Just a few observations after 6 months of living here, before this all becomes business as usual and I stop thinking twice about it.
- Everyone has a NO JUNK MAIL sign on their mailbox – and it actually works. There’s no Direct Marketing Association lobby, and no “do not mail” list. The mailman just honors the sign & nobody gets junk mail. Fascinating.
- I typed mailman above, but I should have typed “postie”, as Aussies have a habit of shortening words & adding “-ie” or “-o” to the end. Postie, Tradie (construction worker), Chippie (someone works at a fish & chips shop) Bottle-o (liquor store), Servo (petrol station), Smoke-o (tobacco/vape shop).
- Another reason to call a mailman a “postie” is that half of them are women. It’s striking how many women work in job categories that in the US would be 90%+ men. This is most noticeable with police officers. You forget what a male-dominated profession it is in the US – and for no good reason. Here it feels closer to 50/50.
- Officers here are all friendly. You can ask for directions or make small talk like any other normal human being. There’s a public awareness campaign When You Need Us But Not The Sirens that encourages people to call local police without clogging 000 (911). When there is trouble, they calmly, ask questions first and act second. They don’t approach with military force guns drawn. (What a concept!) Of course there are exceptions, but even those are in comparison to America’s militarized police state.
- The friendliness hits you unexpectedly sometimes. Example: I was in a lift minding my own business, staring at the floor like a normal person. It was late in the evening and there was one other guy in there with me. Neither of us so much as looked at each other during the ride to the top. I loathe elevator small-talk, and could care less about the presence of anyone else on the ride. When the elevator stopped at his floor, he got out, he looked me in the eye, and in the most oddly sincere way possible, said “Have a good night man!” It’s not a huge deal or anything, but I almost didn’t know how to react, and immediately felt like an asshole.
- Another story: One weekend morning, I was in suburban rail station, waiting for a train downtown. After a few minutes a train arrived, but it was on the other side of the tracks. The train stopped, and the conductor suddenly opened his window and yelled to me,
“The outbound train doesn’t stop here on the weekends.”
“Oh okay, I’m going to the city.”
“Yeah nah…not on that side you’re not. Come over to this side mate, I’ll wait for you if you run.”
I could not believe he was willing to hold up an entire packed train to wait for me.
- There’s something special about a city with a good tram network. The effect Melbourne’s trams have on the character, fluidity, and overall pleasantness cannot be overstated. I get goosebumps thinking about what LA could have been today if not for the GM streetcar conspiracy.
- There’s no Whole Foods or equivalent down here. But it’s okay, because there are more smallish “in-between” type food shops in most neighborhoods. Small produce shops, butchers, fish mongers, etc. Sure, it’d be great if all of these were in the same place, but the quality is top-notch, and if you can support 3 smaller businesses instead of the Amazon beast, all the better.
- Speaking of Amazon, it’s so funny to see their recent social awareness campaigns. The campaign is clever, using a play on the Aussie phrase “Easy as” (A precursor to “Easy AF” that became so popular) But the ads are literally like “For all your shopping needs, think Amazon. Yes that’s right folks, that web-site again is Amazon.com.au. Now don’t you forget it!”
- Aussies love beer, but the beer isn’t nearly as good as it is in the US. It’s gotten better but yeah…nah. Still not there guys. Same with burgers. Australia still doesn’t have enough variety or do enough experimentation. And the flavors just plain aren’t as exciting. There’s like ~8 things left that America does better than anywhere else, but beer and burgers are among them.
- That said, nearly every other food is considerably better. Nothing new here, but it bears repeating. The bar is so incredibly high & shifts every class two steps upward. The bad joints are still pretty good, the good places are excellent, and the excellent places are incredible. Oh, and the coffee is out of this world.
- When you see prices at a restaurant, they always look high at first. But it’s easy to forget prices always include tax, and of course there’s no tipping. So when you get your bill, it’s always lower than you expect. It doesn’t sound all that important, but after a while you realize how much easier it is to shop & spend money when the price you see is always the price you pay.
- Prices of consumer goods have definitely gone down. When I lived here 15 years ago I couldn’t believe how expensive so many everyday household items were. It’s a lot better now, though every now & then you see a price on something that absolutely blows your mind. Like this $370 trash can.
- That said, paying for everything a dream. Contactless tap payments are so obviously the future, err- present. I recently read a few articles on why this is essentially non-existent in the US, and from what I can tell it comes down to back in 2015, the banks didn’t want to spend an extra 0.35 cents per card.
- Finally, I expected my taxes to be high, but they’re basically the same! I think if you moved from say Texas or Florida or a state with no income tax, you’d probably end up paying more in taxes. But coming from California it’s essentially the same. Which is truly incredible given how much more you get back from the system. 🇦🇺