7 Things I wasn’t expecting from Australia

Man wearing an Australian flag hat (Philip Hill/Phil Hill)

1.    It’s cold.

I would like to point out that now, as the southern hemisphere moves into its winter phase, I am having to put trousers on, and a jumper! However ridiculous it may sound, wrapping up for winter in one of the hottest countries on earth is because after spending the summer months in temperatures at a constant high, when things do begin to cool you really feel it. In Australia, it’s possible for the thermometer to register only 1-2 degrees at night, in a drafty, un-insulated, un-centrally heated house never designed for the cold. I am being catastrophically wimpy about this, being that it is all-relative, and the so-called ‘cold’ is actually around the 15-18 degrees mark, string vest weather in the UK. Time to man up!

2.    Australians don’t like cricket and rugby as much as I thought.

I am not a massive sport fanatic and quite frankly have very little understanding of wickets, tries, hookers, ashes, and the reason grown men rub little red balls against their own. Still, I thought what a fantastic opportunity to chat and banter with strangers down the pub, Pom vs Aussie in the age-old sport debate. What I had not counted on, and have even less knowledge of, was Australian Rules Football. Most of the Australians I have met so far are indifferent to anything other than AFL, an athletic sport where blokes in vests punt a ball through four poles at each opposing end of the pitch. I went to a Grand Final party, it was a lot of fun, but for life of me, no idea what happened in the game, fascinated instead with the bathtub in the garden that the host used for beer and ice.

 

The Billabong Road House in Western Australia. (Philip Hill/Phil Hill)

3.    BBQ’s are not an excuse for an all you can eat buffet.

Cooking outdoors makes sense here, who wants to slave inside a hot and stuffy kitchen when it’s sunny and 30 outside day after day. Quickly realizing that the outdoor BBQ is just an extension of those indoor appliances, cooking normal amounts of food, and not the huge event I was used to. The kind of BBQ’s leaving your entire family with more value pack sausages, and potato salad leftovers than any fridge appreciates, chomping burnt burgers for weeks after the one solitary day of the year possible to heat food outdoors… Bring out the Grog Chicken!

4.    They love the royal family more than any Brit.

Has anyone stopped to wonder why, even after all these years, casting the shackles of British imperialism, Australia still has Liz on their money. I think I know more about the royals now living in Perth, the furthest city from any other on the planet, than I ever did when Buckingham palace was down the road. Charles did the weather and Alan Titchmarsh came ever closer to getting an illusive interview with her Majesty, all making headline news on Australia’s channel 7 breakfast show ‘Sunrise’. It’s kind of sweet really, as much as the Aussies bash the Poms (cue the run up to the Olympics) I think deep down they love us really.

View of Bunker Bay in Western Australia (Philip Hill/Phil Hill)

5.    ACDC.

Australia is Rock and Roll. This was not unexpected, the love for one band however is not fully appreciated until you have been here a while. ACDC is like a patriotism all of it own, I am willing to put money on the fact that at any one time the entire back catalogue is played out, and played loud, throughout this land. The obligatory band t-shirt is not enough for these people, I have seen bumper stickers, graffiti, flags on the lawns of home displayed next to the southern cross, ACDC wine I all it’s red and white varieties, ACDC pinball machines down the local kebab house, a statue of former front, who tragically died, Bonn Scott resides in Freemantle where he grew up. Anything less would be ‘un-Australian’. Never mention, under any circumstances, especially in a pub, that no member of the band, past or present, was born here. I think I am going to stick on Back in Black!

6.    Cadbury’s does not taste like Cadbury’s.

This is not the first time the contents of the purple wrapper concerned me. In Kenya it was plain weird, made in South Africa, it looked the same, just didn’t melt right, something they put in the mix to stop it liquefying once leaving its refrigerated sanctuary, I was willing to let that one slide in the safe knowledge I could enter the first newsagent in Heathrow to get my hands on the real deal. In Australia however, it’s not wrapped the same, looks the same, missing crucial details like the famous imprint on their buttons. It tastes just like Christmas chocolate, the lowest of the low in my book. News has reached me now that they are moving production to Poland, it may never taste the same again. On the plus side Tim-Tams taste way better than Penguins any day of the week, especially when you are doing a ‘Tim-Tam Slam’

7.    The TV is really bad.

The television here is monumentally low rent, I hate to say it. Scheduling is confusing and down right bizarre, opting to broadcast antique scrounging Bargain Hunt, a UK daytime staple, at primetime, usually competing with Dads Army, Heart Beat, I love Raymond, and other properly terrible sit-coms, until now, I have never heard of. How quickly I shut up when the response is nearly always “Yeah, but the sun comes out instead” True, I can’t really argue with that.

Perth skyline seen accross from Swan River. Western Australia. (Philip Hill/Phil Hill)A young female on a beach at dawn in a celebratory pose. Exmouth town beach, Western Australia (Philip Hill/Phil Hill)