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.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Adventures in Different Things

Sorry for the hiatus, folks! I really had intended to do more posting to this blog once we got to Australia, because there would be so many interesting things to talk about. And there are! It's just that... well, let me just tell you what's been going on.

I started my new job about a month ago. It has been going well. I like my new colleagues and I'm pretty happy at work so far.

We scrambled around and found a place to live. It is hard in Perth because there is more demand for housing than supply. So you end up having to bid for a place to live, offering to pay more rent than they are asking. We were finally successful at that and took possession of a place effective August 1.

But, there were a few issues with our household goods. First, they tried to charge extra to give us all our stuff. Luckily, my new boss is pretty hard-nosed and told them no way can you charge more, and eventually, they agreed. But, our stuff is still not here yet. So my new boss graciously agreed to extend our temporary housing another week, and then another... I told him if it doesn't come by the end of this week, we will just camp out. Really. Because it is getting ridiculous!

We don't have a car, and have no immediate plans to buy one, at least not until our house in Tennessee sells. So far we have been getting by with walking and riding the bus. This has worked surprisingly well. Our temporary housing and our new place are both within easy walking distance of the grocery store. From our new place you can see Vinny's school.

Once we had our lease, we signed Vinny up for school. He's been going to school for about 3 weeks now. He's had two weeks of swimming lessons through his school, which is not something you would get through the schools back home. He's in pre-primary, which is equivalent to Kindergarten in the US. (They call pre-school Kindergarten here.)

So far we have not suffered too much from homesickness. Of course we miss our family and friends, but the internet has really helped us to keep up with what is going on with them. We miss some foods back home (such as root beer, Reese's cups, and buttermilk biscuits in a can) but have discovered others that we now enjoy (such as Tim Tams).