Moving to another English speaking country, which basically is an almost exact copy of United Kingdom, shouldn’t be too shocking for mr.mck and I. Especially since I have lived in Australia before, and mr.mck has had visited the country for many times in his life.
Driving is an obvious example. Australians drive on the left side of the road, just like Britons – and Indonesians, thankfully – and all the rules are more or less the same, so UK driver license holders only need to convert their UK license to Australian ones once they have been here for over 3 months without having to take a test. Most of the roads, areas, and parks have English name, like Hyde Park and Oxford Street, we easily could feel we’re still in UK.
All the TV shows and newspapers also take a lot of thing from their big sister. I couldn’t believe that people here watch Eastenders. But they do (just like I don’t understand why Australian Neighbours are very popular in UK, but well…). Even the newspaper’s layout look very similar, and the Sunday section sometimes takes articles from UK’s previous publication.
And of course, we have met a lot, and I mean a lot, of people from UK who now call Perth home. It is not strange to walk around the malls or main streets and 6 out of 10 people will be English. Not the second or third generation, but fresh from UK. Among so many tradesmen who came over to our house to fix things, so far there has only been one Australian – or at least he speaks with Australian accent. Another one has a quite thick French accent, but the rest are no doubt imported directly from England.
With all the similarity and familiarity, I shouldn’t be having a culture shock, should I? Well, not quite though. Up until today I still don’t understand several things about Perthians, like:
Going barefoot. I lived in Sydney before and I don’t recall people walk around without their shoes on unless they’re at the beach. But here in Perth, they seem to hate shoes. I look around and there are always people with no shoes on, everywhere. At the mall and supermarket, on the bus, in the football stadium, even at the gas station. I once saw one guy strolled into the Department of Transport office shoe-less, and his palm of feet are not just dusty, they’re as black as night. It’s not that he didn’t seem to awfully care about his own hygiene, it was the over 40C temperature outside that made me wonder how he could walk on extremely hot surface without burning his own feet. Apparently they have been trained since they were little, as I see a lot of children walk with bare feet as well. Interestingly not so many women do this, perhaps because women love shoes and there’s no point buying pretty shoes but not wearing them, right?
Men wearing tank-tops. You could call it singlet, vest or wife beater, but whatever it is, to me it is strange to see men parading their arms. Especially if there is nothing to brag about except excessive body hair. And especially if it’s not the right place (at the bar), the right time (when it is dark or having dinner), the right tank-tops (is there one?), and the right body type (beer belly parade, anyone?). Women can wear a dress with only one long sleeve and it looks nice and is called fashion. Women can wear their skirt or trousers up to the chest or down low on their hips and it would still be called trendy. Men don’t have that privilege. If they wear their trousers too low people will look away in disgust and if they wear it too high they will be called morons. If they wear a t-shirt with only one sleeve present, they will be called crazy. When it comes to man’s fashion, it’s very limited to the thickness of the stripes of the shirts, the colour of the ties, and the length of the pointy bits of the shoes. So I get it, wearing sleeveless t-shirt is such a temptation of fashion exploration, especially in a such a hot place like Perth. However, I never (wish to) see Brad Pitt or George Clooney’s hairy armpits and I definitely wouldn’t want to see other blokes’, especially when I’m eating. Mr.mck has been threatening to wear one in order to fit in with the culture. So far I have managed to veto his wish.
Going topless. Countless time I see a lot of men driving around happily with no shirt on. Sometimes there are men washing their cars outside their home wearing shorts and – here is the strange thing – socks and sneakers. So for some reason they feel it is necessary to wear a complete half-outfit on the bottom, but nothing on the top. I understand that there is a lot of sun here in Perth and it’s all free and people want to have gorgeous tan, and if they have nice bodies they have the right to show them off. But would you rather eat your chips next to someone who is half naked and happily showing off all of his bits? Interestingly, the common habit doesn’t apply to women. At least until now I haven’t seen a single woman walk into a restaurant wearing a bikini top. They could wear the skimpiest outfit known to mankind but never in a manner of bikini-and-short or skirt, unless at the beach.
Women with big boobs. Seriously, this is not me trying to boost my blog rating up again by mentioning about boobs. But after a quite long period of serious observation, I could confirm that mr.mck’s previous statement that Perthian women have big boobs, is true. It’s not just they have big boobs, as you could find big boobs anywhere in the world. But in UK those with big boobs are normally, well, big women, while the sun in Perth has managed to produce a special species: slim women with small waists plus big boobs – more or less the ultimate Barbie doll body type. I guess because Perthians love outdoor sports, or sports in general, they tend to be healthy and slim even though all restaurants seem to serve ginormous portion of food. Jealous? Me?? Hmmpphh….
Six-pack generation. As I mention earlier, it seems like people in Perth love their sports. I am told that some will actually get up 4 AM to do their sailing, surfing, or whatever, and be at the office by eight. Like this isn’t impressive enough, they also do this at the weekends, the time where the rest of the world choose to stay up late and sleep in and only will start the day after 10. In Perth, people will have done so many things by 10AM they practically have the rest of the day for leisure. And because they love the water, and are very active, we could see very fit people everywhere. It is like looking at glossy advert pages in the magazine come alive. Why do you think I love sitting at the cafe at the beach? Definitely not for the beach, definitely not for the sun, and definitely not for the coffee….
Where the bloody hell are you? No, it’s not the infamous Australian tourism campaign that was banned in UK and Canada. It’s literally my question every weekend. The city, especially around the CBD area, always looks depressingly deserted on Sundays. It’s so quiet, even during the day time. If Saturday is bad enough because not all shops are open, it’s even more difficult on a Sunday. There are more than enough choice for dining out, but hardly for groceries and daily necessities, like newspapers, milk, or toilet roll. Floreat Forum, the nearest shopping centre from our house that has both Coles and Woolwoorth supermarkets and 90 other shops (as the website claims, I’m not sure it’s really 90 shops though, it looks tiny!), is conveniently closed on Sundays. The other shopping centre in the neighbourhood, Bayview Centre, is also closed on Sundays. I mean for God’s sake, if Aberdeen with only 250,000 people can have all their major shopping centres open on Sundays (for full day, I must add!), plus several gigantic supermarkets ready to serve the public 24/7, shouldn’t Perth – with its 1.7 million inhabitants – start behaving like a big city and get the business going even on Sunday?
The rest of the world: Is a mystery. Walk into a liquor shop in Perth and they surely have a huge range of wine. 90% of the stock would be Australian wines, and 80% of them are produced locally in Western Australia. Not that I’m complaining, as Australian wines are normally quite good. But go and ask the shop assistant if they have wine from other places, and they will point at a tiny wee section that sometimes only holds New Zealand and one or two kinds of French wine. There will be some Chilean and South Africa in some shops, even Argentinian if lucky, but almost no Italian or Californian. I once asked if they stock a Barolo and the shop assistant didn’t even recognise the wine. And I have asked several Perthians and they told me that they rarely try wine from other countries. Not because they think their wine is the best, but because there is no need to explore more and know more since what they have is good enough. But I couldn’t help but wonder if the attitude translates in other aspects in life. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read some article from the local travel magazine in Margaret River and the publisher who is also the main writer, started the sentence by saying, “the beautiful Asian countries, like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Bali…..”. The guy is a travel writer, and he, among other people, should know the best about Indonesia and Bali.
I am sure there will be more to come. I’ll keep my eyes and ears open!