Today 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.
The 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.
The 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.