Love / Don’t Love – Down Under

I actually got my first ever (and possibly only) blog request! I’ve been asked to post about the top 10 things I love and don’t love about Australia, so… here it goes. I don’t know if I can come up with 10 each at the moment- so I’m just going to post about as much that comes to mind as possible. I know I’ve posted some of this at other times, but think of it as a re-cap! Everyone loves a good re-cap!

Things I don’t love so much (in no particular order):

Shopping carts/trolleys. They have a mind of their own. They are impossible to steer. While I’m on the topic of shopping trolleys, I also find that the aisles in grocery stores seem to be a lot smaller here. I find myself in grocery traffic jams WAY more frequently and people just don’t seem to have the courtesy to move out of the way. They park their cart right next to another cartwithout considering the fact that people can’t squeeze through them. Let me tell you, my road rage is just as prevalant in the shops as it is on the streets!

Customer service. It blows! Servers in restaurants don’twork for tips, so they really don’t make any effort to keep the customer happy.

The cost of everything. From Coke to ketchup to clothes to alcohol- everything costs more! Well, ketchup doesn’t ALWAYS cost more, but seriously- some restaurants make you pay 30-50 cents for a little container of the stuff! At home I could get half a bag of ketchup at In & Out for free! There are NO free refills and you could pay up to 4 bucks for a TINY bottle of Coke, I’m not even talking about the big ones. Cans can sometimes cost 3 bucks. Such a freaking joke! And then there is the cost of drinks in bars… 9 bucks for a drink with one lousy shot of alcohol? You end up spending $50 bucks to achieve the same level of booziness that $25 would get you in the states. Did I mention the cost of the tolls on the roads here? Ugh don’t get me started on that. P.S. can you believe that “booziness” didn’t get flagged in spellcheck. Is that really a word??

Weather. Ok in all fairness, it HAS gotten better this year. The first year I was here the summer was CRAP! And coming from California, I’ve been a bit spoiled in the weather department, so I have really high standards. I wasn’t too disappointed this year so hopefully this won’t stay on my “don’t love” list for much longer!

Holidays. People don’t get nearly as into the holidays here that they do at home (maybe with the exception of Easter). Christmas is less festive, hardly anybody puts up lights in my area. Halloween isn’t big at all, and if you try to celebrate, you risk being yelled at by some Aussies because it’s a stupid American holiday. I happen to know a few Aussies who would LOVE to adopt Halloween into the Aussie culture… it’s FUN! And then there’s the simple fact that Thanksgiving just doesn’t exist here… oh how I miss Thanksgiving.

Building quality. It seems as if most apartments here don’t come with screens. So, if you open your windows, you allow bugs (and lizards in my case) to enter your apartment at their leisure. Many have thin cheap windows that allow EVERY tiny noise to flow through. Annoying. Walls are brick or cement and it makes nailing anything into them nearly impossible. Annoying. Shower doors don’t go all the way across so water leaks out all over the floor… you get my drift. Ok- maybe this is just MY apartment, but I’ve heard the same from many other Americans who live here as well, so I think it’s a common feeling we all have.

Parking. This country doesn’t believe in parking lots. I really don’t like having to park down giant hills to get to where I need to go. And I REALLY don’t like having to pay $5 per hour to park at the bottom of a giant hill to get to where I need to go. I miss my big, easy parking lots.

The Internet and Cell phone plans. Both suck. Both are expensive. The internet is slow, has download caps and drops out all the time. Cell phone plans still pay by the minute! Both of these things are so behind the times!! Time for a technology update!!

The postal service. While I must say- my letters DO arrive VERY quickly, I really really don’t like that my packages are NEVER delivered. Evidently the couriers are too lazy to walk up the stairs in my building to deliver anything that doesn’t fit in the box. So instead, they leave little cards saying we weren’t home when they tried to deliver. Clearly these are bullshit since I am ALWAYS home since I work from home. This was especially annoying when I had a broken foot and was DEFINITELY always home. And this isn’t just a problem for us, we hear it’s VERY common here. Also… I don’t like that mail doesn’t come on Saturdays and I can’t mail a letter by putting it in my mailbox, I actually have to find a big red postal box to drop it into.

