Gotta love Australia. As much as we feel completely at home in this foreign land, every once in a while something happens – somebody says something odd, or we see a strange sign – to remind us that we are still oh so far away from our home country.
Although we initially had a number of observations of the differences between Canada and Oz, more keep popping up. Here are a few:
ketchup = tomato sauce
trails = tracks
sandwich = sanger
dinner = tea (but sometimes it’s called dinner too. And sometimes tea really is just tea and not dinner.)
jail = gaol (but it’s pronounced the same way. Wow. Go figure.)
candies = lollies
duvet/comforter = dooner
Welcome to the Shire
And I thought that Shires only existed in Lord of the Rings. But no – shires are everywhere here. Cobar Shire, for example, encompasses an area much larger than the city of Cobar – it is the equivalent of counties or districts in North America.
Ask an Australian to say the letter “h”, and you’ll get a “hhhhaych” as a reply. Smart, really. The letter “h” in words usually has a soft “ha” sound. But say the letter “h” in Canada, and you’ll just get a hard “ha”-less “aech”. This is one instance where Canadians are a little too quick to abbreviate and simplify.
Take your item with a $30 price tag to the counter in Canada and you’ll actually end up paying 6-15% more than $30. This lovely surprise is called sales tax. Yummy. But take your $30 item to the counter in Australia, and you pay $30. Don’t be fooled though – Australians pay about as much tax (both income tax and sales tax) as Canadians do. The difference is that the tax is included in the price tag. Although initial sticker shock is possible when you land here, it’s nice to know what things will cost when it comes time to pay.
Thanks for the invite! Do we bring tea, or steak?
When you’re invited over for tea, it could mean you’ll be having tea. But it might also mean dinner. Best to check before you show up with something inappropriate, or at the wrong time of day!
Let’s Get Social!
The advent of social clubs, especially in the smaller towns, is new to us. RSLs (retirement services leagues) are the most common, but social clubs come in many shapes and sizes. Many have gambling machines (poker, slots), bars, rooms and halls for hire, as well as a restaurant serving good meals on the cheap.
Plastic Bag? Sorry, no.
Re-usable grocery bags are more common than not here in Oz. Yay! In fact, some stores downright refuse to give you bags. If you didn’t bring your own bag, then you’re walking out with an armload. If they do give you a bag, it’s usually 100% recycled plastic. We are of course delighted with this giant step in the demise of plastic bags.
Paper, Paper, everywhere!
I read a statistic somewhere that 99% of Australians recycle. Which is a blessing, considering the amount of paper they throw at you in a day! Every business we make inquiries at, every visitor information center we enter – everybody wants to give us huge amounts of paper. Here, have a brochure. And take this flyer (which is a condensed version of the brochure). And heck – take this map too (which is also printed on both the flyer and the brochure) just in case you get lost. It’s great that plastic bags are being phased out. But now more than ever I need them to carry all the bloody paper I’ve acquired!
What exactly is “tasty cheese,” you may ask? Well, I’m not really sure. But the Australians sure love it, because it dominates most cheese shelves in the supermarket. As far as I can tell, it’s simply cheddar cheese (and not the orange coloured stuff you find in North America – its just plain uncoloured cheddar cheese). As for the taste…well…it’s pretty…um…tasty.
Where can I find the CBD?
The CBD is in the CBD silly! CBD of course, being “central business district”. Otherwise known as “downtown” to Canadians.
In many public toilets, I find disposal bins for used syringes. But judging by the general lucidity of those I encounter, it doesn’t seem like everybody is shooting up heroin in public toilets. No, maybe it has something to do with a little bit of trivia I heard: that Australia has more diabetics per capita than anywhere else in the world.
It’s an Emergency!
…so what do you dial? It’s not 911…in fact it’s a much more sensible and easy to remember number…000. Much easier to dial if your hand fell off, you’re being chased by villains, and you’ve been blinded.
This telephone chime isn’t exclusive to Australia of course, but it is different to what we’re used to in Canada. We only have one long boring “rrrrriiiiiing” to contend with.
The Most Confusing Telephone System Ever
On a sadder “ringy” tone, the phone system in Australia is not only horribly expensive, but it’s difficult to figure out. No, you don’t pay a flat fee for a land line…you pay per call, sometimes even with a connection fee and a per-minute charge on top of the monthly charge for the privilege of having the line so you can make calls and pay even more.
Want to call a mobile phone? Be prepared to pay long distance charges of up to 50cents a minute to do so (at least the mobile phone user doesn’t pay for incoming calls). But watch out if you own a mobile phone and want to make outgoing calls…I pay almost a dollar to connect, then almost another dollar per minute on top of that!
I’ll admit that all my plans are likely the most expensive pay-as-you-go types of plans, but still…it’s robbery.
So dear friends and family, please forgive me if I don’t call a lot…I can’t afford to!