Monday, January 23, 2017

First Impressions of Australia

By Jen.

We love going to new places and seeing how they handle things differently. Australia is an interesting place because they speak the same language, but they have different connotations and denotations. For example, instead of saying “where is your trash?”, you say “where is your bin?” One that really got me was when we were checking out, they asked “cash out?” So, I said, “yes, you can close me out,” thinking that they were asking if they could close the transaction or if wanted to add anything else. But, they actually were asking if I wanted to withdraw cash. Or, when I asked about a “grocery store”, they had no clue what I meant. Had to use “supermarket” instead. No “sack” here, have to use “bag.” “Takeaway” instead of “to-go.”

Also, their road signs are fairly different from ours. A lot more text and flexibility. Instead of a “shoulder” on the road, they have an “emergency lane,” which often can be used as a regular lane during rush hours. Of course, they drive on the left, with right-hand drive vehicles. The gas and brake is still oriented the same way (brake on the left, gas on the right), but the blinker is switched (at least on this Suzuki car). So, often when Jonathan is trying to turn on a turning signal, the wipers come on instead. Oops… And, the parking designations mention the number of hours that you can park (the # in front of the P) and when you can park.

We have noticed that Google Maps isn’t the best in Australia (although it is recommended by the locals). It doesn’t do a good job of knowing turns that you can’t make (no U-turn or no-right-turn areas), so often we have to move past its recommendation and have it re-route.

Melbourne is a very lovely city. It is called the most livable city in the world, and I can see why. It is a gorgeous city. Very artistic, beautiful weather year round (rarely freezes). Public transportation is at most $8 per day for the whole system; much less if you buy a yearly pass. Very rarely do people honk at you. There are parks everywhere! Beautiful, well-maintained parks with running and walking paths. Overall a wonderful city. I would love to live here.

Things are a bit more expensive here, but not too much, especially with the US dollar being so strong. We have been going to nice sit-down restaurants, which cost about the same as what it would cost in the US for a medium-nice restaurant in the states, after tip is added in. The service has been about the same as in the US, if not better.

Apparently there is a decent street-art (graffiti) culture here. Alleyways (“laneways” here) are covered in spray paint, with the content changing daily.

There are a lot of unique, dedicated shops in Melbourne. There was an entire store dedicated to babushkas. One of our favorites, was a store called “Wunderkammer,” a shop of “scientific curiosities, artefacts, and ephemera.”

We made the mandatory stop at a McDonald’s. Several unique items on their menu include a halloumi burger (type of a grilled cheese), a chicken-avocado burger, cinnamon scrolls, and macarons. Plus, they have self-service kiosks where you order your food. We did find their Big Mac looks closer to the actual picture here, and is a bit larger. We pass one all the time here, nearly as often as we do in the states.

We also saw our first wild kangaroos of the trip on Friday. Almost got to see a koala, but couldn’t find him. Interesting fact: Australia has eastern grey kangaroos and red kangaroos (more westerly); the USA has eastern gray squirrels and red squirrels (more westerly). Intriguing, huh?

As a note, our phones and cell service have been working very well here. Texts are unlimited and free, while data is the same rate as in the US. On cell service, calls cost $0.20/min, but on wifi are much less expensive.

In regards to food, Australians are foodies after my own heart! They believe in having breakfast all day long (unfortunate for Jonathan’s egg allergy). They also seem keen on their “sweets” (desserts). Notable places we have eaten (all were delicious):

Journeyman (Australian, Lunch)
Il Parco (Italian, Dinner)
Caffe E Torta (Italian, Lunch)
Tiba’s on Lygon (Lebanese, Dinner)
Movida (Spanish, Lunch)

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