The long haul

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The start of the long journey back to Europe.

There are few things guaranteed to grab my attention more than an article about some new type of aeroplane that has the potential to shorten journey times between Australia and Europe to a matter of two or three hours.

The recent test flight of a hypersonic rocket looks completely terrifying, but then I suppose rail travel struck the fear of God into many people too, when it was first invented.’

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Comparing value: Phone and internet

Last week’s mini-rant about Australia’s dominant telecommunications company, Telstra, got me thinking. Are they really ‘behind the times fleece merchants’ or am I just looking back to Europe with rose-tinted lenses?

To check if my ire was justified, I decided to compare my experiences – of cost versus quality of service – to see how Telstra stacks up against companies of a similar type in other countries.

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Drive like a Canberran: 5 quick tips

Taking to the road in a new country can have its challenges. Imagine that you passed your driving test in rural Iowa and then move to Cairo, or that you grew up in the Welsh countryside and then move to the centre of Paris. Daunting, right?

Wherever you come from originally, there are bound to be some aspects of motoring in Canberra that catch you off guard, so here are my five top tips for driving like a local when you first arrive in Australia’s capital.

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Trial and error

Gatherings of expats invariably lead to one conversation topic, things you wish you’d done and things you wish you hadn’t.

These aren’t confessions of the stag/hen night variety, but wistful glances back at the process of moving to Australia and learning some lessons of relocation the hard way.

So, for today’s post, 18 months after our move, I’ve put together a list of the best and worst three decisions we’ve made in our journey to a new life down under.

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Mind the language gap

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Aussie English differs from British English in all sorts of wonderful ways.

There’s an adage that the UK and the US are two countries separated by a common language and there’s many an example to illustrate the point.

I’d expected certain differences between British and Australian English too, and there are plenty. Most are readily decipherable, thanks to the absolute literalism of many, such as the wonderful phrase ‘sticky beaks’ for nosy people, or ‘footy’, for any sport that involves a large ball (except, in fact, football).

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Testing times with tradies

Becoming home-owners in Australia has not only exposed us to a new range of emotions but to a new set of challenges, the most testing of which has been the need to hire various tradesmen (or, tradies as they are known here) to help us get our house the way we want it. The results have been, shall we say, interesting.

Photo of a rangehood awaiting installation.

Forget high-speed rail between Sydney and Melbourne. The greatest technological challenge in Australia today is the installation of this rangehood.

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Canberra’s energy inefficient housing

Let me start this by saying that I’m not an expert in environmental matters, but by adding that I am interested in environmental matters. I was an early adopter of LED bulbs back when they cost more than the light fitting you put them into; I set up a couple of compost heaps in our last house and reduced our weekly rubbish collection by a third; and I’m generally happy to invest in something that I think will reap longer term benefits either in efficiency or in reducing my environmental footprint.

So when we arrived in Canberra, I was interested to learn that every property is assessed according to an ‘Energy Efficiency Rating’ or EER. Our year in a rental house – which is freezing in winter, boiling in summer and generates energy bills that would make a sheikh weep – only served to heighten my interest in energy efficiency when hunting for a house to buy.

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Close-up of a spider on a window.

Snakes, spiders and sharks

Snakes, spiders and sharks probably represent the unholy trinity of creatures that new migrants fear the most (notwithstanding those spoof stories about drop bears – and they are spoofs). But what’s the reality of living cheek by jowl with Australia’s deadliest animals, and how much do they actually figure in our everyday lives? In reality, not much. Continue reading

An education

Moving to a new country is a giant juggling act. You can’t know everything about your new home from the moment you arrive but you strive to gather enough information about the essentials so that nothing critical falls to the ground and smashes.

Occasionally, you miss something – like when using the wrong type of tick treatment cost Mr Pup an extra three weeks in quarantine. And a few weeks ago, we missed something else that we probably should have known about, but didn’t.

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