13 Reasons I love Australia

This is my third visit to Australia, excluding a short layover on an idiotic routing from New Zealand to Canada using Aeroplan points, but I keep coming back for a lot of reasons. After enjoying the fall in Europe, I landed here in December and instantly was reminded of all the wonderful things about Australia. They include:

  1. Mostly understandable English is spoken. I don’t need to ask for an English menu or consult Google translate on an hourly basis. Some words still befuddle; a subway doesn’t lead to the metro or even a fast food joint but a pedestrian underpass and a chop shop is a dollar store. The accent is easier to understand than Irish English and I don’t start every conversation with “parlez vous Anglais?”
  2. It doesn’t snow, freezing rain is just a bad memory and the average temperature is between 20 and 30 everyday. Granted, it is now suffering a bit of a heatwave, with temperatures hitting 39 in Melbourne, but it is a dry heat in the south and much more pleasant than 0.
  3. Sunrise is before 6AM and sunset after 9PM. It is the winter solstice back in Canada and the sun shines only between 11:00AM and 3:30PM in Iceland, not that the sun deigned to show its face once in the 4 days I was there, but it is gloriously sunny for a long time in Melbourne in December.
  4. History is brief. As a history buff, I was enthralled learning the long sinuous histories of the European cities and towns I visited, but here, history can be summed up as: the Aborigines inhabited Australia for at least 40,000 years before Captain James Cook claimed it for Britain in 1788. It became Europe’s favourite dumping ground for convicts and other undesirables until 1868. On January 1, 1901, Australia gained independence. It has suffered only a single invasion: during WWII, Japanese airplanes bombed Darwin, a small city in the north. Nothing else of much significance happened.
  5. Things make sense, with the exception of driving on the left side of the road. ATM’s dispense cash when a debit card is inserted (unlike in Latvia), the subway system accepts Canadian credit cards for payment (unlike France), foreigners can make train reservations over the internet (again unlike France) and toilets are clearly marked for males, females or unisex, in contrast to most of Europe where deciphering which toilet to use is often a challenge.
  6. The news relegates Donald Trump and Brexit to the bottom of the newscast, after the Indonesian tsunami, Chinese hacking and a structurally unsound apartment building in Sydney. The British royal family is (rightly, IMHO) not even mentioned.
  7. X-Mas is understated. Maybe it’s hard to get excited about X-Mas in 35 degree weather, but it is not the giant event it is back in Canada or even in Europe, except for the Boxing Day sales. The largest department store in Melbourne, David Jones, does a special window display every year, but in contrast to the Hudson Bay’s Christmas themed windows in Toronto, this year showcased Alice in Wonderland, with a dozen three dimensional windows featuring moving dioramas of the novel.

    IMG_3941
    A tree decorated for Xmas in Melbourne
  8. Women wear leggings on the street. I am not a fashionista and rarely care about fashion do’s and don’ts, however my sole concession to European fashion sensibilities is not to wear leggings outside, not even to a yoga class. Any woman doing so is immediately branded a gauche North American and treated accordingly. But here, women have only 3 bottom options: shorts, sundresses and leggings, the latter perfectly acceptable to wear everywhere (except perhaps to weddings) and anytime.
  9. It’s multicultural. In 1994, when I first visited, multicultural meant a large Greek community in Darwin and Vietnamese boat people who came in the 1970’s. Australia has changed a lot, encouraging immigration especially from Asian countries. Nearly every cab driver I met beckoned from India, downtown Melbourne reminded me of Vancouver with at least half of the people Asian. Korean Barbecue restaurants dotted every block, and ramen noodle bars, Vietnamese street food, Thai, Sushi, Turkish kebob shops, Schnitzel fast food places were easy to find; everything, in fact, except French.
  10. Streets are what streets should be – no quaint cobblestone sidewalks waiting to trip me – and street names are familiar: King Street, Russell, Chapel, not a 4 quatre September or unpronounceable (by me) Khreschchatyk in sight. Roads are built, more or less, on a grid with a few curvy roads to accommodate a river. Street names generally stay the same for the entire length of the road. None of the “let’s change the name every couple of hundred meters to confuse the heck out of tourists and google maps” etymology which characterizes much of Europe.
  11. Being a newish country, there are very few 19th century quaint or character buildings with ceilings low enough that even I hit my head or bathrooms carved into weird spaces that generally require contortionist moves to use. Rooms are square or rectangle, buildings over 3 floors have elevators and the bathrooms are logical and convenient.
  12. Smoking is banned just about everywhere – parks, playgrounds, beaches, train platforms – and most significantly to me, restaurant patios. In Paris, it was impossible to sit on a patio without the ubiquitous smoke wafting towards me. Australia has some of the most restrictive smoking laws in the world. Smoking is permitted only on specially built patios which must be at least 4 meters away from everything.
  13. It’s cheaper than Iceland. Prices for hotels, restaurants, transit and groceries are comparable to, or slightly higher than, Canadian prices.

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