It’s been more than 3 months that we’ve been living in Australia, and we feel that we are pretty much settled and understand “the Australian way” – at least enough to not seem like idiots (or Americans). It isn’t a really big shift from Canada – we have the same British heritage, so the basic culture is the same, and we share the same language…sort of…that’s been discussed in the HTSA posts. But there are things about living here that are just a bit different than in Canada; they are trivial, but we still struggle with these once in a while.
Power switches. This isn’t just an Aussie thing. Most European countries might do this…at last a few of the hotels/bed and breakfasts that we’ve stayed at in Britain have been like this. But it is still something that we have to get used to. All the outlets have a switch. In Canada, you plug something in, you have power. Simple. Here, you plug it in, turn on the outlet (or power point — not to be confused with PowerPoint — or some term like that) and you have power. Not often an issue, but there are times when it is noticeable, such as when we plug in our iPhones at night (we use them as alarm clocks) and forget to turn on the outlet. They last through the night, but are too run down to make it though the next day. Or even odder: the range (cooktop, stove, oven, hob, whatever) has to be turned on before it can be turned on. So, we’re (read: Dan is) making dinner and we (he) turn(s) on the oven or a burner and then realize later that nothing is happening because we (he) forgot to turn on the main power. Strange. And silly… But this means that we’re saving a few pennies in ambient power use, too. It also means that Lisa doesn’t have to worry, as much, about her OCD tendency to check and recheck that the kettle is turned off… just in case the cats decide to make a cup of Earl Grey while we’re at work.
Steering wheel is on the right-hand side of car. Which means…you get in the right-side door. Unless you forget. This isn’t maybe a ‘little thing’ but is trivial really. Dan, well, he’s an idiot. He still will, occasionally and usually when alone, walk to the left-hand side of the car, open door…and then notice that he is in the wrong place…and do something creative like take an envelope out of the glove box, close the door, and walk away like that is exactly what he meant to do. It’s not a problem once in the car – he doesn’t drive in the wrong lane. Just occasionally forgets where the steering wheel is. Lisa, however, is good – she hasn’t made this mistake yet, nor has she driven on the wrong side of the road.
Kitchen sinks are extremely shallow. It seems that there is one company that makes plumbing fixtures in Australia; everywhere, we see the same shower head (and it isn’t anything special). And every 2-hole kitchen sink we have seen is the same: a large sink, a smaller sink, and a draining rack, all one piece. But the large one isn’t very big, and the smaller one is tiny. And they are barely deep enough to put our Brita water jug in to fill it under the tap. It is easier to fill it with a glass. This may seem of little significance to most readers of this blog… but these are the small details that make us wonder about this place. It’s a little thing, but something you deal with every day.
People use full names. Dan is Daniel on everything official. And being Australia, everything is official. Lisa, being Lisa (not something like Elizabeth shortened), doesn’t have this problem. When Dan was signing up for his cooking classes they made him sign up as Daniel because that’s what the passport says. Dan’s email at work is Daniel Given; he sends an email and signs it Dan, people respond to Daniel. People call him that…he hates it. We’re thankful that they don’t (typically) include middle names.
Shoes in the house. Australians don’t take their shoes off in the house; some Brits do, apparently, but not the Aussies. We know that this isn’t even a custom that all Canadians adhere to, but we are used to removing our shoes when we enter a house. And we are used to having guests take off their shoes, the minute they come in the door; we didn’t ask – it was just something that people did, automatically. And we’re used to not even wearing our own shoes in our own house. But the culture here is that you wear shoes indoors and out. Probably has something to do with the relationship that Australians have with the outdoors (or the risks of spider bites!); there isn’t really that much of a distinction between what is in and out sometimes, what with the great alfresco dining areas that most houses have (and the lack of weatherstripping, as previously mentioned). Sure, we’ve typically worn slippers in the house anyway, so it isn’t that much of a stretch to leave shoes on, but it is a slow conversion; this is particularly true in warmer weather, when we would tend to go barefoot (i.e., 2 months in Canada; 10 months in Oz). Lisa still wears her Canadian suede moccasins on cold days; Dan wears his puffy North Face slippers. But we don’t go outside in them. Or at least not past the barbecue, or the laundry line (yes, we have one! And Lisa uses it regularly!) or maybe the mailbox. This will all probably change as it gets really hot, and we switch to thongs…flip flops for those in North America, not underwear (we’ll try to restrict walking around in those thongs to indoors; sorry…. a scary mental image of Dan in that type of thong).