Friday, August 31, 2012

Adventures in a New Culture

It's really interesting how in many ways, everything is very similar to the United States. But in many other ways, it is completely different. Here are a few things that are just different.

  • The other day, I accidentally pushed the button on the bus that indicates that it should stop at the next stop. When I realized what my errant elbow had done, I used my best manners and apologized to the bus driver: "I'm sorry, sir!" He looked at me like I had just flown in from outer space. After discussing with my colleagues, I learned that Australians don't call anybody sir, and that in fact the bus driver may have thought I was making fun of him. Hopefully my strong accent clued him in that I am just culturally inept.
  • The Australian accent is very distinct, and differs from anything I have ever really heard or spoken. I can speak like a Kentish schoolgirl from living in England as a child, but I just can't figure out how to do the Australian accent. Vinny, on the other hand, is picking it up. One of the most distinctive sounds that Australians make is a very distinct "o", such as in the word "No." It was not a sound that I could even attempt to imitate -- all my tries came out totally wrong. Vinny, on the other hand, picked it up perfectly. So the other night I asked him how you do it. He helpfully tutored me on it -- first you make an "urr" sound, then you make your mouth do an "ee" sound. By the end of it I could make that sound. But it still seems like an awful lot of effort when you could just purse your lips into an o shape and be done with it.
  • The other day, somebody was celebrating something and brought in a "white chocolate mud cake." I was bewildered that one could make a mud cake from white chocolate, but whatever. I expected something gooey (like Mississippi mud cake!) but it turned out to be a free-standing round cake. It was very delicious but nothing like I expected. I asked the person who brought the cake what made it a mud cake. He said it was because they used oil instead of butter to make the cake. I told him I think of a cake made with oil instead of butter as a chiffon cake. And then I described what I thought of as a mud cake, and promised to make one whenever we get settled into our house. (Yes, our stuff did arrive and we are slowly making our way through it -- but that is a story for another time.)
  • Another interesting thing is that in our new house, the toilet is in a completely separate room from the rest of the things you would associate with a bathroom. So you have to go into a different room to wash your hands after you use the potty. This is a fairly typical arrangement from what I have seen.

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