An Aussie Year

 · 
27 September 2020
 · 
6 min read

Remarkably, I hit the one-year mark in Australia earlier this month. It's been a crazy year - nothing anyone would have imagined - but still flew by. Throughout the year, I kept documenting small reflections on my experiences that I thought I'd share as learnings.

Everyone is so incredibly nice.

  • Someone helped me parallel park when I couldn’t the first time I drove. A random man got off his cycle, ushered me into the space, and expected nothing in return.
  • I put a book on hold right before COVID and was never able to get it. I got a call asking me if I still wanted it and when I picked it up, they put it in massive reusable bags for grocery shopping.
  • The number of times I've been given an extra cookie or scroll for free - AMAZING.
  • Bus drivers will actually wait for you if you flag them down.
  • Everyone just wants to start a genuine conversation - from your Airbnb hosts to the craft beer guys down the street.
  • Honesty boxes in rural areas - I can't believe people are honest.

Availability of certain things

There is a limited inventory of things here because everything is imported. From grit sandpaper to all the diff styles and sizes of jump rings. If you want something specific - you have to hunt for it.

There isn't a one-stop shop supermarket the way there are in the states. If you want a specific item, you have to go to the specific store.

With that said, Fabriano Italian paper in the states is extremely expensive, but I've found more varieties of it here than I have ever seen in the states (and I had scoured quite a few art stores). Same with Orange Blossom Water.

On the other side of it, it's been difficult to find certain ingredients that I've grown up with:

  • Whipping cream - it exists but most people whip their own cream. I bought a hand mixer specifically for this
  • No graham crackers - although a friend found pie crust and I used that to make a no churn smores ice cream
  • No pepper jack cheese - substituted by cheese with chili
  • No half and half - just combine the cream and milk yourself
  • Indian food in the supermarket - paneer and parathas were much more common to find in a non-ethnic store in the states but harder to find here.
  • No pimento cheese - probably for the better on this one

I've definitely become a more conscious consumer in the last year. I won't buy specialized tools or food until I know it's something I'm going to do or make. With that said, I've had really had a field day with all the things I've been able to try during COVID (from an no churn ice cream phase to perfecting some of my mom's recipes). And because of the lack of availability of packaged ready-made food, I really spend the time to make something from scratch. Australia also has more preserved items here (lemons, chutneys, jams, etc) because of the humid climate. These are easy to make and last so much longer!

Opposite hemispheres, opposite seasons

  • Love that Christmas vacation coincides with summer here so you can actually go outside and enjoy it! (don't have to take off additional time for summer vacations)
  • Love that my birthday coincides with the end of the financial year so there's sales for me to go shopping 😛

Civic ease

  • This doesn't totally apply to me, but if you're a college student, you get $450 a fortnight for your expenses.
  • I got my driver's license in half an hour...
  • I called for a dentist appointment on Friday and it got scheduled for Monday...

Biodiversity

The biodiversity in Australia continues to amaze me.

  • I've developed my own herb garden because of the prime conditions.
  • I constantly take photos with the Picture This app (machine learning app that identifies plants) to learn what's around me.
  • I literally get to see beautiful white cockatoos fighting over street food in the land behind our house in the summer mornings.
  • There's a lady a few streets away that has an entire jungle gym for the little lorikeets around the neighbhorhood.
  • I've seen dolphins just swimming along the beach (a little ways out of course) in Newcastle. Just casual.
  • While the bugs do still bother me, I've become slightly more zen about it. I've realized Aussies are closer to nature and the earth much more. Maybe because of the adaptation to desensitize because of the large number of creatures, or just an organic welcoming and acceptance of nature.

Socially

Making friends in a new country is difficult. Not really a way around that. I've been fortunate that most of my co-workers are quite amazing and have adopted me into their friend groups.

I have realized though that some of the things I thought were slightly more specific to the Bay Area (or geographically specific in general) are actually more generational and cultural problems (ie ghosting, commitment, a maximizer mentality).

Investing in a place means you then get to reap the benefits. I felt like I had invested quite a bit in California to then enjoy it, and now starting from scratch to do the same sometimes feels difficult.

And more...

  • I've eaten a lot more seafood since I've moved here. Partially because of the availability (and living walking distance to the fish market), but also because the cuisine is more seafood centric.
  • There are many monopolies and duopolies in Australia. Since it's so far away, many brands find it difficult to be able to grab a hold of a solid customer base.
  • While there isn't a lot of manufacturing in Australia, there is a real love of supporting local - from craftsmanship to agriculture.
  • As much more family friendly (and potentially due to my age), I've really noticed that the role of "mother" in Australia means so much more. In the states, the role of mother really negates other titles (a sexy wife, a hard-working employee, etc), but I've noticed that those separate identities are much more recognized. From a one-year maternity leave policy to mothers support groups to toy libraries, the entire ecosystem supports motherhood so much more than I've experienced.
  • Jobs in Australia will always be limited. While many major companies have an office in the region, Australia is still an island... and is far away. It makes it difficult for knowledge workers to "make it" until they spend some time in HQ putting in the time.. but HQ is rarely in Australia.
  • I really enjoy the touch of Europe from high tea to the properness of work attire. While British culture is really idolized unnecessarily, I do enjoy the touch of Europe from imported goods to cultural customs. As the European bogans, Australians are seen quite similar to Americans (less culture shock for me!). There is also a strange cultural glorification of European 1920s that I'm still trying to wrap my head around.
  • Race. It's less about intentionally being racist, and more about ignorance (from what I can tell). Due to the lack of diversity (in comparison to the states), the vernacular hasn't changed in years which perpetuates the problem.

COVID has been partying for about half the time I've been in Australia. Oddly enough, it has helped me be much more grounded and present here. Without the option of traveling, I've had to focus my thoughts and efforts into creating more of a home here (which is a great thing!). Here's to another year of adventures in Oz!

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I acknowledge and pay respect to the Traditional Custodians on whose land I live, play, and work. I pay my deepest respects to all Indigenous Elders past, present and emerging.

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