Some time ago our plans were to live alternately in Europe and Australia.
Since I don't remember if I mentioned it before: My hubby and I have changed this idea. Our centre of life will be in Australia. It is for the most part already the case.
There are always a few incidents that make me smile. If you are married to a computer freak, who has been practising and recommending digital detox for years, it should be clear that you have certain technical resources available. For example, we are connected to our house in Germany via the Internet. Apart from the fact that we can stream European satellite television from there, the telephone systems are also connected. Do I dial a German telephone number, the call is delegated to the system in Germany. I also kept my German mobile plan, because WiFi calls are covered by the plan. When I call someone in the old country, there is often some confusion because the German number is displayed. They are particularly confused if it is the landline number.
"You are back from Australia. How was it?" is something I heard often. The confusion continues when I tell that we are still there. By the way, this does not prevent being asked about the weather.
Sometimes, however, I get the feeling that they are not really listening. We spoke to my husband's uncle on the phone several times in May and June. Most of the conversation was about the fact that we will only be visiting Germany in the future, as we are now living here in Australia. The following month he called us to invite us to his wedding anniversary. "I thought you were just spending your vacation there." he said.
We are often asked for the reason. We are asked why we give up so much in Germany to live far away in an unknown country. While we are not afraid of the unknown, Australia is not an unknown country for us either. There is indeed much that we have not yet seen. But I could not say that I have seen everything in or know everything about Germany. It's a fact that I can explain the Australian flag, but I cannot tell you much about its German counterpart. Some people even think that we want to save income tax. Interesting approach, but our contributions here are about the same or a tad higher, the cost of living is also higher than in Germany.
The real reasons are manifold. I hope that my words can convey my feelings and impressions.
Australia offers such a wide and unique variety of landscapes. Most of the fauna and flora cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Germany has an area of 357,000 square kilometres and a population of 82 millions. Australia has a landmass of 7,617,930 square kilometres and a population of 25.6 millions. Australia is the planet's sixth largest country after Russia, Canada, China, the USA, and Brazil. I had to redefine distances for myself. Germany's north-south extension is 879 kilometres (east-west 641 kilometres). It is 892 kilometres linear distance from our location in Queensland to Queensland's capital Brisbane and 1,300 kilometres from here to the northern tip of Cape York in the north of Queensland. Do I set off to the west, I have still not left Queensland after 1,000 kilometres. The mainland area of the State of Queensland is 1,723,030 square kilometres. It's the second-largest and third-most populous (5,1m) Australian state.
I'd like to mention a few examples.
Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island. It is spanning 123 kilometres. The Seventy-Five Mile Beach runs the length of Fraser Island. Its main function is as the highway on Fraser Island and runs along the East Coast.
Whitehaven Beach stretches over seven kilometres and boasts brilliant white silica sand that is among the purest in the world. Whitehaven Beach is located on Whitsunday Island which is the largest island in the Whitsunday group of islands. Since you are already here, welcome to Australia's great natural wonder - the Great Barrier Reef. It is the world largest coral reef, covering an area of more than 344,000 square kilometres. (Almost the size of Germany!)
Have you had enough of beaches and sea? How about a tour to the rainforest? Let's head to Cape Tribulation, where the Great Barrier Reef meets the rainforest. The Daintree Rainforest is a region on the northeast coast of Queensland. The Wet Tropics Rainforest of Queensland (that the Daintree is a part of) is the oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest in the world. The Daintree Rainforest is estimated to be 180 million years old. The Amazon rainforest - estimated to be 55 million years old - is a kid by comparison. The landscape is one of striking diversity including magnificent scenery, mountain ranges, fast flowing streams and waterfalls, deep gorges and dense rainforest. Did you know that its ancient ferns, emerald green vines and lush canopy provided inspiration for the film Avatar? The idiot fruit has the scientific name of Idiospermum australiense and occurs nowhere else in the world but the World Heritage-listed rainforests of North Queensland, with its biggest remaining population in the Daintree. However, it’s the common name that reveal a lot about this unusual tree - the idiot fruit tree for its idiosyncratic nature, and the green dinosaur in recognition of its ancient lineage. And one more odd fact: it bears the largest single seed of any tree in Australia, about the same size as a human fist.
The outback of Queensland is a region rich in awe-inspiring scenery, rugged roads, cultural heritage of the pioneering history and fair dinkum (that's Australian English) friendly locals. The landscape offers a wide range of wetlands, rocky mountains, desert sand dunes and gushing rivers set between country towns, old-fashioned pubs, farms, cattle ranches and mining communities. The outback is not a defined area, it is only a term used to refer to locations that are far away from big cities. The fertile parts are known as Rangelands and have been traditionally used for sheep or cattle farming.
There are a number of opal fossicking sites throughout Outback Queensland, particularly Opalton, Quilpie and Yowah. If your luck is in, you might find some boulder opal at Quilpie or Opalton or one of the famous Yowah Nuts. You may want to use hand tools, picks, shovels and sieves to help you dig. For those with less time, you can walk around "specking" for colour on top of the ground – locals call this "emu bopping".