So now for the good stuff…things I DO love:

The location. I love that I have the beach and city both so close by! I can walk to the beach in 15 minutes (drive in about 3) and lay out or rent a kayak or have a picnic. I can get to the city in about 20 minutes by bus (less time if we’re driving). It’s the best of both worlds. The harbour is beautiful, the Hunter Valley only a few hours away and a 10-20 minute drive takes us to so many awesome bars and restaurants with great views and atmosphere. Plus my apartment has a few little shops right across the street- a grocer, fruit and veg shop, tailor, dry cleaner, chemist, deli and pizza shop! While they all seem a bit overpriced, it makes it very convenient when I forget an important item for dinner.

Public transport. I love that I can just hop on a bus and get where I need to go. The city is super accessible from busses near my house. I don’t use trains all that much, but when I do- those are just as convenient.

The scenery. There are SO many beautiful beaches and walks and picturesque areas around Sydney. Of course there are beautiful areas in California too, but usually they involved a long drive to get to them. Here we can drive or take a ferry to places 30 minutes away and you feel like you’ve been whisked away to a tropical island or some rainforest or something. It’s just beautiful. I REALLY need to get out and explore more!!! I definitely haven’t taken advantage of all that Sydney has to offer.

Thai food. Thai food has quickly become my favorite cuisine ever since moving to Australia. I never even knew I liked it until I came here and now there is SO much Thai all around and it makes me very happy.

Air quality. I really can’t prove this one, but I can say that my allergies and headaches have subsided a lot since I moved here. The lower amounts of headaches could just be because I’m happier… who knows? I do know that while I still do have issues from time to time, my allergies don’t bother me nearly as much as they didback home.

Wine. Ok, I loved wine back in CA, but I love it so much more here. Part of that is because I really enjoy having dinner with Andrew and sipping a glass or two on our balcony. Part of it is because I LOVE that it is SUPER cheap to order cases of wine online (one of the only things here that possibly IS cheaper than the states).

Internet banking. Seriously, the banking world here is miles ahead of internet banking in the states. It is SO easy to transfer ANYONE money regardless of their bank.

Sales tax (GST). Ok, I don’t like the tax itself, but I do like how it works. It’s just built right into the price so if something says $10.00, that’s what you will pay. There’s no guesswork involved when adding up bills at restaurants! So much easier!

Birds. I love the birds that come and visit me every day. It’s like having a nearly free pet without the commitment. If we want to leave for 3 weeks, we can and since the birds are wild, they can find food in other places… or at least on our neighbors’ balconies.They are so beautiful and entertaining to watch and feed. I also love the kookaburras. I used to hate them because they woke me up at 5am every day, but now they don’t. Now they just always provide me with a little chuckle every time they start “laughing” like monkeys. The cockatoos are beautiful as well, and so tame! Although I could do without listening to their loud screeching!?

Ooook… I’m sure I could keep going and going forever if I let myself, but this blog has to end at some point. Hopefully this has been of some interest to a few of you and possibly a way to cure boredom for a few others!

12 Responses to Love / Don’t Love – Down Under

  1. Erin April 14, 2009 at 5:15 am #

    Perfect. I TOTALLY, 100% agree with everything on both sides of the list. It is funny the things I forgot and took for granted after living her so long. I picked up on a lot of the differences while I had my American friend in town. It makes you take stock and appreciate the good… and the bad. Great post!

  2. Jenny April 14, 2009 at 3:08 pm #

    Great list. I totally agree, although my post guy does deliver packages which I appreciate. I’ll happily deal with the wacky shopping carts and the fact that windows don’t have “flyscreens” (which I believe is by choice) in exchange for the amazing views and easy lifestyle.

  3. amanda April 14, 2009 at 9:13 pm #

    this list makes me even more excited to come to visit you! just a little over two weeks and i’m there!

