I’m baaaack. This is basically a sum-up of the things I spent the last two years ranting about, but now that I have some time and distance between Australia and me I know for certain that this stuff is still bothersome. Consider yourself warned, a lot of these are just my own highly irrational peccadilloes, and should not be taken as a serious attack on Australia.
- The expensiveness of everything. From $50 paperback books, to $249 Nikes, to $2.75 cans of Diet Coke, certain things in Australia are just stupid expensive. The fact the exchange rate climbed from .70 USD to $1.09 against the AUD during our time there certainly didn’t help things! Of course, we went to Chilis the other night with some American friends and I ate $31 fajitas (I know, ridiculous), so it’s not like Australia’s the only offender. But come on, why does Australian milk cost less in Singapore than it did in Australia? Why did Australian beer cost half as much in the U.S.?
- The lack of choice at the grocery store, and the crappiness of Coles. Other than Tim Tams, there were rarely more than two types of anything to choose from. There were, like, 20 types of cereal (in the US there are typically 200-400). I also won’t miss the birds flying into the supermarket to eat the fruit, the half-open packages of everything on the shelves at Coles, and how badly it always smelled.
- Days of endless rain. For all the sunshine Sydney gets, it also gets a TON of rain. Like, more average annual rainfall than London or Seattle. There would be weeks a time where it would seem to rain non-stop. But then…
- The strong-ass sun. Oh man, that hole in the ozone layer is no joke. I’d walk outside for ten minutes and get sunburnt. I’d slather on half a bottle of 30+, go swimming, and manage to get burnt on large swaths of my back. The sun is strong in Singapore, but it’s nothing like Australia, and they have a lot more shade. If I weren’t so pale, I probably would have gotten a lot more out of my time in Oz.
- Rugby being on all the damn time. Despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t get into rugby, but I also couldn’t get away from it. During AFL and NRL season, TV channels would re-show games every day of the week in primetime. Out of season, they would just show classic games. SO. DULL.
- Cockroaches and Flying Foxes and Spiders
I suppose I should consider myself fortunate that I never came across a venomous Sydney Funnel-Web Spiderin our apartment (I have friends who did, and we occasionally spotted them on walks in Paddington). It’s well-documented that Australia has more deadly creatures (snakes, spiders, sharks, stingrays, etc.) than anywhere else on Earth, but honestly it was some of its less harmful critters that bugged me the most. Ha, no pun intended.Enemy #1: all those damn cockroaches. In New York, cockroaches are a sign that a place is absolutely filthy. In Sydney, they’re somewhat fondly regarded as the city’s unofficial mascot. I swear we really weren’t dirty, but we’d find them on our balcony, or scurrying across our living room floor, all the damn time. At night in the summertime, I’d frequently see packs of them scatter as I walked down the street in Darlinghurst. Ugh, it still makes me shudder.
Enemy #2: The fruit bats, euphemistically called “Flying Foxes,” eat their way through the pretty trees in the Royal Botanic Garden. It would be so creepy to walk under them in the Botanic Garden as they hung from the branches of trees they killed with their claws, but even creepier is how they streak across the Eastern Suburbs Sky at dusk, either heading to Centennial Park, or else to the North Shore. The sky seriously darkens with the wide trail of bats.
- Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. For all America’s idiotic politicians, I’ve never seen such an uninspiring choice of leaders. I truly feel for the Aussies, who didn’t know how good they had it with K-Rudd until they’d kicked him to the curb. I do not miss Julia’s awkward press conferences and bizarre accent.
- Bad public transportation. Sydney trains: Overpriced ($3.20, even if you ride one stop), run infrequently, smell bad, and the AC is broken more often than not. Singapore kicks their trains and buses’ asses into next Tuesday.
- The weirdos at KX and the smelliness of Oxford Street. I’m all for self-expression and individuality, but I HATE getting panhandled, and I spent too many nights waiting in line at Coles behind itchy methheads. And yeah, Oxford Street in Darlo kind of always smelled like urine.
- The horrible Internet situation. The capped Internet scarred me for life. I will never forget hitting our monthly limit in the middle of downloading the Lost series finale, then having to wait three excruciating days – while avoiding facebook, gchat, and pretty much all American media – until I could finish downloading at a non-dial-up speed at the start of the next month. Oh, and we got to pay $120 a month for the privilege. FUN! Yes, I have misplaced priorities and television probably plays too important a role in my life, but whatever. The capped Internet and paucity of free public Wi-Fi are laughable in a first-world country that only has 20 million people to worry about.
And there you have it. Would advanced knowledge of any of these things have stopped me from moving to Australia? No, of course not. I suppose it was just interesting discovering what sorts of things really push my buttons. I also truly credit Australia with “breaking me in” as an expat; I don’t doubt any number of things here in Singapore would have been a lot harder to deal with had we been going through them for the first time. Stuff like grocery shopping, getting a cell phone, adjusting to temperatures in Celsius, the lack of customer service in restaurants, making friends — these were all a bit tough at first but eventually you get the hang of it (well, hopefully you only have to buy a cell phone once, but you get my drift). Every place presents a unique set of challenges (the word “cannot” here is starting to elicit a physical reaction in which I grit my teeth and clench my fists), but that’s kind of part of the fun, you know?