Let’s spend some time talking about what’s just a little bit different down here – different enough to spend some time talking about it, at least.
First: Driving. My favorite subject, usually. But down here, it’s different. I’ve seen aggressive city drivers before – I’ve driven in Boston, after all – but this is a whole different level of rage. Nearly everyone drives like their life depends on getting ahead of every single car on the road, making them the first one to get to the lights or whatever. It’s absolutely insane. People weaving in and out of lanes, riding right up each other’s bumpers, tailgating like you’ve never seen… and then there’s the starting & stopping.
Actually, it’s more just the stopping. People here don’t stomp on the gas & burn rubber like they do in America – but that’s probably because a 2 liter engine is considered “big.” (Although there are a number of “muscle cars” running around.) But once they get going – my god do they stop hard. I can understand why there are so many “red light cameras” here – without them, people would be running red lights like there’s no tomorrow. They just don’t want to stop – and when they are forced to, they stop hard, at the last possible moment. Given the heat here, I wonder how long people’s brake pads last. Quite frankly I expect to look at people’s wheels and see the rotors glowing when I am at a stoplight.
And let’s not forget the stranges habit of all – not only are most of the drivers here insane, but nearly everyone – and not just the drivers, but passengers, too – talks about other drivers, as they are riding along. Usually this boils down to “he’s driving too slow,” or “he shouldn’t have pulled out,” or “bloody idiot, why didn’t you turn?”
Secondly: Language. There’s a lot of unusual words used down here, but you probably already knew that. After all, who calls a grill a “barbie?” Most of them are shortened versions of longer words, and that’s OK, really – except when they appear in places where you would expect more “formal” language to prevail. Such as on signs for businesses. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “brekkie” or “brecky” or “brekky” or however it’s actually spelled. It’s short for “breakfast,” and it’s a cute phrase (I even say it to the bunnies when I feed them), but to see it in print is a bit disturbing. I’ve also seen “prezzies” (short for “presents”). And all I can say is: WEIRD.
Nevertheless, most of this stuff is pretty harmless (except for the driving, although I haven’t seen an accident yet, which frankly surprises me). It’s funny to watch all the little cars go by – and then see a big, hulking Holden roar by with it’s monstorous V8, looking for all the world like a modern classic American “muscle car.” (Which, I suppose, it is, since a modified Holden was used as the basis for the new Pontiac GTO.)
One thing that’s actually less than harmless, something that’s actually very, very good (at least for people here), is that there are basically NO overly obese people here. EVERYONE is, for the most part, amazingly good looking and in fantastic physical shape. It really puts America (especially the northeast) to shame. Even I feel bad here – and I’m actually quite skinny at the moment (more on that in a different post) – mostly because I’m not “buff” enough. It’s uncanny, really. When I go out, the people I see can be basically put into one of two groups: either they are absolutely fantastic looking (both male and female), or they didn’t get the memo that said “the 80’s are over.” For the second class of people, it’s really a shock to see them – the mullets, the big hair, and the bright, flourescent, colorful ripped shirts that were so common in the 80’s.
Still, everyone here generally seems so much more polite and friendly, that it’s hard to find fault with them – and of course we Americans are not immune from this sort of stuff as well. But hey, what kind of observations would you expect from an American in Australia, anyway? I’ll leave it to Amanda to present the opposing view – if she ever gets back to her blog! Ha!