I’m stuck in a dust storm + some thoughts on Australia

r440653_2125631Today I was meant to be driving back to Queensland, but we’ve postponed our trip due to gale force winds and a severe dust storm which has spread across the entire state of New South Wales (bigger than Texas). I’ve included some photos taken by some Sydney locals this morning so you can see how strange this weather is. Since I’m stuck inside for the day I thought I’d provide an update on my trip to Australia.

I’ve been back for about 10 days now and have settled back into Australian life. At first it seemed a little surreal because I have obviously become so accustomed to living in the USA.

The most obvious difference has been how relaxed, casual and jovial Australians are on the whole (gross generalisation: some people are just plain grumps). This is particularly obvious on TV and radio where most presenters are having a bit of fun with their audience.  Most people don’t seem to take things too seriously here and even the reaction on TV to this massive dust-storm is quite matter of fact. I know in the US I’ve been scared half to death by storm warnings only to receive a smattering of rain, which demonstrates a major difference between the two cultures. I had noticed that everything becomes sensationalised in the US media, presumably for entertainment value, but perhaps for more sinister reasons. I’ll leave that topic to another day though.

r440638_2125548The food here is just so good. When I first moved to the USA I think I cried for the first six months as we struggled to find real food. After nearly two years there, we now know where to look, but I remember when we first arrived we were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of processed food on supermarket shelves. Even the first ‘yoghurts’ we found contained next to no actual dairy products. I thought I might have been imagining the food to be better in Australia because it’s what I was used to, but having been back in Australia now for 10 days I can safely say the food is sensational. Everything is fresh and flavoursome and even a simple sandwich is a delight to eat. I seriously don’t know why this is other than to suspect that American food is so processed at all levels that something is missing. I also think Australian cuisine has been more influenced by its wide variety of immigrants and we end up with some interesting fusions of tastes that you just dont find in the rest of the world.

r440603_2125296The third most obvious difference we’ve noticed is that life here is much slower than our life in California. In a couple of instances I’ve really missed some of the conveniences of America but it hasn’t taken long to get back into life in the slower lane. The thing I miss the most is being able to pay for petrol (gas) at the pump. It now seems ludicrous that we fill the tank and then go in to line up and pay. I remember some years ago that petrol stations tried to encourage paying at the pump, but I guess it never took. Also, when dining in an Australian cafe or restaurant, most of the time you go up to the counter and pay after the meal. In the US, the wait staff will usually have brought the bill before you’ve even finished eating and I always felt rushed to get out of there. For the first time since leaving Australia in November 2007, I’ve been enjoying chatting over a coffee for hours without feeling the need to rush. The roads here also seem very backwards in comparison. The USA has roughly the same land area as Australia, but has a populations 14 times the size. Australia simply can’t put the same amount of money into the road system, and therefore it seems to take a very long time to get anywhere. The other day I drove from my sister’s place in Brisbane, to my in-laws in Dorrigo. That’s 453km (281 miles) and it took me six hours. I could get from San Diego to Phoenix, Arizona (572 km/356 miles) in less time using the freeways.

Since this post is now getting a little long, I might leave the rest of my thoughts to another day. Given this extraordinary dust storm today, Australian’s thoughts on Climate Change will probably be something I’ll talk about next time.


  1. Stunning photos, of course the sad side is that all that dust is our top soil blowing all over the place:(

    You’re right, we aussies are more laid back is life is far more leisurely here:)

  2. You are SO correct about the food situation in the US. If you do not know where to find local/organic food, the food is horrible. “They” have let major companies take over and fill our stores with horrible chemicals, pesticides, genetically eng. food…etc. How so many people can heat some of this garbage up in the microwave and say they actually enjoy it is beyond me.

  3. i love these refelctions. its always so interetsing. i have to agree, my thougts on america are always the inverse. Crap crap crap food, except we have the luxury of family organic produce stores which makes it a delicious stay and a very organic , foodie county so we are always somewhat sheltered from the horror that is US ‘cuisine’ I have o admit though it was one of our favourite pastimes was bitchin about the food, even the kids cant stand it” mum, the beef burritos were all beef! the coriander and tomatoe that was on the menu were spices only, not fresh” i rest my case. hope youre having a great time back home despite the mud storm!

  4. We are actually the opposite, really miss the life in USA, I lived there for a few years but needed to return to Australia, now we are moving to Canada soon. Life in Australia is too expensive, too slow, and the country is just too small (market wise), the small market and geography means we are paying ridiculous price for everything.

    Food in US is actually very good but depends where you live, and value is great. I always though LA has crap food, then I went to several local restaurants (not expensive at all), they are the best food I had..have to skip all the fast food then you will find good places.

    I spent a lot of time in Texas, good Mexican food, but others were just OK. San Francisco, Boston, Seattle all have great food. NYC has very good food that nothing in Australia can compare to.

    But Canada has the best seafood, Asian food, European food..

    We are so excited moving to North America soon, it’s been our dream for more than 10 years.

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