under

By on 10-23-2012 in Australia 2012

Life Down Under

My last blog post was rather philosophical, so I’ll keep this one more realistic.
What’s it like in Australia? I’ll try to enlighten you on some of the idiosyncrasies down under.
On the bus ride from the Brisbane Airport to our new digs in Hervey Bay, the first striking thing, of course, is we were driving on the left side of the road. Professor Davison warned us never to say that it’s the wrong side of the road to Australians. As we headed up A1, the main north/south artery on coastal Australia, I was struck by the stark difference to I-95, the main north/south artery in America. After we left the Brisbane area, it was mainly a two-lane road. I then realized none of the houses had shingle roofs. All have metal and sometimes tile roofs. But that’s nothing compared to a trip to the grocery store.
I’m going to rattle off a bunch of different terminology and cultural differences related to food shopping and eating. There’s a whole aisle in the store devoted to nappies(diapers), and the carts all have four swivel wheels. The eggs are not refrigerated. For brekkie (breakfast) they enjoy baked beans, and you can opt for avocado on your Egg McMuffin at Macca’s (McDonalds) which serves lamb burgers for lunch. You can order your fish or prawns (shrimp) crumbled (breaded) or battered. Ice cream cones are called Kebobs and popsicles are Lollies. At the roadside fruit stand the main items for sale are pineapples and mangos. One great thing about Australia is when you go to a restaurant and see a price on the menu, that’s what you pay; no tax, no tips.

For my car people; besides driving on the wrong side of the road, there are many differences on four wheels. Most of the cars look familiar but have much different names. The Toyota Altisse we rented says “Welcome Camry” on the display when it’s started. There are very few convertibles, but my favorite, the station wagon, is alive and well in Australia. The SUV’s have Roo-bars on the front to protect front-ends from damage if a kangaroo crosses their path and there is a snorkel up the side of the windshield for underwater driving. The El Camino, which many of us remember as being a car upfront with a pickup bed on the rear, is called a Ute down here and is alive and is found under many different nameplates. If you happen to hit a kangaroo or other object with your vehicle, you don’t take it to the Body Shop, you go to the Smash Repair Shop, where the Panel-beaters will fix it for you. Gas is only $1.40 something a liter, but a liter is .26 of a gallon.  Do the math.  Australian drivers do not have to yield for pedestrians, and the mailmen ride small motorcycles down the sidewalk to deliver the mail.

There is much more emphasis on personal responsibility here. I was in many physically difficult situations in the past week, and realized that if I had gotten hurt and tried to sue, I would be told that I should have been more careful. But, while I am on the other side of the world, I am on the same planet. The plant life is still green, water still reflects the colors around it, and clouds still speckle the sky. People are still people, too. They may talk funny down here, but the message is still the same. “No worries, mate.”

What do you think visitors find strange about where you are or what you call things?

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