Being born and raised in Hawaii has given me a very distinct, but limited, outlook on the world. After being Down Under for just a few days, I can already see the differences between Australia and Hawaii. Here are just a few of my random observations:
- Although the country is massive, everything else is not. Simple things that we in Hawaii (and the U.S.) take for granted, like large refrigerators, do not seem common. Here the fridge and freezer unit are only big enough to stock a family of four for a couple of days. There is no room for Costco-sized anything. This means shopping for dinner every other day at the mall. Yes, I said the mall. At the mall, there are stores that sell produce, meat, fish and Asian foods scattered among the department stores, electronics and restaurants. Interesting right? You’re walking by and there’s a slab of beef or a fillet of fish ready to take home. Everything is fresh (not frozen) and you tell them how much you want and they weigh it for you.
- There is a genuine concern for the environment here and not just environmentalism due to rising oil prices. The toilets do not use a handle that flushes a set amount of water and money down the drain. There is a push-button system that allows you to select half a flush or a full flush depending on your needs. I see clothes lines hanging up at all the surrounding houses so I can only assume a dryer is not used within most homes. People compost in their back yards for goodness sake – and they don’t even live out in the country. This is the suburbs.
- Aussies seem to have excellent manners, even the teenagers. For instance, I was waiting for a train with a bunch of people when a teen got out of his seat and offered it to a woman carrying a baby. When an elderly couple came by, another young guy got up without even hesitating. This is truly amazing to me. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like this doesn’t happen at home. It just doesn’t happen as often and with such caring for someone else’s well-being.
- Speaking of teens, I don’t know what to make of their clothing styles. On one hand, I think it could be a throwback to the seventies and eighties with all the bright colors and short shorts. I mean, even America showed a little love for the eighties when Fanny Pak appeared on America’s Best Dance Crew. On the other hand, maybe they’re just 30 years behind? Is that even possible? You’d be puzzled too if you saw their clothes. Think Dogtown Skateboards or Powell Peralta threads of the early ’80s. And don’t even get me started with the hair. Guys have an interesting, and someone universal, hairstyle. There’ll be a group of six guys and at least five of them have the same haircut. It’s short on the sides and tapered. The top is longish, spiked to an inch of its life but made to look casual and hairsprayed in place. Their bangs lie flat against their forehead with gel and hairspray and are whisked to the side. The flatness contrasting with the height of the spikes is very interesting indeed. Think Adam Lambert only more severe in spikes and flatness.
- And lastly, the most obvious one besides their accents, is that they drive on the left side of the road. It’s taken a bit of getting used to, even if I’m not doing the driving. Having to look the other way and make turns the other way is really disorienting. What I am beginning to love though are the roundabouts. I think they are so much better than stop lights or four-way stops. Why don’t we get these in Hawaii? Oh right, first we’d all have to learn how to signal our turns and lane changes. Right. But if we can get over that, these things really speed up traffic. Again, I think the successful signaling is due to the courteous nature of Aussies. Everyone does it and it seems to work out just fine.
Australia really is a unique place. I’m learning a little more about it each day and enjoy discovering the way it works.