In my humble opinion, London is a pretty good spot for an Aussie to relocate (for the first time anyway), since there’s no major culture shock. I mean most things are the same, apart from of course the accent and a few other minor things.
However, that doesn’t mean that everything makes total sense to me over here. Like for example, the way Londoners greet people (this by the way, might not be unique to Londoners, but I am yet to venture outside of London).
So, in Australia, when seeing someone you know, you will greet them with “Hi, how are you”, or something along those lines anyway. But here, everyone asks “Are you alright?”. Now this had me really confused for the first few weeks of living here. I assumed that I looked as though I was struggling, and the mothers at the school were feeling sorry for me or something.
I also didn’t know how to respond. So I would get flustered and awkward and end up spitting out “ah yeah”, or in some cases “good thank you”, which I’m still not sure is an appropriate response.
If you’re a fellow Aussie hoping to move over to London, get ready to hear some pretty terrible Australian accents. Although I suppose this will be the same wherever you go.
In the month and a half that I’ve been here, I have not once attempted an English accent (I want to work on that though, so I can freak out my family when I return home), but I couldn’t count the number of times people have said ‘g’day’ to me, or asked if we Australians “throw a shrimp on the barby”.
And my response to this question is the same every time. I have never actually heard an Australian say that before. And no. We do not cook shrimp on the barby every night. I have never actually seen shrimp cooked on the barbeque.
My host family and I have also had an ongoing debate about the very important topic of Weetbix versus Weetabix, which I of course won just recently.
I was extremely confused when I first got here, to find that the English had just added a weird A in the title of Weetbix, to create Weetabix.
I was sure that Weetbix was an Australian thing. It’s like Vegemite. We have ads for it on TV. Sing with me now “Aussie Kids, are Weet-bix kids”. The ad isn’t Oscar-worthy or anything, but it’s famous in Australia.
So anyway, after weeks of having to defend myself and my Weetbix, I finally googled (trusty google knows all) to find out which one was created first. I had absolute faith in my Weetbix, and it prevailed.
It turns out that, according to Wikipedia “Weetabix is the British version of the original Australian Weet-Bix. Both Weet-Bix and Weetabix were invented by Bennison Osborne, an Australian”.
This information caused havoc in our household. My host family could not believe that one of their favourite English breakfasts was actually an Australian invention. And I reveled in victory. Australia had come through when I needed it.
And this will not be the only food debate you have while living in London.
Marmite, with its gooey texture, does not nearly compare to the infamous Vegemite. And I have not tried a “Penguin biscuit”, but I very much doubt that they will stand up against a Tim Tam. There’s also the fact that some things have different names over here, and it will take you a while to wrap your head around that.
For instance, tea is drinking tea, and not the meal that comes after lunch. That meal is called dinner, and the English may become confused when you say it’s time for tea.
Pants are also not pants. Because here, undies are called underpants, not undies. So, pants are called trousers. Except when they’re pajama pants, then their just bottoms (confusing right?).
I spent the first month telling the boys to put their pants on, and them correcting me every day, claiming they are trousers and not pants. Although, we have made some progress, because now they tell me “they’re called trousers… but you can call them pants if you want”, thank goodness.
And running on from my last point, you will soon notice how Australians shorten every word in the dictionary that can be shortened, where the English say the full word.
For example, I will be wearing my trackies, uggies and a hoodie, while my host family will be wearing their trousers, ugg boots and a jumper.
And saying McDonalds sounds oddly fancy to me. But I would never catch one of my host family members saying they’re heading off to Maccas.
The front doors over here are also different.
1. There are no front door handles. They just don’t exist. Instead you stick the keys in the keyhole and use that the push open the door. Weird, right?
2. There is a flap at the bottom of the front door. This is because there are no letter boxes over here. So, mail will come flying through that flap every day. After which, the flap will bang back down on the door and scare the living daylights out of you. I have been here for two months, and still get scared by that loud bang.
Another thing which I didn’t think about until moving abroad (and which people will ask you about a lot), is the size of Australia. It’s quite normal for my family to drive 5 hours up to Adelaide from where we live. I could not imagine the amount of times we have done that drive. We also recently drove around 11 hours to Canberra for Christmas.
My host family simply cannot believe that. Any trip longer than 3 hours will really test them.
From where I am now, I can get to Scotland in 5 hours, or Wales in 3 hours. Yes I know, ANOTHER COUNTRY IN 3 HOURS! Compared to 5 hours just to reach the closest major city from where I live in Australia!
And despite all these major differences between Australia and England (I’m being sarcastic if you don’t get that from text), it’s still pretty spectacular over here.
I’ve learnt to deal with the crumbly Weetabix; that you have to handle like glass to stop it from flaking into a pile of crumbs in your bowl. I have become accustomed to people asking me if I’m okay, and now know it’s how they greet everyone. My wonderful host family has even bought me my own jar of Vegemite, and I will not be swapping it for Marmite any time soon.
I’m slowly embracing all the differences about moving abroad, and right now, this Australian is extremely happy to be living in London.