Tuesday, January 31, 2012

photo evidence: look who won 2nd place trivia twice now!

So I might not have actually answered any question correctly in the trivia, but I did legitimately win heads and tails -- my strategy of "tails all the way!" finally having paid off!!  And look!  I was enthusiastic enough that my team (the Happy Clappers, who named themselves in my honor, aren't they amazing?!) managed to win without any stellar contributions from the realms of, say, Shakespeare or Broadway musicals.
I found this terribly amusing:  walking out in Manly tonight there came a vague sprinkling from the sky.  The immediate response of my Australian friend?  "Is that rain or is someone up at that pub peeing on our heads?"

Monday, January 30, 2012

quicko: chinese new year

So the Chinese New Year was a little big ago now, but there's still remnants of decorations up -- it's not ultra-huge here, but it's a lot bigger than I ever noticed it being in America.  Presumably if I'd been in bigger cities more it would have been, but in general I do think Asian culture plays a bigger part in Australian culture than America.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

photos: kurraba point (wow, it's pretty!)

quicko: radio

Did you know that in Australia it is technically on the rulebooks that you're not supposed to play the radio in a workplace unless you've paid for it?  I had no idea.  Is it like that in America too and I just didn't know?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

quicko: a mile away

An idiom used in Australia to mean that something is very far away.  I found this odd, seeing as a mile isn't a particularly great distance.  My friends weren't interested in hearing my arguments of the inadequacies of their idioms, though.

Friday, January 27, 2012

quicko: letterboxes

While Americans certainly recognize and understand the term, "mailboxes" would be our word of choice.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

photos: my australia day

For Australia Day, I had pavlovas in Manly ...

and ate Anzac biscuits

and sang Waltzing Matilda

and saw an Australian flag in the sky

and went swimming in the habour

which was a bit cold, so also went swimming into the pool

then was hungry so had a lamington

and took a walk around North Head

then took a walk in my Australian "backyard"

and found my bit of harbour for the first time.

Hope you had a happy Australia Day, too!

happy australia day!!

Happy Australia Day!!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

quicko: rice what-ies!?

I knew Australians had some knock-off Rice Krispies cereal (Rice Puffs, evidently), but I was shocked to see Snap, Crackle and Pop themselves being used on what I immediately took to be an impostor, seeing as Rice Bubbles are patently not rice Krispies.  A closer look revealed, though, that they are actually bona fide Kellogg's.  Which means, it seems, that Kellogg's just willingly decided to change their name.  It must be some marketing ploy, but I find it odd.  Surely you can't get better than Rice Krispies -- Rice Bubble treats just doesn't have the same ring to it!  (Which perhaps is why no one actually makes them here -- though the marshmallows are a bit off, too, so maybe it's just a lost cause.  Hmm.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

quicko: soft toys

I might have mentioned this before (I feel like I'm starting a lot of posts that way these days ... it's getting a bit hard to keep track!  I do know I wrote reasonably extensively on this topic ages ago now for catapult magazine ...), but "soft toys" or something similar is what Australians call "stuffed animals."  For the British take on it, see my old article.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

quicko: theatre prices

Are absolutely atrocious.  I pretty much can't get over any of the prices here (still.  after 4 years.  you'd think I would.), but lately it's the theatre that's been getting me.  I understand paying a bit for professional theatre, but I generally pay what I'd consider professional prices for the amateur productions and atrocious prices for the professional productions.  The Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, which is, by the way, amazing, charges in the neighborhood of $25 a show.  This is reasonable.  The Sydney Short and Sweet productions are also $25 a show.  They are great, don't get me wrong, and I loved going and would probably even go back, but $25?  Really?  Shouldn't it be like $10?  Or at the most $10 plus the roll of a die or something?  Draw a card from the deck when you come in and pay its face value perhaps?  It'd be more in keeping with the vibe of it anyway!

