Going, Going, Gone

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Slowly but surely, I know I will surrender, and adapt to and adopt a few Aussie words and phrases, while some of my own may become extinct (like so many things in Oz). My six year old comes home from school with her new lingo each day; we all want to speak in ways we can be understood here, and some things they say, well just make sense, literally. Here are my current favorites:

“Chook” for chicken because I like the way it sounds and it’s quick

“Toilet” for bathroom/restroom because it gets straight to the point of what you really need and there often aren’t baths or rest happening in them anyway. I wonder in the U.S. why we’re so delicate about using that word when it’s what we’re really asking for?

“Tomato sauce” for ketchup/catsup, heck we don’t even have one spelling for the U.S. word, let alone where did it derive from? And although I probably never will pronounce tomato like they do here, the least I can do is ask for tomato sauce instead of ketchup in a restaurant.

“Dibby-Dobber”, this is short for dibber-dobber, but when the Woolies deliveryman called my oldest daughter this after she grassed up her sister for something, well it just stuck day one.

“Chicken Schnitzel” instead of chicken parm. I grew up in upstate New York and there’s no denying authenticity. However, here I was sadly disappointed with the parm as it’s a very breaded, fried piece of chicken with just a splash of red Napoli sauce and a sprinkle of cheese often served with or on top of fries (chips), and a salad. No pasta, or loaded in sauce and cheese like I like it. My workaround has been to ask for the schnitzel instead of parm and done as a sub sandwich, it’s more to my liking. Better yet, I just make it myself at home with schnitzel.

Now for the ones that so far are the hardest to get my brain around as far as rolling them off my tongue with ease:

“Dressing gown” for bathrobe. This is where the literal use of things makes me start reasoning with myself. Typically you put on a bathrobe upon exiting a bath, shower, or in my case needing an extra layer of warmth during this cold Melbourne weather. Most times it’s just a towel I put on. Dressing gown makes me thing of housedresses or housecoats my grandmother used to wear but didn’t go outside in. Now when I see little kids bundled up in dressing gowns at swim lessons, they start to make sense as gowns you get dressed in. I’m still not ready to let that one roll.

“How ya going?” for “How are you doing?” Now, this has got to be one of the most endearing Australian sayings I have encountered, makes literal sense, is translated similarly in languages like French “Ça va?” and yet I have a hard time making it come out naturally upon saying hello to someone.

Not so hard for my three year old who heard her older sister tell us on the walk to school that that’s what you say to people. Immediately she repeated it to one neighbor and then others, all the way down the street.

“Going” implies a lighthearted journey, being in motion. Unlike “How are you doing?” which seems a rather personal thing to ask and no one really wants to know the answer. It is also used by Aussies to gently ask you if you need help with something, “How ya going with that?”

How am I going? Some words as I know them are going, going, gone.

My six year old meeting a kangaroo.

How ya going?

The Mummy Factor

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The Walking Dead, I’ve never seen the show but I have played the part.

Many times over while undertaking our move to Melbourne, I’ve felt battered, bruised, exhausted, sometimes debilitated, frustrated, bleary-eyed, confused, jet lagged, and much like I felt during those first few months after giving birth to my two girls.

I had myself mentally prepared for what was to come down under. Yes Australians drive on the other side of the road, money is different, yes they have funny sayings that you typically don’t want to be on the receiving end of, and yes there will be general adjustments to how we live. Prior to our arrival, I even joked with folks back home about how our kids would come back with Aussie accents.

I was even looking forward to this linguistic adaptation, however was not prepared for the Mummy Factor.

One month into her new school, my 6-year-old came home with her class work assignment. She wrote my name as always, “Mommy”, and the teacher with her checkmarks went in and checked the correct part of the sentence, correcting Mommy to Mummy.

I wasn’t upset with the teacher at all; she knows we’re from the U.S. and she didn’t mark her work incorrect, just pointed out we’re in Australia now.

Mommy Mummy

Our entire family has easily acclimated to our new world. We embraced the summer temps when we arrived in January, we’ve shed our winter coats and regrown them (ok, the cats and dog have), and we are prepared for all seasons whenever we walk out the front door.

Unbeknownst to me, the thing I was not conscious of or prepared to adapt to, was the disappearance in the Southern Hemisphere of the one word that mothers can’t wait for their babies to utter, “Mommy”.

That classwork was only the tip of the iceberg that would eventually bring me to instant tears upon the realization that I would now be called “Mummy”, and with an inflection at the end typically reserved for satirizing Valley girls, or up-talkers (thanks Jerry Seinfeld for coining the term).

It’s a good thing she’s cute and we’re in Australia, because this had been a hard thing for mama bear to swallow.

