Minor Differences

In many ways, life in Australia isn’t that much different than life in the US. The people I meet are friendly (amazingly so), the neighbourhood is quiet during the day, the grocery store is busy around 5pm, the M1/Bruce Hwy is always congested in the morning and after work, and the birds chatter from sun up to sun down.

In many ways, however, life in Australia is very different, but I’m beginning to think they are very minor differences.

Driving
When I drive, I now drive on the left side of the road while I sit on the right side of the car (you should see me try to put my seatbelt on in the driver’s seat – I always always always reach to the left instead of the right). I waited a couple weeks to attempt driving because we were borrowing a truck (diesel and automatic) and then borrowing a ute (utility vehicle, truck, diesel, manual), and I just didn’t think that my first driving experience would be as successful if I were driving a giant vehicle especially whenever just about everyone on the road has a small vehicle. Seriously. Just about everyone drives a very small Mazda, Honda, Holden, or Nissan.

So when we bought our “new to us” car, which happens to be a little orange Kia Rio, I figured it would be a good time to drive.  And I did.  And it was fine.  I didn’t hit anything or swerve into traffic or forget I was in another country and drive on the wrong side of the road.  I’ve driven places on my own at this point, and aside from forgetting to look to the left for my rear view mirror, it’s been great.  At this point I haven’t even tried to sit on the left side of the car when I’m supposed to be driving (Dan has) nor have I mistakenly flicked the windshield wipers (which are now on the left of the steering wheel) when trying to put on my blinker/indicator (Dan does this constantly). I’ve even stopped reaching to the right when trying to downshift from 4th to 3rd gear only to find the door handle instead of the stick.  But I’m sure I’ll slip up at some point.

Food
I wouldn’t be my grandmother’s granddaughter if I didn’t say something about food. Going to the grocery is an adventure (and not just because I’ve been shopping at the Aldi down the street and their stock changes all the time so it’s always an adventure). Food is expensive. Very expensive. A big box of Sultana (Raisin) Bran is close to $9. Meat is somewhere around $5 for a kilo of mince (ground beef) and that’s like getting the 80% lean in the US.  24 cans of Coke will cost you $31 unless you get it at Aldi and then you pay $12 for 20 cans that are 330 mL (which is like 11 ounces a can).  I’ve been drinking Aldi brand Diet Cola for 73 cents for 1.25 litres.

If you’re curious about shopping here, take a look at one of the other stores I go to – Woolworths – and enter in my postcode, which is 4503 – Kallangur.  You can take a look at what happens to be on sale this week. I see that this week ice cream is on sale for $7 for 4 litres. Did I mention that I couldn’t eat ice cream while I was in the US? No whipped cream, no rich chocolate sauces, no ice cream. If I ate it, I would be sick within 20 minutes. Painfully sick. Here, it’s no problem. And I think it’s because there is no high fructose corn syrup in those items. It’s all cane sugar.  And since the winter weather  here has been beautiful and warm, I’ve been enjoying a dish of vanilla with fresh strawberries at least one night a week.

I should also be making a list of products that you just can’t find here, but I find it’s more about choice. For example, I wanted to get some dryer sheets the other day because it was rainy and I couldn’t hang my clothes out and was forced to use the dryer. There was one brand of dryer sheet at the store – one – and that pack of 40 sheets cost me 2 to 3 times what it would cost in the US.  People hang their clothes outside here.  Plain and simple.  Also, there’s no such thing as a Frito corn chip or even a generic brand. Walking tacos will be a thing of the past for me, I guess.

One last thing, since I really need to put some potatoes on the stove for dinner.

The Mall
I’ve been to the local mall (the shops) quite a bit as well as a mall closer to the CBD (central business district of Brisbane) and each time I’m blown away at just how many people are there. My first visit was during school holiday at the end of June and there were people EVERYWHERE. I figured it would slow down a bit once school started up again, but no. The shops are always busy. People go, get a coffee, sit, shop, walk, talk, and eat lunch. It’s always busy.  And I kind of like it.

-C

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