Oh well.  Such is life, I guess.  And such is why it's really just best to put on productions of Macbeth in your friend's backyard.  Oh yeah.  Stay tuned on that one!

quicko: symphony in the domain

Sorry, guys, blogger is being silly and not letting me upload the video of the 1812 Overture.  It was awesome, though!  Anyway, these aren't really the same, but they're the best consolation prize I have to offer.  Blogger also insists on putting them in reverse order.  Sigh.  Maybe you could YouTube 1812 if it'd make you feel better.  Might help me.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

caring for your australian

Should you be an American escorting an Australian around your home country, there are several things they need to know right off the bat.

They're more used to traveling and you probably won't need to go into all the time zone, electric plug, Fahrenheit, drive on the right, measure in cups/pounds/miles, write dates "backwards" (say it like that, it's best to humo(u)r them), count building levels from "1" instead of "G" business with them, but there are three things that you'll really have to mention.  Gently.

First, tell them that cars are not required to stop at "zebra" crossings.  It doesn't matter that you don't know what a zebra crossing is, just use that phrase and, as they say, she'll be right, mate.  Just make sure they get it -- the last thing you want on your hands is a squashed Australian.  (A "zebra" crossing is a striped pedestrian crossing.)

Second, brace them for the fact that they're going to have to pay sales tax.  Although they pay it all the time in Australia, they're unaware of it because it is built into the price.  Thus, if it says "$5," it costs $5, not $5.35 or whatever it is in your state.  This will be a rude shock for them, particularly if they have a $20 bill and want something for $19.99.

Third, you've got to break the concept of tipping to Australians.  This is a major dilemma and best done very delicately and carefully and very strongly prefaced with vast quantities of "I know you'll disagree, I know this will seem strange, I know you think it's very, very wrong, but please, please, please just hear me out."  This is necessary because Australian waitstaff are paid in the neighborhood of $15/hour for their services and Australians see no need to tip them.  Fair enough, in Australia.  They are convinced it is the restaurant's duty to pay its employees.  Again, fair enough.  In Australia.

You must explain very painstakingly and lovingly that America, though very similar to Australia in many ways, is actually quite different in this particular area and it's an actual cultural difference that needs to be tolerated and respected.  (Being big on tolerance and respect, Australians should be all ears at this point.)

When you feel the time is right, have your Australian guess how much money a waiter or waitress makes in America.  They'll sense where this is going and immediately subtract about $5 from their initial opinion, which puts them guessing around $10.  If they're really on the ball they may go as low as $8.  Beneath $6 is virtually unheard of, unless they've played this game before.  After they give their final answer, drop the bombshell:  $2.13.  Per hour.  Before tips.  This figure was absolutely 100% accurate in Ohio in the summer of 2004.  Minimum wage was $5.15 or $5.45 an hour.  I would know.  So, yes, with tips waitresses did generally make at least minimum wage (and technically were supposed to have their salary vamped up to it if they didn't, but I never knew that to happen), but often just barely.

Now I admit it's possible wages have gone up a bit since then, but honestly I doubt it's more than $4, and that's on the liberal side of estimations.  A 50% increase in 8 years during recession strikes me as wildly unlikely.  But let's just say.  It's still only half, if that, of the lowest number an Australian was likely to guess anyway.

After you've delivered this news, give your Australian some time to recover.  They'll probably need a beer.  Or two.  When they seem to have regained their composure, explain that, culturally, the sensitive thing to do is to tip a minimum (minimum!) of 15%.  This is accurate for restaurants with paper napkins.  If you go to a restaurant with cloth napkins, the increment is 20%.

As your Australian sputters on the beer, seize their moment of speechlessness to stress how very important of a social custom tipping is in America.  Point out to them that being a "bad tipper" is a horrendous -- horrendous! -- insult and it is a cultural taboo not to tip.

At this point they will insist on asking what happens if they receive bad service.  Refrain from pointing out that, since they are in America, they are exceptionally unlikely to actually receive bad service.  Work with them on their hypothetical.