I brought this up with one of the mothers I’d met at the kids’ swim lessons. She’s from Sydney. I told her it’s been a hard adjustment being an American mom who is losing her child to the Australian vernacular, just on that word alone. She thought about it for a moment and said, “I don’t know how mother became mummy, but it’s a perfect word don’t you think, mummy, the walking dead?”

We both burst out laughing in amusement and somehow the whole mummy factor lifted from a once heavy heart.

Top 10 ways Australians are badasses

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This blog generated from observing several things while living in Australia as well as being short on time for a full-on blog. Note, the term badass is subjective.

They:

  1. Do not wait for cars to pull in or out of parking spaces and will risk their lives including children to walk behind or in front of your moving car.
  1. Have the most tattoos per capita than anywhere I’ve seen.
  1. Talk like New York mob bosses with sayings such as “Yous(e) guys”. (Last time I heard this phrase outside of living in New York was going to a show for the Long Island Medium)
  1. Live without solid Internet service and are just fine with 5 Mbps.
  1. Have co-ed parent rooms in public places and baby changing tables in men’s bathrooms. (I told you badass was subjective but I think it’s a pretty badass thing as are the men who change nappies, and especially those with tattoos, changing nappies.)
  1. Elect politicians such as Tony Abbott who eat raw onions on TV without flinching.
  1. Turn in their guns after one mass shooting, instead of stock piling them.
  1. Install built-in bars, theatre rooms, and barbeques in their homes. (This is very common and adds to resale value of home)
  1. Allow the ginormous tarantula-looking spider called a Huntsman to cohabitate with them to deal with smaller creatures.
  1. Leave cause of death notes while they are dying in the outback from snakebite.

What next Top 10 would you like me to provide commentary? I am always open to suggestions!

When In Rome, Err Melbourne

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Coffee at home courtesy of Nespresso

Coffee at home courtesy of Nespresso

Italians arguably have it mastered. Espresso, any way you like it; with more milk or water in the creation, it’s just the perfect cup of “Gio”.

Since my first trip here a year ago, I have become enamored by how well Australians make a cup of coffee. I had a lovely “Flat White” times two in Chinatown at The Mess Hall www.themesshallmelbourne.com, at the Café Bar Mile on Flinders Lane http://espressomelbourne.com/cafe-review/mile/ (amazing and pretty food, see below), and each morning at the hotel which had a push button machine to spit out your favorite brew (which was surprisingly decent). Honestly, the only way to mess a good cup of coffee up is, well, to make it yourself.

Avo and egg on sourdough toast at Cafe Bar Mile

Avo and egg on sourdough toast at Cafe Bar Mile

Once we moved here in January, it became evident we needed a decent coffee maker as the auto drip one my husband initially purchased just to get by wouldn’t suffice. You become a bit of a coffee snob once you’ve experienced reeeeaaalllly good coffee.

We acquired our first Nespresso right off the bat and shortly thereafter, double-walled espresso glasses. We had an experimental phase of buying the intense capsules and using lungo vs. espresso settings, which had us buzzing. Now we’ve sorta got it down. Hubby prefers running the same capsule through twice and adding light milk, and I prefer 2 capsules on lungo setting and adding my full cream milk. Note: this is not (nearly or ever) a substitute for half and half but it’s all about adapting to change, right??

We’ve kept our auto drip for the mornings we both need to get as much volume of coffee in our systems as quickly as possible. We still buy the Italian ground coffee for this purpose. Coffee is simply dominated by Italians. Lavazza, Vittoria, L’Or, they’re all the best part of waking up.

So my unspoken (until now) theory of the Italian migration here is starting to make sense. There are a lot of Italians in Melbourne and the surname such as Azzopardi is nearly synonymous with Smith back home. I know this as we have a teacher at my daughter’s school as well as our rental agent who share this last name in our suburb, yet are not related. I’ve since heard this surname several times. While I have yet to discover the reason behind the migration, which has clearly permeated Australian society and beverages, I will for now, embrace the joy of drinking a luxurious cup of coffee. Side note: I’ve been to Italy and traveled to Venice, Florence and Rome but unfortunately coffee was one thing I gave up while seven months pregnant!

As we were leaving the States, it was of no surprise to me that Starbucks announced the “Flat White” debut on their menu. I look forward to “giving it a go” when I return. If you happen to venture down under, here is a blog guide to getting your favorite cup of Gio upon your arrival, as Starbucks cafes are NOT on every corner. http://sydneymovingguide.com/coffee-in-australia/

Double walled espresso glasses. Look closely you'll see "Australian Design" at the bottom of the glass.

Double walled espresso glasses. Look closely you’ll see “Australian Design” at the bottom of the glass.