The Atherton Tablelands: in the Outback - The word "Undara" in the Aboriginal language means "long way". I think that this is somehow fitting, because in the Undara Volcanic National Park you can explore, among other things, the longest lava flow on earth, with a length of 160 kilometres, as well as the longest lava tube in the world, with a length of 100 kilometres. In 1862 the Collins family became the first white cattle breeding family in the Atherton Tablelands. When Bram Collins discovered his first lava tunnel on the family property while playing as a child, the fascination for the Undara Lava Tubes was born in him. In 1990 Bram committed himself to protecting this special place of earth and nature - The Undara Volcanic National Park was founded. Several historic railway carriages have been lavishly and beautifully restored by Bram and his family. They are now picturesquely placed in the middle of the Australian bush, between old, shady trees. They are just waiting to offer you a comfortable and extraordinary sleeping place.
Did you notice that I have been writing about Queensland? Australia - Commonwealth of Australia - consists of six states: Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia, three internal territories: the Australian Capital Territory, the Jervis Bay Territory, and the Northern Territory, and seven external territories: Ashmore and Cartier Islands, the Australian Antarctic Territory, Christmas Island, the Cocos Islands, the Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, and Norfolk Island.
Can you imagine how many places I can discover and visit here?
Already during our first journey through Australia we were invited many times. Be it for a beer (even though it was obviously more than one) or for a barbecue. You get to know a lot of people very quickly. What you'll realise is that they're a fairly casual lot and don't take themselves too seriously. This is part of the laid-back Australian lifestyle. Deeply rooted in Australians' lifestyle and values is a strong sense of egalitarianism. It doesn't matter where you're from or if you're the postie or the boss of a big company. Australians have an implicit preference for those who seem down-to-earth and straightforward. They often perceive simplicity as an endearing personal quality. It is a compliment among friends to be called a classic. Australians are often very modest about their accomplishments and commonly self-deprecate to avoid seeming pretentious.
Seriously, though. Life is more fun with a sense of humour and the ability to have a laugh at yourself - Australians are famed for embracing their flaws and joining in the teasing. You might find yourself in the centre of a light-hearted joke quickly. Laconic, irreverent and self-deprecating - or as Aussies so delicately put it, taking the piss, either out of yourself or each other. And nothing puts you at ease with your mates like a good old piss-take. Be warned, Australian humour is as dry as a dead Dingo's donger. Our directness and our sense of humour has made us drop a brick or embarrass ourselves in Germany and some other countries. Here is acceptance the result. But of course you have to know and respect the limits. Humour should never be offensive. Jokes about people who are not present are always considered impolite.
When Australians create an instant nickname for you, it is a way of showing acceptance. To be given a nickname is quite an honour and should make you feel part of the group. David becomes Davo, Thomas becomes Tom,... While a friendly nickname can express familiarity and help build relationships, an ironic nickname like "little Donny" applied to an adult you don’t respect can carry the weight of contempt. Be attentive if your workmates call you "Opium" - you might work slow as dope.
Apart from this, a name must be abbreviated if it consists of too many syllables. "Every second word in Australian English is 'mate', every third is abbreviated.". Australian slang is like another whole language in itself! If English is your second language (and even if it is your first) those English lessons were a complete waste of your time.
Australian slang is teeming with diminutives, abbreviations, and idioms. (Little of this will be found in non-verbal communication.) But it is absolutely no problem to ask if you do not understand something. Everyone will do their best to explain or express it differently. I have often noticed that Australians also switch to precise, easy-to-understand English when they realise you're a foreigner. Yes, they are polite and courteous.
Even if Australians enjoy a chat, there is no point in wasting (other people's) time. If words are too long, if they contain too many syllables, they are changed for everyday use. The easier a word can be pronounced, the better. I like that. "afternoon" becomes "arvo", a "service station" becomes "servo", "petrol" becomes "petty",... gasoline doesn't exist - everything is called petrol... unless it's diesel.
A conversation in British English might sound like this:
Thomas: Hello Patrick, how are you?
Patrick: Hello Thomas. I’m fine. How are you?
Thomas: Very good. Thanks. I was just calling to see if you would like to come over for a cup of tea?
Patrick: That sounds great. I’ll be there in 20 minutes.
As you have noticed, a "cup of tea" became "cuppa". Isn't it extremely efficient to abbreviate three words into one? Defo!
Thanks to Joey aka Ben for his help.
Even though I'd need a non-existent dictionary quite often, it is a rich and colourful language that simply lifts the spirits. If you then try to use some words at a barbie (barbecue) and confuse "defo" with "devo" for agreement, you have certainly caused a good laugh. I am not a linguist, but I suspect that "devastated" (devo) does not have the same meaning as "definitely" (defo).
Does it need any further explanation as to why we feel extraordinarily comfortable here?
Living in a country with varying landscapes, beautiful beaches, and heavenly islands... surrounded by friendly, open-hearted, and honest people with a great sense of humour... spending your time and life with wonderful friends...
Do you know now, why I became a banana bender?
Edited by Tomster