Tuesday, July 24, 2007

10 things I didn't know about Australia and Australians

1. I knew beforehand that they spelled English the British way. Therefore realize is realise and color is colour. What I didn't know was that in Australia traveling is travelling. I predict this will confuse my internal spell-checking system more than it already has (i.e., I sometimes confuse development vs. developpement, address vs. adresse, for the past few years I've been spelling appartment with two p's because that is how it is spelled in French).

2. Aussies like to go about barefoot, weather permitting. Permiting? Permitting. They would like to be rid of as many items of clothing where appropriate. For example, it is not uncommon for Aussies to take off their shoes in the classroom or walk about shoeless in campus (especially when it is raining). You will also see barefoot kids and younglings walk about in malls and other public spaces not remotely close to the beach.

3. They don't like Americans much. This is a barely suppressed sentiment that surprised me when I first got here. When I asked my housemate from Melbourne why there is this not-so-apparent dislike of Yanks despite sharing an Anglo-Saxon culture, he says, "They think the world revolves around them." The Canadians go out of their way to say they're Canadian.

4. Every Australian of age is required by law to vote. The fine for not voting is pretty steep at $180(?). Imagine that. At 20 million, it is a smaller population, and so I imagine it wouldn't be that difficult to make sure everyone does their democratic duty.

5. The political ads can be very personal. Since this is an election year and politicians are jockeying for position, you can see some pretty nasty political ads on TV. The government has also caught flack for spending so much on information campaigns. The ones most commonly seen on the tube are about quitting smoking, work relations, women's abuse and drink (yes, not drunk) driving.

6. Like the Philippines, Australia is saturated by American culture. 99% of movies screened are Hollywood, and prime-time TV shows are also dominated by Hollywood. Most of the gossip glossies feature the life and times of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.

7. I knew that Australia was skin cancer capital of the world before coming over, but I didn't know just how...powerful the sun can be. Being from the tropics, I am no stranger to sunshine, but the sun here is weird. Maybe its because the angle of the rays hitting the ground is more oblique? Because the air is purer? Because the island-continent is closer to the hole in the ozone layer? I don't know. But the sky can be so frighteningly blue at times. And the brightness can be literally blinding.

8. It's cold in winter. Damn fricking cold. I didn't think it snowed, but apparently down in Victoria it does. Up here in Queensland, it isn't so bad, but 6 degrees celsius at night is 6 degrees closer to freezing point. Brrrr.

9. At risk of making sweeping ethnographic observations, it seems the colder the clime, the colder the people. When we went down to Sydney and Melboure during school break, it amazed us how so few people seemed as friendly as folks up here in Gold Coast.

10. If the newscasts of the past few days are to be believed, blue collar workers (at least up here in Gold Coast) have the potential to earn more than white collar workers. They call electricians, plumbers, bricklayers etc. "trades." One other thing I noticed since I got here - where people who do manual labour in the Philippine strive to be as invisible (i.e. unnoticeable) as possible, folks here who round up trolleys (grocery pushcarts), sweep grounds, cut trees, clean windows, take out the trash etc. etc. are loud. They don't care if they make as much noise as needed to get the job done.

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