Bye, Bye My Amazon Prime, Hello Whiskey and Rye

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basket-156835_640Since arriving to Australia, I’ve had to completely overhaul my atypical (to me at least) American shopping habits.

For one, my aversion to malls. Before I came here, I may have gone to a mall once a year and that was to go to the Apple Genius Bar for warranty service on my MacBook Pro, buy a last minute gift (even that would be a stretch because I relied on most purchasing through Amazon Prime) or return an item because it was more convenient that mailing it back.

Now, I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time at the mall. The answer is simple; it’s where you purchase nearly everything you need in addition to standard clothing, shoe stores, mobile phones, banks. Butcher, baker, (still looking for a candlestick maker), produce stands, seafood market, and nuts in every possible variety and flavor. Anchor stores are big grocery stores like Coles, Woolworths (aka “Woolies”), and Aldi. Add a Target or a Big W for housewares and the standard liquor warehouse. Yep, everything in one place.

My initial visits to the grocery stores were lengthy and mentally exhausting ones. I spent my time exploring each aisle in search of some semblance or similarity of products back “home”, reading a lot of labels, stocking up on all cooking and baking staples, converting measurements and currency, and just trying new things out. Steggles brand reminds me of Perdue, Uncle Toby’s is branded on Cheerios and other General Mills-like products, but Kellogg’s is Kellogg’s. Rice Bubbles are Rice Crispies and to my family’s dismay, there are no original Cheerios here, as the original Uncle Toby’s kind here is the multigrain. So far I’ve found zero breakfast cereals that do not contain sugar as one of the first few ingredients.

What I do love here especially is the produce. It’s huge, beautiful, freshly picked and usually a good price. Pick dates are usually within a few days to appearing on store shelves which makes it last longer and retains its freshness.

I also love the variety of certain items and am amused by the British influence. Where else can you find an almost entire aisle wall of canned beans? Or chocolate? Or dairy products like eggs, creams (dessert), yogurt, milk, and cheese? One major thing missing to my daily ingestion is half and half for my coffee. Why oh why does this not exist when there are so many creams but not even mixed with a bit of milk? Hopefully I am just missing something and I can find a good substitute; it’s full fat milk for me now. And canned tuna fish, in so many flavors, it’s unreal.

Tuna variety

Tuna variety

Finding the same products we like from back in the states has obviously been an expected major feat. There is a USA food store but I don’t intend to go there, as I know we will survive without everything we used to know and love. I do enjoy that Costco has a presence here and we have already made two trips there. Membership from the US works here so we will be good until renewal time. There are some comforts from home like Ruffles chips and the standard Kirkland items we use, like extra virgin olive oil and trash bags. Do not take them for granted Americans! All other trash bags in Oz do not compare to the strength of the Kirkland brand, hands down. Unfortunately we bought many brands and learned the hard way. Trash bags do not fail me now!

Now, it only makes sense that I can get housewares delivered by the likes of Target, Harvey Norman, Myer, etc., however I was thrilled to discover that the grocery stores deliver, and this includes wine, beer and liquor! Now that I’ve done the perusal and shopping in-store, my items are saved in my online profile and I can simply reorder. It’s a welcome change from ordering online and swinging by to pick them up like I used to. Delivery of our groceries along with our gin, beer, and wine made my break up with Amazon Prime membership just a bit easier to swallow.

Left, Left, Left, Right, Left

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Aussies march to the beat of their own drums, so why should driving be any different?

As a transplant now with my 4th week on the roads under my seatbelt, this military mantra guides my train of thought while behind the wheel. When people back home ask me what it’s like I explain it’s a lot like a video game where you’re a driver and you have to react to everything that’s coming at you but you don’t have a frame of reference. Your instincts and reflexes are defied in ways that make you think you’re on the show Top Gear.

We drive on the left here. Steering wheel on the right side. Turning signal side swapped with windshield wipers (except on certain model cars like mine). Gears on the left. Go with automatic transmission, this is a gift.

There are no rights on red; you must wait for the green arrow. Roundabouts keep things merrily humming along but you better act quickly because Aussies are generally aggressive drivers. They wouldn’t think twice about cutting you off and taking a parking spot or nearly mowing you down in a parking lot, but in a pinch they’ve got your back.

What made my driving experience feel as close to home and partially within my comfort zone was our choice of car. We spent a day at the nearest car dealers and almost walked away with a Ford Kuga (pronounced Kooga). I had to laugh as I am in my mid-40s and all I could think about was the Cougar stereotype. Good lord, was I about to get this car? Considering cars here are very expensive compared to same model cost in the US, we weren’t about to go back to our Lexus/Volvo cars we had at home. The whole experience was leaving me half-hearted and non-committal and it wasn’t from the haggle (there’s barely a negotiation). Until, my husband spotted a vehicle that was just like mine back home, a used Volvo XC90 SUV! Oh dear, that would no doubt be a pretty penny here! And it kinda was.