Should they receive bad service, you explain, it is possible to tip less.  You will not be thrown in jail.  You will, however, be blacklisted by this restaurant -- which is all well and good for your traveling Australian who never expects to be back again, but is very bad for the reputation of Australians in general.  Remind them that waitstaff hearing Australian accents are actually likely to give slightly worse service because their country, alas, has already received a bad rap that way.  (This is possibly also due to the fact that the British are known to be bad tippers in America and many Americans have trouble differentiating the accent.  Thus, your Australian may, shock and horror!, be assumed British.  Refrain from mentioning this as well.)  Therefore, it is their choice to tip as they see fit, but it may be paving a very bleak path for future traveling Australians.  Leave it up to their consciences.

Finally, you must clinch this argument by emphasizing that no matter how stupid, ridiculous, immoral, etc. they find tipping 15% to be, they must be aware that the key to changing this custom is not via bad tipping and that bad tipping hurts no one except the unfortunate individual waiter or waitress.  The greedy, lazy, despicable company is not hurt at all.  It does not care.  It is, after all, greedy, lazy and despicable.  The waiter or waitress, however, will actually be hurt severely if he or she doesn't earn a decent tip -- but will actually truly be made that much happier by even an extra $1 or $2 ("gold coin donation" you could call it).  Think of the waitress.  Really.

Leave them to think on that for a few days, and then repeat the process every two weeks until they depart.  If it still hasn't sunk in, lead them to a zebra crossing, stand back and let them fend for themselves.

Friday, January 20, 2012

quicko: milk wars

I go through tons of milk, mostly because I'm addicted to cereal for breakfast.  I also had no idea everyone else didn't drink milk with dinner until I was somewhere in my mid-twenties.

Anyway, I drink a lot of milk.  And I always get my milk from Coles, because when you're walking home with 3 litres of milk, you shop wherever is closest.  The other day, though, my friend brought me some milk from Woolworths.  Now this was a novelty and I'd actually just already bought my own milk, so I finished my Coles milk first and then started into the milk from Woolies, both of which expired on the same day.  I was shocked, then, to realize that the Woolies milk actually stayed fresh past its expiration date!  My Coles milk usually goes bad about two days before its expiration date, so this was a novelty of epic proportions.  Who would have thought?  The home brands of both, but one that far outlasts the other!  If only Woolies were closer.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

quicko: ekka

Short for "exhibition."  Particularly in Brisbane, where there's an annual Ekka of evidently monumental proportions -- similar I believe Sydney's Royal Easter Show (of Kim a la Wombat fame).  It sounds awfully like a State Fair to me, but I could be mistaken.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

quicko: push bikes

Bike bikes, as opposed to motorbikes.  Australians favo(u)r "motorbike" over "motorcycle," but "push bike" keeps confusing me.  I picture a shopping cart ("trolley" here) or a bike with a basket or some odd combination when all they actually mean is just a literal bicycle.

quicko: a very australian week

It's been a very Australian week so far.

On Sunday, I drove on the left.  I mean, I never drive any other way here, but it was only the second time in four years I've been able to manage to persuade someone to let me drive their car.  It was really pretty exciting!  I didn't really go much farther than around the block a few times, but it was great to be in the driver's seat again!

On Monday, I bought my first pair of Havianas, pictured above.  Aren't they adorable?  I know.  I've always heard Australians talk about them and had never heard of them before I came here, but they are really fabulous.  They're very cushy yet sturdy and pretty flip flops and I'm already quite smitten with my pair.

On Monday, I also rode on the koala-emu-kangaroo-go-round (pictured in a previous post), which was pretty fantastic.  Where else but Australian can you find a koala-emu-kangaroo-go-round?  No where else, that's where!

On Tuesday, I won second place in the pub trivia!  (Also pictured proudly in a previous post.)  There were six of us and granted I answered far fewer than my fair share of the questions, but I like to think providing enthusiasm and remembering to invite people to come along goes a long way.  $50 for fun next time we go out now, huzzah!

Well, that's it's so far.  It's only Tuesday, but already I feel quite Australian.  I wonder what Wednesday will hold!