Australia’s warm, subtropical climate creates the perfect environment for one of the nation’s greatest native species: the Australius boganus, otherwise known as the bogan.
The bogan’s easily identifiable features include:
Driving a Ute (that’s Australian for utility vehicle aka pick-up truck)
Use of “truck nuts”
A propensity for swearing
Swearing at/around your children
Wearing Ugg boots outside (Uggs are meant to be only worn indoors as house shoes)
Using white sandwich bread as the bun for your hot dog or sausage
Australian bogan. Image courtesy of FromParistoMelbourne
The bogan’s natural habitat can sometimes be difficult to identify, however if there’s a car in the front yard, a couch on the porch, and a collection of empty beer bottles lining window sills or doorways, you know you’re in the presence of the elusive bogan.
The genetic North American cousin of the bogan, the white trash and redneck variety, thrives in North America. But the bogan is evolving. It’s coming into money, big money. It’s getting richer. Enter the CUB; the “Cashed Up Bogan”. This offshoot has recently appeared in Australia, typically on the west and east coasts where jobs on oil rigs or in mines are plentiful. The term was “used by one marketing researcher in 2006 to describe people of a blue-collar background now earning a high salary and spending their earnings on expensive consumer items as a matter of conspicuous consumption”. You can find CUBs at five star restaurants wearing jeans and running shoes, high end resorts wearing beer/alcohol-branded t-shirts, at gambling establishments, anyone on jet skis and anyone going to an Eminem concert (true story, it happened yesterday).
A few weeks ago, my guy and I headed south to the lovely state of Victoria to take in all the sights and sounds of its capital city, Melbourne. We’d been to other states like Cairns (Queensland), Sydney (New South Wales), and Perth (Western Australia) but we always heard from others, locals and expats alike, to visit Melbourne. So last Australia Day, we set out to spend the long weekend and explore the city, which turned out to be one of my favourite places in Australia.
Here’s a photo of the Crown Casino’s hourly fire show. Yes, this happens hourly outside the complex.
Hourly fire show at Melbourne’s Crown Casino
Here’s why: it reminded me so much of Toronto. Am I pinning for Toronto? Completely, without a doubt. I had been back to Toronto eight months ago, and that visit only made me miss it more. The sights, sounds, smells, and even the traffic made me realize how much I had missed it over the year and a half of living abroad. It felt as though my two weeks were compressed into only a few short days and I desperately wanted to drink it all in. I would live in Melbourne without hesitation if it weren’t for the fact that we moved from Toronto to find something different. It would have been a a disappointment to make the long haul journey to Australia and end up pretty much in a city that’s eerily similar to the one we left.
Locals describe Melbourne as the European city of Australia. It’s not like Sydney, Brisbane or Perth, and definitely not like Cairns. Melbourne has a unique history and is generally known as the melting pot of Australia as many immigrants from Greece, Italy, China, and Vietnam made Melbourne their home. It’s a beautiful and welcoming city, and equally fantastic as Toronto.
Here’s my theory on why Melbourne is the Toronto of the Southern Hemisphere:
Public transportation geeks unite! Melbourne offers a free City Circle Tram that travels around the city centre and provides a recorded message of some of the interesting points of buildings, local attractions and neighbourhoods. Yup, free. Could you see Toronto offering a service like this? In addition to the free city centre service, it was very comforting to hear the sounds of cars driving over the streetcar tracks.
Melbourne’s free City Circle Tram [image courtesy of onlymelbourne.com.au]
It was cold.
Like 17C cold when we arrived. In my opinion, that’s not normal for Australia during the summertime. People who live in Melbourne say they can go through all four seasons in a day and I completely believe them. It was like Toronto on a cool autumn day.
Here’s where things get “European” in my opinion. Like many European cities, Melbourne has dozens of laneways and alleyways where amazing food is served day and night. That’s the only difference in terms of where you actually find food. Toronto doesn’t have the alleyway restaurant culture simply because of the weather. If Toronto had the same climate as the South of France where the only threat comes from a chilly day and potentially rain, then Toronto would all over it. Unfortunately, Toronto is faced with -32C, snow, sleet, hail and everything else that drives outdoor eating inside.
Not just for food but cultures and people. It was incredible to walk down the street and see different nationalities and cultures living in one area. Melbourne, in my opinion is the most diverse city in Australia.
Gardens, boulevards, and parks.
Like Toronto, Melbourne is full of green space. We’d walk past numerous parks and will the streetcars going by, the large open areas, it felt as though we were walking into High Park.
If you’re ever on this side of the world and are pinning for a bit of Toronto, then head over to Melbourne for a few days. With its mixtures of cultures, from Europe, Asia and of course Australia, it’ll satisfy any craving. Bonus: no Rob Ford.
My guy and I moved from Mississauga to Brisbane back in April 2012. Our plan was to live in Brisbane for two years then head back to the Great White North where we’d again face the realities of family and non-family commitments, four distinct seasons and possibly a polar vortex. Living in a tropical climate has its perks for sure.
Brisbane’s population just surpassed 1.8 million making it the third largest city in Australia. Not as many as Toronto’s 2.7 million, but they’re getting there. Despite the third from the top ranking, there’s still a sense of small town living that you don’t experience in Australia’s largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and which you certainly don’t experience in Toronto. Is it the noticeable lack of commuter traffic, really quiet neighbourhoods and plenty of sandy, beautiful beaches that lends to this sense of space?
