Today marks 40 days since we arrived in Australia, and I’ve come to the firm conclusion that I am a dog.
Every day is filled with new things, people and places and each destination seems to be prettier than the previous one. It’s a potpourri of emotions while the umbilical cord keeps on stretching and stretching. I don’t want it to snap, to be honest, so I’m thankful whenever my former employer (OFM The Sound Of Your Life – oh how sweet that sounds!) asks me to do a voice-over or record an ad.
Yet, I want this country to become “home”. One has to be grounded. I have to find a new tribe. My SA tribe will always be a part of me, but I need a tribe here – even if it comprises one or two members.
I must admit there is one thing I’m still struggling with badly. In conversation, I catch myself referring to “back home” all the time, because believe it or not, the average Australian IS interested in South Africa – albeit in the late Hansie Cronjé. When I tell them his father was virtually our neighbour “back home” (there, I did it again) they warm up in a flash.
It’s complicated, this “back home” thing. At which point do I stop referring to South Africa as “back home” and when does it become “in South Africa they”. I guess I’ll be sashaying between these two poles for another while.
So with 40 days’ hindsight, if I had to compare life in South Africa to Australia (and one inevitably does – all the time), let me share 20 basic differences that I’ve noticed:
- The Aussies are relaxed, laid-back, easy-going, chilled, efficient, funny and fun-loving.
- When you go to get your Australian driver’s licence it will take no more than 5 minutes. However, you need to get a “queuing number” at the door, although there is no queue. Have I mentioned their sense of humour?
- The police station is squeaky clean, there is a counseling room and a victim support centre, and interpreter services are available, apparently at the drop of a hat. Should have put them to the test with Afrikaans.
- Holden and the accompanying “blaring in transit music” are really huge.
- People walk around in shorts and T Shirts, even when the daily maximum average is 13 degrees. Some even brave the Southern Ocean without a wet suit.
- Nature reserves are free of charge. No one at any gate ordering you to fill out a “visitors’ book”. What ever do they do with all those visitors’ books “back home”. And one’s ID and telephone number?
- Most coastal towns retain a child-like innocence, and are filled with friendly locals. Side note: The French Toast at Forage in Port Campbell must be the best in the world.
- When you’re strolling on a footpath (shared with bicycles) the cyclists will ring their bell for you to move to the left side of the pathway, should you unintentionally have wandered across.
- If you put a notice on your mail box: “please no junk mail”, you will not receive any junk mail.
- Proper nouns get abbreviated – so far I’ve met an Ant, Tony, Ro, Shirl, Chand and Thom.
- Wearing K-Way gear will be a conversation starter. At least when you bump into a South African.
- Your bank card gets posted to your residential address – you receive it in your mail box within three days – as the banker said you would.
- People “get” traffic circles. And use their indicators. Correctly.
- Aussies cross streets at formal pedestrian crossings and wait patiently for the “woodpecker-alarm”, before they take off.
- In the Kodac shop pricey cameras are not kept in locked drawers and cabinets, while there aren’t always shop assistants in attendance. They might be at the back or in the loo. “Just give me a tick, mate.”
- The bricklayers are big on their music while grafting. Queen seems to be a favourite and sounds up and down Liebig Street, where I do my shopping.
- There is no charge for depositing cash into your banking account – so I’ve been told…haven’t had any to deposit as yet.
- The local bus driver lets you pay “later” if you’re short of change.
- Half of Japan are visiting the Great Ocean Road at any given time.
- With my rose-tinted (granted) glasses, the Aussies are, well, relaxed, laid-back, easy-going, chilled, efficient, funny and fun-loving.
But all this said and done, it will take some time for “no worries, mate” to roll off my tongue like honey. Till then, this is an adventure for which I’m very grateful. When I look at my husband, I recognize Benjamin Button. This beautiful sight dominoes merrily right down to my little toe.
And, with Melbourne a 3 hour train trip away, I might just be in the front row at the Australian Open and the Grand Prix, come 2018. Who knows, I could even attend the Common Wealth Games on the Gold Coast.
Now, in which box did I put my piggy bank? Where’s my Pickfords inventory!