Overall, Australia isn’t that much different from Canada. We share a British heritage, we speak the same language (sort of), and so the general everyday life is easy to understand. But every now and then, we come across things that don’t make sense. Some are probably nationwide, some are probably local to Wagga, and some are very local to our house. This post is a collection of things that we may never understand.
In a country that has been suffering a drought for several years, why do they cut the grass so short?
It is common knowledge that cutting your grass at about 3 inches is ideal; longer grass has longer roots, therefore needs less water. But the Australian way seems to be a contest of who can keep their lawn the shortest. This, however, means that it doesn’t do well without water. Do they play back yard bowls? Or cricket? It doesn’t make a lot of sense. And the grass is kind of weird anyway – something called ‘buffalo grass’, that is a creeping form of grass with a huge, coarse root system. We bought a lawn mower (a rechargeable Ryobi 36 volt…it’s pretty cool) and Dan has it set on the lowest setting. He is doing what he never understood people in Edmonton doing, cutting it short. When in Oz, do as the Ozzies. Of course, Lisa’s idea is that if the grass is short, it will make it easier to spot snakes.
Where did that spider come from? You can be in a room, walk out for a few seconds, come back, and there will be a big spider in the middle of the floor. How did it get there? One day, Dan was cleaning the bathrooms and there was a huge spider in the ensuite. Where did it come from? And even worse, one day he was in the kitchen mopping the floor, and and one landed on his arm from above (he quickly shook it off and he messed up the floor by jumping on it). There aren’t really places they could just quickly emerge (they move fast, but not that fast), at least not that we know of. Do spiders have teleporting capability? Huh?
Why is the family shower in our house so big? This is one that has been baffling Dan since we moved in. He uses this big one – down the hall – while Lisa gets the ensuite; so he has had time to think about it. This hadn’t bothered Lisa until he pointed it out recently (she was just happy to have a bathroom to herself, as she’d become accustomed in Edmonton). The ensuite shower, off the master bedroom, and therefore the one that ‘mom and dad’ in a typical Australian family would use, is small. One person fits well, two would be cosy (smile). But the main shower, the one that would normally be used by the kids in the family, is a large one with a two-head shower. Huh? Do the kids have communal showers? Did they do this during the drought to save water?
What the hell is arvo? As noted in the last bike posting, arvo is the Australian term for afternoon. We understand a lot of the short form, -o and -ie words, such as bikie, and servo (service station). But this one is a bit confusing. Why not afto? Where does the ‘rv’ part come in? We think that it probably has its origin in a pub, where after far too many VBs, some drunken bogan slurred to a friend “I’se gunna feel pretty shitty when I wake up tamara arvo, mate.” He didn’t mean to say arvo; he really meant afternoon, but couldn’t actually pronounce the word (or any word) properly. We think it is quite likely that VB (or Carlton or Bundy and coke) is the root of much Australian slang.
What is the aversion to weatherstripping? We’ve occasionally mentioned this simple rubber strip that people put around doors in Canada (and most of the civilized world), and people here just say “we don’t need that”. Well, guess what – yes, you DO! Weather stripping is a good thing. Waggans complain about the cold (even though it doesn’t get really cold) and about the heat (it does get really hot). But we were recently told, by an Aussie who has just moved back here after 26 years in the US, that the average Australian house has so many gaps around doors and windows that it would be like having a 1 square meter hole in the wall. This, we assume, they would notice and fix (unless they live on Ziegler Ave, where that seems almost common). But when it is just a bunch of 1 cm gaps around all the doors…no worries. But sealing those gaps can: 1) keep the cold out in winter (and assuming you have a heat source, keep the heat in); 2) keep the heat out in summer (and assuming you have air conditioning, keep the cool in); and 3) keep the bugs out. Spiders, moths, flies…those can be stopped. Sure, Mortein is good for the bug part, but it doesn’t kill everything and it doesn’t keep you warm.
Why can’t you make a left turn on a red light? (People in North America have to remember that a left turn here is the equivalent of a right turn there). First off, there aren’t a lot of stop lights in Wagga. And no, that’s not because it is too small (Wiarton, near where Dan is from, has only one set of lights, but that town IS that small); it’s because most of the intersections are roundabouts. Once you get used to them, they are better than lights. They are very efficient and keep traffic moving. They work well as long as people remember to use their turning signals (which they do here, quite well). But at the intersections where there are lights, you can’t turn on a red. So you will be sitting there, no traffic coming, and could safely do it. It is very tempting sometimes, and when we first got here Dan did it several times until we finally Googled it and then asked a local if it was allowed: we were observing that no one else did it and thought this was strange. Some of the intersections have special left turn arrows on them, indicating that at certain times you can go, but if that isn’t lit, you can’t. We’ve been told that there is one intersection on the west end of the CBD that actually allows ‘left on red’ turns always…supposedly there is a sign informing drivers of that. We don’t think we’ve seen it yet. Wow – the city is big enough that we haven’t yet seen all the traffic lights!