Friday, May 14, 2010

10 Things I've Learned About Living In Sydney

10. There is no need to tip at bars, restaurants, spas, taxis, anywhere! It's really not an expectation, and in light of the (much higher) prices, I'm hoping that the workers' wages reflect that the tip has already been "built-in" to the price of the item or service.

9. Take water everywhere you go. It might be due to the hotter climate, but I seem to become dehydrated much more quickly here in Sydney than I remember when I lived in Canada. It was a rare occasion that one saw me humping a plastic Nalgene bottle around, but here a bottle of water has been permanently added to the leaving-the-house checklist that now goes: "keys, wallet, phone, water!" Luckily I just acquired one of those nifty BPA-free metal numbers that keeps me safely watered all day long!

8. Never, and I mean never leave the kitchen with crumbs strewn around the counter top. Leave even one little rogue crumb and one might as well put out a welcome mat for cockroaches; no matter how elegant or upscale your home, these nasty little beasts find a way into your kitchen if there's even one speck of food left out overnight.

7. When summer is over one must still dress for summer so as to not roast/ melt (take your pick) if outside between the hours of 11am and 3pm; however, one must also take a sweater, jacket, and scarf for the rest of the day so as to avoid freezing off one's hiney both outside, and inside where without any central heating or sunlight, it's always freezing between the months of April and September. It really is a different type of wardrobe thought process, and one that I'm still getting used to! (Yes, I'm embarrassed to admit I have been caught purchasing a sweater at the campus bookstore after leaving the house at noon in 26 degree weather in a tee shirt, only to come out of class at 5 pm to 12 degree weather. Brrrrr!!!)

6. When people are what I would consider rude, they are not actually trying to be rude, it's just the way some people here are. Lemme explain: Whilst the vast majority of Aussies I've met in non-social situations (ie waiters at restaurants, colleagues at work) have been unfailingly polite and obliging, there are a few who have been so, shall we say, direct, that it's really caught me off-guard. Over the past year and a half, I've come to realize that what I, as probably a typically overly polite Canadian, (ie. saying "I'm sorry" to people bumping into me,) would consider inappropriately abrupt, this manner is just a culturally different way of communicating: I've learned not to take it personally.

5. Look closely and you'll see some interesting animals, even in the city! Australian culture is generally very similar to that in North America: McDonald's, Hollywood movies, Subway, Nike shoes, the list goes on. In fact, the culture is so similar to what I'm already used to, that, other than adjusting to the climate, and the seasons belonging in the opposite months, I haven't had too much culture shock at all. So, it always surprises me when something really is different. Lately I've been learning about all the little woodland creatures/ city pests that Australia doesn't have, and the ones they have instead. Whereas North America has squirrels, chipmunks, skunks and raccoons that roam around our parks and yards, Aussies have possums, billbys, bats, and massive cockatoo and parrot birds that make so much noise at dawn and dusk they seriously drown out normal conversation. Neat eh?

4. Learn the different names for things, and if you're not sure, ask. I learned this the hard way when, for the longest time last year I couldn't figure out what my housemate was talking about when she referred to the "bench" in our house. "The keys are on the bench; your mail is on the bench." To my knowledge we possessed nothing in our house that resembled a bench. Stolen park bench in the living room? Nope. Salvaged pew from the church that burned down as a hallway decoration? Nope! Nope, no benches around the house anywhere! One day I realized she was actually talking about the kitchen counter-top!!! Oh dear. What a confused little bee I was! (In saying that, my housemate last year was also from New Zealand and I didn't realize for about a week that when she said "J(i)ssss" she was actually talking to/ about me.)

3. It's a losing battle trying to get people to take their shoes off when inside your dwelling. It's just not something aussies are used to, and they seem to take offence when you request that they remove their dog-crap, puke covered, festering, dirt-encrusted shoes before they walk all over your carpet that you would like to be able to pad around on bare-foot in the morning, or before climbing into your bed with the freshly laundered sheets. Nevertheless, if I ever have my own house here, there will be a big sign on the door, or perhaps a custom made doormat, informing guests that while they are more than welcome in my home, their scum covered, train station grime infested shoes are not!

2. It's so warm that it's still technically possible to swim in the ocean or in outdoor pools here in months other than summer. Wahoo!!!

1. Always always bring an umbrella where ever you go, and never ever leave home without an umbrella. I don't know how to say this with enough oomph and emphasis but it is not unusual to leave the house when there is not one single little cloud in the sky, and no rain in the forecast, and to be caught brolly-less in a torrential downpour two or three hours later. To avoid rocking the 'drowned rat' look, I would highly highly recommend to any visitor to Sydney to have at least a cheap brolly in their purse, because even though most sidewalks in any shopping area are covered (due to the need for either sun or rain protection most days of the year) it rains so hard that even running for two seconds between awnings to cross a road can leave you as sopping wet and bedraggled as if you'd decided to go puddle jumping in the local bog. Seriously, bring an umbrella.