Would Bett & Bev’s consider delivering to Australia?
I made the move from Jefferson to Australia two years ago already and I am pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy living here. After spending much of December and January back home in snowy, freezing-cold Jefferson and after being asked by friends, neighbors and the team at Jefferson Family Dentistry what Australia is really like, I felt I should share with you all what I’ve learned about Australia.
Australia is located halfway around the world in the Southern Hemisphere, where it experiences seasons at the opposite time of year as America. (This year we went from winter temperatures of 30-below the day we flew out of Iowa to summer temperatures of 105 when we landed in Melbourne.) Its population is just above 25 million people and most people live along the coasts as the center of Australia consists of rough mountainous terrain and deserts.
Australia is a continent and a country that consists of six states, three internal territories and six external territories (many of which are nearby islands). Australia is a commonwealth country, which means that although it governs itself through a liberal democratic political system (with a prime minister as its head of government) it also remains a constitutional monarchy recognizing the British monarchy and Queen Elizabeth as their queen (her face is on all Aussie money).
When I first began telling my friends and acquaintances in Jefferson that I was moving with my Australian husband to his home country, I was greeted with a mixed bag of reactions. Many were blown away at the aspect of moving halfway around the world.
Many wished me well. But others reacted with worry. Would Australians accept me, an outsider? Would I be able to understand their accents? How would I cope so far away from home?
I have discovered that Australia is very different than my dear Land of the Brave and Home of the Free.
Firstly, I have felt very accepted as an outsider to this new land because so many Australians are immigrants or are children of immigrants. Australia’s population is very ethnically diverse. Anywhere we go — the local grocery store, the mall, a restaurant — I pass someone speaking a foreign language. I see women wearing hijabs and burkas every single day.
I have actually only met one other American who has moved to Australia (and we both lamented about Australia’s lack of Hidden Valley Ranch. However, I am lucky enough that my parents often ship me bottles of my favorite delicacy), but I have met a lot of Australians who have visited America. People here love America.
Australia has large chain stores like Kmart and Target. You can purchase clothes, housewares, toys, shoes and makeup at these stores. But they are in no way the huge big box stores like America’s version. I miss Walmart, where I can buy absolutely everything I need from drain cleaner, socks, dish soap, a hammer and nails, camping gear, chapstick, a baby shower gift, and food all in one place.
Australia has small “mom and pop” stores. It reminds me more of Jefferson with its smaller shops downtown. I am still trying to figure out which store sells the toilet paper and which sells printer paper.
What Australia doesn’t have is free-standing ice cream shops. I really miss Dairy Queen. And A&W root beer floats are unheard of here. You can get a soft-serve ice cream at a kiosk in the mall, but sadly there are no drive-through shops willing to serve up chocolate-dipped cones or blizzards. The only place for a plain old cone is McDonald’s.
What Australia does have is spiders. Lots and lots of spiders.
I’m constantly checking my shoes for spider webs and spiders. If the swing set is left unused for several days, we have to scrape webs off the swings when we use it again.
One of the largest scares of my life was walking into the bathroom to find a hairy Huntsman spider crawling across the wall. Google them. They are big hairy (harmless) monsters.
And the other day, I was putting away laundry that I had folded the day before and jumped when a giant spider called a white tail crawled out. If they bite you, you have to seek medical attention for an anti-venom vaccination.
I also had a brush with a red back spider when my hand grazed his body while I was fumbling for the light switch in the dark. Those too have a serious bite that require medical attention.
Australia is very serious about recycling. At all homes are three rolling trash cans (called “rubbish bins” here) for getting rid of your waste. One of the plastic bins is for organic trash (from your yard), one bin for trash and one bin for recycling. The recycling bin is almost twice as big as the one for trash. So where I might not pull apart the packaging from a new toy in America (I’d probably just throw it all away), in Australia I recycle the cardboard part and throw away the thin flimsy plastic that doesn’t have a recyclable symbol on it.
Once, we accidentally put some of the thin, non-recyclable plastic into the recycling bin, and we were given a notice. Our recycling wasn’t taken away that week.
That’s right — it is someone’s job to lift up the lids on the roller bins on the edge of the street on trash day and check to make sure that only the appropriate items are being recycled. (I also was intrigued that the notice of our violation was printed in almost 10 languages.)
You can only throw away what fits in the bins. Throwing away four giant black trash bags every week like you can in Jefferson is unheard of here. When our recycling bin wasn’t taken that week, we actually had to bring our recycling over to my in-laws for them to put out in their bin.
One of the best things about Australia is their free health care.
Every member of our family has a health care card. We present it at the doctor’s office and are seen without ever seeing a bill. However, if you need a major operation or are hospitalized for some reason you do have to pay some fees, although the amount varies depending on the situation.
You also have to pay for your prescription medications, however prices here are much lower than American prices.
Overall, Australia has its pros and cons but I do enjoy living here. It’s not America. But I wasn’t expecting it to be. It’s a beautiful country where kangaroos are much like the deer of the states, and are often seen hopping along the roadside.
I miss my family dearly. And I miss the snow — it only snows in the mountains of Australia, not here in Melbourne — although I don’t miss scraping all that snow and ice off of my car every day.
But I could really go for a Bett & Bev’s pulled pork sandwich and an A&W root beer float right about now.
Andra LK Guccione is a former Jefferson resident who lives in Australia.
Her parents, Milan and Deb Kucerak, reside in Jefferson.