Cars are expensive here; it bears repeating. I drove a 2007 version of this car back in the States which we bought used in 2008 at 27k miles. We sold it before we came here at 107k miles for $10k. This one had 100,000 kilometers (do the math it’s about 60k miles) was a 2008 model and we bought it for the same amount of money the 2007 cost us, at a year old!! These are $85,000 here new. Wha?? Nearly 3 times the price. BUT, what made it worth it (at least for me) was knowing I didn’t have to learn the car while learning to drive, so I am happy, albeit poorer for this choice. Bonus is it’s a 7-seater so we welcome guests and you won’t have to drive here!!

Anyone driving with me knows they will be traveling in nearly complete silence.

When I drive my kids:
“Sorry kids, no Taylor Swift, mommy needs to concentrate.”
“No, mommy doesn’t have eyes in the back of her head while driving here.”
“Your drink is staying on the floor until we stop.”
“I can’t see what your sister is doing to you right now but if you make another peep about it, I am pulling over!” This is not a veiled threat; I really do pull over.

So, I can’t multitask the way I used to but it’s for the best. My kids have really become the best backseat cheerleaders with hoorays and claps AFTER I make it through a roundabout successfully. My oldest whispers “Go Mommy Go, you can do it!” as she doesn’t want to distract me. Even she knows this is like driving on the moon!

Everyone I know that’s previously had to drive on the other side of the road gave me great advice and reassured me I’d find myself off the shoulders, in the ditches and hitting curbs. I’ve not kissed a curb yet, nor a parked car, or wing mirror; and I write this while knocking on my wood table and crossing fingers. All of the input from others was great, but as the driver, you need to get into your groove with it.

I simply remember (and chant to myself) to stay left, left, left until I have to turn right (or overtake!), then I pull into the right lane of the 2 lane road, whiz around the roundabout with my right blinker on and take what is the 3rd exit off the roundabout for my right turn and then it’s all left again. Whew I’m tired, someone else take the wheel!

Handwashing To Handshakes

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I am not the OCD hand washer. I follow a simple routine after using the bathroom, after helping my kids use the bathroom, handling raw meat or eggs, taking out the trash, cleaning the cat litter box, using the delivery person’s pen for my signature, petting animals, using public transport, touching surfaces many people touch like shopping carts or railings, holding my daughters’ hands after they’ve been touching all of these things, and shaking hands with people. Sounds reasonable right? Depends on the routine.

Using soap and water and toweling off, drive my routine. Again, reasonable?

OK, this is where I cannot get my brain around the hand washing (or lack thereof) in my new city of Melbourne, Australia. Since I arrived just over a month ago, I’ve had the opportunity to go to many places, widely public and also small intimate places. Some with animals, some with prestigious tennis players, some with food, some with books, malls, port-a-johns, train stations so the sampling is diverse! What I’ve witnessed in the majority of these places is varying degrees of the “hand wash”. At zoos and port-a-johns, there’s been no soap in any of the dispensers, forcing hand washers like me to resort to my always-on-hand antibacterial gels or wipes. At the Australian Open and some restaurants, I’ve seen several women do a quick rinse with no attempt to lather up, proceed to use the Dyson high powered hand dryer and then apply another coat of makeup. As much as I adore Dyson products, I will never use an AirBlade hand dryer again, on top of learning they potentially loosen gemstones in rings. I must be the outlier who insists my children wash their hands even if I have to hold them up to the sink. I have to date seen zero children wash their hands with soap after doing any activity, including bathroom usage. Maybe because the soap is always out?

Because my only perspective is the female hand washing routine, I dread to learn of the male habits. Which now brings me to handshakes with men. I’ve seen a fair amount of “tradies” (workmen) in our rental house for a multitude of repairs. Every single one of them must think I am a delicate flower that will be crushed under their massive strength of a handshake. That also goes for the car salesmen that sold us our 2 vehicles, the owner of our rental house, our neighbors, and new acquaintances. I really thought I was crazy until I brought it up to my husband. A strong, sometimes overly firm handshake was his data input to my study. Why not wrestle right then and there for the fair maiden spectator?

I’ve always given a firm handshake, both in business and personally. It’s the only one I know how to do and one that represents me as genuine. If it’s not firm, it’s not authentic. Doesn’t have to be a bone crusher, just direct and real or don’t do it at all.

Now that I’ve grasped the pattern and correlation here, I am now avoiding the handshake like the Plague; which considering the hand washing habits, looks like I can escape if it comes around again.