On Wednesday it will be one year since we migrated to Australia. It’s been a crazy year with a lot of changes for our family. There have been a lot of adjustments to make and it hasn’t always been easy. Even though Australia and Canada both speak English (at least in theory), and even though both are Commonwealth nations with roots in the British Isles, they have quite different cultures.
Let’s start with the language. First, there’s the accent. The Australian accent varies person to person, but also region to region. Generally speaking, the Tasmanian version is not too difficult to understand. Yet I still find myself preferring not to talk to people on the phone simply because it gets frustrating always asking them to repeat themselves. Honestly, sometimes I just guess at what they’re saying!
But moving here has reminded me that I have an accent too. Upon hearing me for the first time, most Aussies figure I must be an American. Because there’s a lot of anti-American sentiment, I often try to drop hints that I’m a Canadian. The other day I had a new experience. Visiting one of my parishioners in the hospital, I had a nurse ask me if I was Irish. I replied, “No, definitely not. I’m a Canadian.” And then she repeated back to me what I just said with an Irish accent. It didn’t sound anything like me — at least I didn’t think so!
Then there is the different vocabulary. They use different words here for things. While preaching, I’ve sometimes said something like, “It has to be Christ alone. Period.” Well, I soon discovered that “period” here is just something a woman experiences. So now I say, “Full stop.” I also reckon that I say words like “keen” heaps more. And once or twice I’ve been crook, whereas I used to get sick. Australia is different to Canada.
There are other differences. On paper, a lot of the traffic laws are similar. You do have to get used to driving on the left-side, but if you just follow the car in front of you, that’s usually not too hard. It’s parking that can still be challenging — the different perspective can make hard it to judge the distance from your left wheel to the curb or the lines on the parking space. One traffic law that is different from most of Canada is that you can’t make a turn on a red light. That’s actually a good protection for people just learning to drive here.
Both Canada and Australia have traffic laws that give the right of way to pedestrians. However, here you soon learn that’s just a paper fiction. If you think vehicles are going to slow down and let you walk in front of them, whether in a parking lot (car park) or anywhere else, you’ll soon find yourself in a full body cast.
What about the food? I’ve definitely learned to appreciate what’s available here. There is at least one unique Tasmanian food that I’ve tried: mutton birds. They’re very rich and flavourful. But other foods are quintessentially Australian: pies (meat), TimTams, cheesy Vegemite scrolls, hedgehog slices, lamingtons, snags (sausages) on white bread. The fish and chips is hard to beat — and, here in Tasmania, scallops are also very popular and tasty. Tasmanian oysters are the best in the world. Another cool thing about Australia is the different ethnic foods you can find here. There’s a lot of Malaysian/Indonesian/Singaporean. Turkish stuff is pretty popular too: kebabs (similar to Donairs/shawarma) and Turkish bread. But if I’m ever feeling the slightest bit homesick for some Canadian chow, we do have a local food truck that sells poutine.
Canadians love to talk about the weather. Australians do as well. But you will notice that they experience the weather quite differently. This place supposedly had winter from June to September. What was that like? The average daytime high was about 14 degrees Celsius. At night, a few times it went down to zero or just below, producing early morning frost. We didn’t have any snow here, but there was some in the nearby mountains. For a Canadian recently transplanted, this was just like a cool spring day in Alberta. If it’s 14 degrees in the middle of winter, we’re quite happy! But Tasmanian Aussies experience that differently. They wistfully look forward to the days when the daytime highs get up to 18 degrees again. In other words, it takes far less of a temperature shift to change their perspective on the weather.
While this isn’t a cultural difference, I do appreciate the variety of wildlife here in Tasmania. I find it endlessly interesting. Just in our neighbourhood, we have a great selection of small marsupials: wallabies, pademelons (small kangaroo-like critters), and potoroos (even smaller kangaroo-like critters). What about snakes? In one year, I have seen one snake and that’s with a lot of walking through the bush. In the trees, we see parrots, cockatoos, galahs, corellas, kookaburras, and the odd wood duck. Then there’s the fishing. Tasmania has some of the world’s best trout fishing — pristine streams and lakes with rainbow and brown trout. After a hiatus of a few years, I’ve taken up fly fishing again.
There’s far more that could be said. I haven’t said anything about footy (Australian rules football) or about Australian attitudes towards work and leisure. What about deadlines and schedules? Australian interest in politics? Aussie music could be another post all in itself. However, I’ll knock off here for now. Suffice it to say that Australia is different, but (most of the time) I don’t find that a bad thing. It’s just interesting! Speaking just for myself, I’ve only really had one bout of homesickness. It lasted about a week and it was about 3-4 months in. Do I miss Canada now? There are some things I miss (and especially family and friends), but for the most part I’m seriously okay with being here. God has brought us here for a reason and I’m glad to be able to serve him here and enjoy the experience of living in a different culture. I’m content.