Handwashing To Handshakes


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.

The Good, The Bad, and The Oz-one.


Since moving to Australia a short month ago, we as a family have undergone some expected and some not so expected transitions and experiences. While our Facebook posts boast of our fun adventures, it’s those very experiences that keep my husband and me sane during this time. I just haven’t had the heart to blog about it until now, Valentine’s Day.

While I miss people (and Amazon Prime), I’ve been embracing the walkable aspects of our new life and the convenience to kids’ school, activities, shopping, restaurants, my husband is still yearning for his lifestyle back “home”…and our house which is currently under contract…thankfully and fingers crossed.

My husband has fully entrenched himself in his new university professorship, in fact currently working on grants there as I type. It’s an important role that requires a lot of groundwork and overhaul. Once everything is functional, he will be more settled at least with his job.

My plan has been to get the family settled, however the rental house we are in sprung a bath leak and we’ve been 4 weeks into getting repairs done and me being somewhat housebound during the daytime as a result. The leak flooded what is to be the kids’ bedroom so carpet has been pulled, walls have been checked and painted (painted wrong as well as damaged) and we are awaiting the carpet install into week 5. Also waiting on plumber/tiler to fix their bath. We only have 2 baths, so we all use our master bath shower. So, kids twin beds are conjoined in what is meant to be the home office, their clothes are in our guest bedroom closet. We are hoping the repairs are done before our “slowboat” container of belongings gets delivered later this month or we will seriously have issues with the master plan.

The laid back Aussie attitude has been refreshing and we are keen to adopt some of it, but when you need to get something done, like these repairs, you start developing another kind of attitude. It’s not just the house repairs either; you just can’t get problems resolved at a quick pace. There’s always a form to fill (and physically return), a management chain to go through, emails and phone calls that go into a black hole, several self-initiated follow ups etc. When something does go smoothly, we are elated!

We also have a love/hate attitude for the sun. I realized week 1 that no matter how dreary/rainy/overcast it may be, the sun will find you and burn you. Wear polarized sunglasses as much as possible (sometimes indoors!). There’s a reason there are heavy and heavy duty blackout curtains in our house. Put on SPF 50 straight out of the shower each day, regardless of weather forecast. Always have a visor or hat on you. Polo shirts are best worn with the collar up (not as a fashion statement). Just about everything kills you here and the sun is no different. Not to be Debby Downer but with melanoma rates at their highest here (thinning ozone layer), it amazes me how much worship Aussies still have for the sun. On the flip side, some amusement parks offer free sunscreen at the door, it’s always for sale at outdoor events, and there’s so much product selection. Except (you knew this was coming), all of the products I have found, even those labeled safe for kids have the worst preservative chemicals in them, and forget about finding zinc oxide only unless I want them to have pink or green faces from the zinc sticks. I am prepared to buy in the U.S. and have my mom send them over; as something applied to skin daily (and for 3 seasons out of the year), I won’t compromise on this one. Back to the bright side, the sun dries your clothes on the line sometimes faster than a dryer would. Solar panels are widely adopted and on many homes here. All school kids must wear wide brimmed hats for outdoor play. Sunrises and sunsets are amazing.

So, while we continue to adapt and get tanned without trying, we are grateful to have these experiences good, bad, and ozone.