Greetings from warm, sunny Perth, Western Australia. It’s been about a week since we arrived, and we’re doing pretty well. No more jetlag, we have a basic idea of the city layout, and we’re well into our search for a more permanent home. Overall, we’re having a great time!
There are so many things we could talk about, it’s hard to know where to start. I think the best way would be to share some first impressions regarding culture, climate, and living conditions. Let’s start with the easiest one first, climate:
It’s spring here right now, and for those of you back in Canada that conjures up images of rain, probably the smell of manure/mud for those in the rural areas, and temperatures in the positive degrees Celsius, maybe even double digits! Here in Perth, we’ve had scattered showers every day since we’ve arrived, but apparently that’s highly unusual for November. It’s normally very dry in November here. Temperatures have been in the low twenties every day, and in the teens at night. It’s warm, like shorts and t-shirt warm, and more like a Canadian summer than spring. The sun rises around 5am and sets by 7pm or so, and our wake/sleep cycle has been about the same, but an hour later. Most nights I (Tim) stay up until 9pm or so and Kathryn falls asleep on the couch before then. We’re all up by 6am or so, and Eden’s been sleeping really well (10-12 hours without a peep, plus 2 naps in the day). No complaints here!
Culture: Australians seem to be a lot like Canadians, which isn’t surprising since we’re both from Commonwealth countries, both have fairly small populations relative to our landmasses, and both have high standards of living. There are some differences that have jumped out right away though… let’s see if I can think of a few while they’re still fresh in my mind (before they become normal!):
Words: there are so many new ones, it’s even worse than when we moved to Labrador! Here are some that we’ve actually experienced in regular conversation thus far:
“If it’s a real corker of a day…”, when it was going to be hot
“I’ll give you a tingle”, when someone was planning to call me (“a ring” is also common)
A “ute” is like a hybrid between a sporty car and a pick-up truck – the kind of vehicle that boy racers would have if they were in Canada; they often have low-profile “tyres”, big shiny rims, expensive paint jobs, etc.
A pharmacy is often called a “Chemist”
Diapers are called “nappies”, and strollers are “prams”
Zeros are often called “nought”, as in the game X’s and Noughts
“Pommies” – you know who you are 😉
Moms always warn kids to “mind” things instead of watch out for them – e.g. “mind your fingers around the door!”
Other cultural differences:
Tipping – generally not expected
Walking/driving – on the left. We’ve confused/nearly collided with many people on sidewalks due to our favouring the right
Bare feet – seems like kids are always in bare feet, or at least they take off their shoes once they’ve arrived somewhere and run amok barefoot
Friendliness – pretty much everyone is really friendly. A lady implored me to go ahead of her in the grocery line because I had only 3 items, whereas she had about 7
Food – obviously there are many different foods, and in general it seems like there is less salt and sugar in just about everything (cereals, breads, etc.). I wonder if this is related to the fact that we’ve seen very few overweight people? Another factor may be that, even though we’re in a very central area with tonnes of people, there isn’t one McDonalds or similarly greasy fast-food joint within kilometres. Cafes and asian restaurants seem to be the norm, but pastries are definitely more common. McDonalds seems to be the only place people know of where one can access free wireless internet.
Tall people – there are lots (heaps!) of them, guys and girls… I don’t feel so tall around here.
Lifestyle: before this post gets insanely long, I’ll mention a few lifestyle factors that seem to be different from home. For one, it’s a year-round (basically) warm climate, so it seems that cycling to work is very popular, and the trails are great. They have paved trails parallel to the main freeways, and places to park and lock your bike at the station, should you wish to catch a train.
Even though it’s a huge city, most shops seem to close around 5pm in the downtown and (from what we’ve heard) 9pm or so in the suburbs. Most shops are closed on Sundays, completely.
Houses in general are smaller than in Canada, and very expensive. Kitchens tend to be particularly small, with only a metre or two of counter space in many 3-bedroom bungalows (the predominant house type). I’m not sure why this is the case, especially since eating out is so expensive (not uncommon to see regular dishes for $20-30 each – even stuff like bangers and mash at a pub!). I guess it just isn’t a priority for many Aussies. Lots of houses don’t have bathtubs either, just walk-in showers, and the whole bathroom is tiled. Eaves tend to extend far out around the house, to maximise shade and keep the place cool in summer. Typical exteriors are brick or something stucco-like, with red clay tile roofs. I haven’t noticed any houses with vinyl siding. Appliances also tend to be small, but that’s not bad because North Americans tuck away and waste so much anyway.
I’m sure we’ll have a lot more to say about culture and lifestyle once we’ve experienced it more, but like I said: these are our first impressions. Soon we’ll be living in our own smallish bungalow, amongst the locals and working with them. We’re excited about what’s to come. Rio Tinto is a huge company here, so everyone has heard of them. They seem to have a pretty good reputation, so that’s nice.
Here are some photos from our journey/arrival for you to enjoy – please leave a comment to let us know that you’ve stopped by. More than ever, now that we’re far from home, we will appreciate your comments!