By Nina McGrath
After three and a half years living the expat life in London, my husband and I made the difficult decision to head back to Oz. Friends who had headed back before us had mentioned that they found Australia changed, and that it had taken them a good six months to adjust to living back in Oz. I am only a month into that adjustment period and find myself experiencing a very real culture shock in my own homeland.
Both electronic and verbal communication has presented challenges. Sending an email requires using ‘@’ so I had to relearn that ‘shift 2’ is required to get @, the English keyboard position just gives you ” and email addresses don’t work with “ in the middle of them.
It took a few days to tune back in to the Australian accent; I blamed jetlag for dissolving into giggles when a friend mentioned the ‘car park’ and it sounded so incredibly Australian. I also rediscovered the following words: drongo, duffer, dunny, jaffle, mongrel, mole and bunyip and the phrases ‘no wuccas’ and ‘drop your guts’.
The Great Outdoors
Just driving around in the sunshine taking in our surrounds has been a pleasure. I’ve spotted Australian and Queensland flags flapping outside wooden Queenslander houses. I’m enjoying Australian road signs showing kangaroos, koalas and even a dugong (a local scenic route marker) and was delighted to see that a nearby fruit market has a large sign featuring a prawn wearing a corked hat. I had also forgotten how the heat affects vehicles and was painfully reminded when I scalded my back and bum on a hot car seat. Since then I have been vigilant about putting the reflector behind the windscreen before leaving the parked car.
The scattered showers and temps in the 20s which we have been enjoying have been described by our Aussie friends as ‘not much of a summer’. We disagree and this fabulous weather has enabled me to partake in a more active and outdoorsy lifestyle than I enjoyed in London. Activities have included swimming in the backyard pool (after skimming the leaves off the surface), talking a walk in a park (keeping a wary eye out for swooping magpies) and chasing blowflies out of the kitchen.
I’ve been enjoying the melodious calls of the magpie and butcher bird and the distinctive laugh of the kookaburra but I had also forgotten what awful noises some of our native animals make. A pair of galahs wake me each morning with their raspy, squeaky call (I’m referring to the pink, white and grey birds, not using it as a derogatory term for our neighbours). The low rumble of a territorial koala is a surprisingly scary sound to hear on a dark night.
Food, Glorious Food!
Returning for Christmas meant an absolute abundance of food and it was divine. I devoured mangoes, gnawing at the seed until my teeth were filled with mango string. I delighted in peeling prawns and eating them dipped in my mother-in-law’s seafood sauce and no seafood platter would be complete without the local delicacy – Moreton Bay Bug.
It was so wonderful to peruse a burger menu and see options containing beetroot and pineapple. I had to be convinced to try Vegemite’s new cheese and vegemite hybrid called cheesybite but one taste and it has become my toast spread of choice.
Even humble snack foods were greeted like long lost friends, hello Musk Lifesavers, Twisties, Burger Rings, Cheezels and Thins chips. Yes, I flirted with Wotsits but you always had my heart.
Cider is gaining bottle-o shelf space, all my old favourites are there, Kopperberg, Bulmers and Magners, but I’m currently working my way through the Rekorderling range with their winter cider standing in for mulled wine this Christmas.
In food related news Woolworths has a new logo, out with the vertical lines and text and in with a lower case w that looks like a coil of granny smith apple peel. Perhaps it was ‘inspired’ by the Ocado logo.
Rents seem very reasonable, for what we paid in London, we could afford a central Brisbane unit with aircon and a gym! However it is the small things that really show that prices have increased in our absence – postage stamps are now 60 cents (remember when they were 45c?) and 30c cones now cost 50c! What hasn’t changed is that McDonalds staff get quite annoyed if you ask for a 30c cone. I know the price has changed and I’m not trying to make a point, that’s just what their original advertising taught me to call it!
Should you pull the plug on London and head back to Oz, don’t expect a smooth, seamless transition. You will be jarred by culture shock, but you will also find yourself reacquainted with the people, experiences and products that you loved and left behind — it’s good to be home.
Thinking of heading home? What do you think will have changed most?