  4. Jessica April 14, 2009 at 11:27 pm #

    Hey Elsja,
    I totally agree!!! Especially about the customer service. It really blows (although I have my suspicions that it’s especially bad towards people with non-Australian accents, as if we owe them something for breathing their air, and therefore have no right to ask for an extra fork, glass of water etc.) I love the good ones too, although I’d probably shift the weather one into the good things column but then again Canada is colder than Siberia sometimes so I guess it’s understandable that we’d have different perspectives on that one. ps My only complaint re the weather is the freak thunderstorms (such as the one last night) that only happen when I have laundry drying outside. Bugga!

  5. Felicia April 15, 2009 at 6:10 pm #

    I have much to learn!
    Just in my short visit I was astounded at the price of everything, even with the conversion rate, and parking rates rape your wallet. I loved the wild birds and the scenery, and sales tax included too though. My good reasons will undoubtedly tip the favor down under. I’m glad you’re so happy! It’s contagious!

  6. MB April 16, 2009 at 4:21 pm #

    Hi, I found your blog from one I found on Florida Girl in Sydney, I think…who knows, anyway, I’m here. 🙂 Liked your lists. So funny though, I never had problems with wonky carts or packages and we had fly screens on our windows in QLD (everywhere..way too many flies!)…maybe that’s a weird Sydney/NSW thing? We also always got (and still do get every time we go) great service.

    I do agree that everything is way overpriced. Although, after living in the UK as well and doing lots of other travel, I don’t think it’s so much that Australia is expensive, but that the buying power in the US affords us all very cheap goods.

    And I agree with all your positives for sure and could add a stack more (tim tams…hello!). I felt the silence was deafening when I moved back to the States, I missed the birds so much.

    Hope you are enjoying yourself! Are you there for good or temporarily?

  7. elsja April 16, 2009 at 11:31 pm #

    Hey everyone, thanks for the comments. It’s always nice to know I’m not alone in my thoughts 🙂

    MB… thanks for reading. How could I forget Tim Tams? Delish! Although I try to not buy them or else I’d eat too many so that’s probably why I forgot.

    I am enjoying myself and I’m here permanently. I moved here for love and my love has a good job here so it’s Sydney for us!!

    Jenny- you are lucky that your postman delivers your packages. most people I know are not so fortunate.

    Amanda… Erin (the comment at top) is the best hostess ever and you should see the “welcome to australia” basket she made for her friend who was visitng. I on the other hand will be making no such basket, but if you are lucky, maybe I’ll bake you something. That’s about all I can commit to. Can’t wait to see you!! 🙂

    Jessica- totally sucks about the thunder storms killing all your drying clothes. Honestly, I don’t understand how I would ever go without a dryer, for that very reason!

    Felicia- well start learning because it sounds like you may in it for the long haul 🙂

  8. suzer April 17, 2009 at 1:45 am #

    Methinks you need to go check out the Asian grocer…mucho cheaper;)

  9. Danielle April 18, 2009 at 2:41 pm #

    Exactly! OMG the “trolleys” I swear it is impossible to shop with them. I never thought I would miss the carts from back home. Great blog!

  10. Florida Girl In Sydney April 20, 2009 at 7:51 am #

    Totally— though personally I love the weather here– Florida was way too hot!

  11. Jeff Lewis April 21, 2009 at 5:53 pm #

    Hi Elsja!!!

    Thanks for the awesome posts! It is interesting to read your posts and the things that are “different” for you.

  12. Dana May 10, 2009 at 9:59 pm #

    Totally agree with all of your “Don’t Love” topics…my levels of rage and bitchiness at the grocery store surprise my boyfriend every time we go. Have Coles in Sydney gotten revamped lately? Ours up here are all getting changed out and when we walked in to a brand new one in our neighborhood a while back boyfriend said, “Whoa, I feel like I am at a Safeway in Santa Cruz, only with waaaay less variety!” Haha!

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