Australia is heading into Spring, and the vibrant green trees and blooming flowers feel ironically symbolic of my escape from the United States.
After 6 months of enduring New York City during Covid, 14 days in a Sydney hotel room, and 14 days confined to my apartment, “normal” life is bliss. Once mundane tasks are now thrilling. Perusing the snack aisle at the grocery store, buying soap from a drug store (which is called a “chemist” here), and getting a cup of coffee are all exciting outings. Who needs fancy restaurants and sky diving when you can get the same thrill from buying socks and underwear at the Big W?
It’s odd adjusting to the absence of Covid.
I still find myself veering 6 feet over on the side walk and leaving massive gaps in line. Sometimes I frantically dig through my bag looking for a mask before realizing I don’t need one. I’m still afraid to cough in public, and big groups of close bodies freak me out.
Jeremy has introduced me to several co-workers and friends, and the handshakes and hugs catch me off guard as I fight the urge to immediately pump out globs of hand sanitizer to all parties involved in the communal exchange. I feel socially awkward and out of practice when it comes to meeting someone new. Come to think of it… I guess small talk and pleasantries have never been my strong suit.
Just as how I adapted to a covid-weary life, I’m 100% confident in my ability to adjust once more (although my hand shaking and hugging skills have a long ways to go.)
Apart from being flabbergasted over seeing people’s mouths and the novelty of no social distancing, my travel itch is finally being scratched as I’ve been diving into exploring Hobart, Tasmania.
Disclaimer: I haven’t strayed too far from home. Sharing my opinions on Tasmanian culture is like someone who has never left Brooklyn claiming to understand the culture of all 5 boroughs. However, what’s the point of a blog on the internet if you don’t draw broad conclusions from individual encounters?
Here are some of the initial cultural differences that have stuck out:
On the road:
Driving on the other side of the road has proven to be quite the challenge for me. I feel unnervingly close to the center line and am convinced I will hit oncoming cars head on. Jeremy says I won’t, but I’m not so sure.
Rules of the Road:
- You say “give way” instead of “yield” (which I think sounds rather polite)
- You say “overtake” instead of “pass” (which I think sounds rather aggressive)
- When overtaking another vehicle, you can get a ticket if you don’t return to the left lane immediately
- You say “indicate” instead of “turn signal”
- Most intersections have little roundabouts
- Very few people jaywalk
- Pressing the pedestrian crosswalk button actually works
- Conversation is blunt. When I got prescribed an antibiotic via a telehealth call, the doctor said, “well let’s hope that work.” I was far from reassured, but Jeremy said that’s normal colloquialism.
- The shoes of choice for young adults are Blundstone boots. Perhaps a pair might hide my American accent.
- I’m wildly impressed by the physical capabilities of the older population. Every day I see gray haired adults biking up steep hills on the way to work, and wheelchairs and scooters are rare.
- The general vibe is far less chaotic and less stressed than in New York. It’s okay to just sit back and relax with a coffee. Being still doesn’t means you are falling behind.
- Gardening is quite popular.
- People love dogs.
- There are many homes with little stuffed animals in the window… not to sure what that’s about.
- Red pepper is called capsicum
- Pumpkin refers to butternut squash and other similar gourds
- Liquor stores are called bottle shops
- Dairy and beef are huge
- Local products are prioritized over imported goods
- Americanos aren’t a thing, rather, your order a long black (although flat whites and lattes are very popular as well)
Focusing in on the food…..
The freshness of the food here is unbelievable. Not everything is pumped with hormones, sprayed with pesticides, or filled with chemicals. A loaf of bread will get moldy in a couple days and meat will go bad if you don’t eat it by the “sell by” date. I bought an overpriced bushel of beats at a local farmer’s market and was distraught to find that they had gone back the very next day. I’m used to food lasting longer, and it has been an adjustment to adapt my eating accordingly to minimize food waste.
Restaurants with locally sourced ingredients don’t get the trendy “farm to table” label (unless it’s actually at a farm, which is common), rather, it’s just the standard.
Here are my three favorite food experiences thus far:
- Billy’s Burger Bar
This double bacon cheeseburger was the first post-quarantine meal I had, and it was nothing short of divine. Australian beef is a huge deal (I’ll work on a post about this later!), and you better believe this burger was tender, juicy, and packed with flavor.
2. Van Diemen’s Land Creamery
Van Diemens Land Creamery serves up wickedly fresh ice cream that makes it from the cow to consumer in under 24 hours. Its humble beginnings started on a Tasmania dairy farm 15 years ago where Paul Amourgis milked the cows and Jan Amourgis made the ice cream. They took their product across the state to various events to build their brand, and now you can get a scoop at various restaurants and delicatessen’s as well as at their brick and morter shops at the Hobart waterfront and Elizabeth Town.
Let me tell you, this ice cream is nothing short of perfection. It is unbelievably creamy with rich, complex flavors that are beautifully subtle without being overwhelmingly sweet.
3. Room for a Pony
We have tried out three different pizza spots, but this one has been my favorite. There was a beautiful heat from the nduja sausage sauce that permeated throughout the pizza, and while I initially scoffed at the semi-hard parmesan, it actually gave the pizza a sharp flavor with a touch of texture that was more sophisticated than heaps of melting cheese alone. The pepperoni was chopped into thin slices as oppose to round cups, which meant it was evenly spread across each bite and you didn’t need to endure that awkward moment of trying to bite a pepperoni in half just to be left with half of it hanging out of your mouth.
My great Australian adventure is just beginning. Stay tuned for the exploring, discovering, and eating to come!