Here’s a promotional video from VisitBrisbane.com.au
For those of you contemplating a move to Brisbane, here’s the nitty-gritty from an insider ex pat.
The weather in Brisbane is simply amazing. Countless days of nothing but blue skies. Seriously. Not even the white fluffy kind in the distance. Same with the beaches. They’re breathtaking. There are so many beaches that there’s no need to cram everyone onto one so there’s always space to spread out and get comfy.
There’s nothing quite like the taste of Vegemite. Really. Having never tried it before coming to Australia, we heard a lot about it and made sure it was one of the first items on our grocery list. I like it. I like it a lot. It’s salty, savoury, and yeasty. My guy describes it as “super concentrated, salty pan drippings”. That’s a pretty good description. It’s actually quite healthy as it’s made up of all the B vitamins. All in a salty flavour bomb.
Vegemite … yummy salt bomb
Kangaroo is delicious. It’s lean, flavourful and best served medium-rare. That’s all I’m going to say.
I don’t drink coffee, but I hear a flat white is the best coffee. Ever. If you want to order one in North America, it’s a ‘no-foam cappuccino’. It’s from Australia/New Zealand. Many Aussies who visit North America are heart-broken (and sometimes fuming) when they can’t get a decent flat white abroad.
Despite being geographically located near many Asian countries, Brisbane’s cultural diversity is nothing like Toronto’s. This is probably one of the things that disappoints me most about being here. We were so privileged to have lived in one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world. We saw a diverse view of different cultures and had access to any and all type of cuisine. Brisbane is just starting to embrace the different cultures which reside within but it’s a long road to get to where Toronto is. Melbourne and Sydney are up there with decades of immigration from all over the world contributing to its diversity in food, landscape, and architecture. It took ages to find a Vietnamese restaurant who could make a decent phở and it’s still not as good as the one we get back in Toronto. They have Mexican and Italian restaurants here, but they’re more “Mexican’ish” or “Italian’ish”. I think the issue is that they’re catering to the Brisbane palate, where their idea of cheesecake is cream cheese and sugar spread onto a pre-baked cookie base. I’m sorry but that’s not a cheesecake. That’s what I throw together when I’m craving something fast and sweet to eat and don’t mind being ghetto. Same with hot dogs or sausages. They deserve the respect of a proper sausage/hot dog bun, not a slice of white bread.
Television and movies are far behind that there’s no wonder people download movies illegally. If you want to watch shows as they air on regular cable in North America, you have to pay for premium cable or wait weeks, months sometimes even years before you can watch it. Australia just aired the first season of their version of The Bachelor. Welcome to 2002!!! The movie 12 Years a Slave is only just being released this week.
Need I say more?
Chauvinism is alive and well here. And it’s accepted. That’s right, not just tolerated, but accepted. I once had a supervisor tell me that the next person they hired in the department would have to be male because the group they would be working with didn’t want to work with a female. The supervisor was male. Is that even legal? I put it forward to HR but nothing came of it. A male was hired for the role, just in case you were wondering. Is this due to the small town mentality where men run businesses and women get together with other women only for coffee catch ups and brunch all while wearing pricey yoga gear and full make-up? This whole ‘full make-up yoga outfit wearing’ thing kills me. Are you going to the gym or out for eggs benny? Does that crazy expensive shiny watch have a timer so you know when to transition from a run to a walk? I don’t get it.
Australia has a drinking culture unlike anything I’ve seen in North America. It’s as though people want to find any excuse to drink and drink to excess. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people stumbling out of bars completely drunk off their faces. The route I walked to into work in the morning had me passing by three bars and after a football, rugby or cricket match, there was always remnants of someone’s sick on the sidewalk. Not pleasant and not pleasant to think about as Australia loves sports so there’s always a game on and yes, another reason to drink. Melbourne Cup is a notorious event for people drinking to excess. The horse race, held annually in November, is all about drinking. The main race is held around lunchtime and only lasts for 10 minutes… tops. People get dolled up in their finery, ladies wear fascinators, men wear suits and they look fantastic. The drinking starts at 10:30am and doesn’t stop until 8pm. I’ve seen extremely large men stumbling home, walking out in front of traffic and almost causing accidents because they were too intoxicated to walk. Tragically, there has been a number of alcohol-fuelled deaths. The number of ‘king hits’ (what we call a sucker punch to the head) are on the increase as a result of booze-fuelled violence.
So, having gone through the good and the bad of living in Brisbane, I can honestly say it’s been a great experience; one that I’ll cherish and remember for the rest of my life. We’re set to head back this June and I’m sure it will be difficult to leave such a wonderful and beautiful place.
This is my first blog. Forgive me if it’s a bit rough around the edges.
For a while I thought blogs were nothing more than rants from wannabe 13 year old’s who, albeit a bit more sophisticated than what I would have chosen at the time, needed to complain about something and a plain ol’ paper diary wouldn’t cut it. They needed everyone to know what was going on in their life. I thought of blogs as another way to satisfy the “Me! Me! Me! It’s all about MEEEEEEEEE!” mindset. Good for them, I thought. I don’t have to read your silly blog about why you didn’t like the latest instalment of Harry Potter or teen vampire trilogy or your favourite Backstreet Boy (did I date myself? Hmm? Favourite 1D member. There. That’s more current. Are NKOTB cool again or have they sold out for good? I’ll Google it and get back to you). What do I care if you love something that I, frankly, don’t care about?
And I wasn’t alone.
But over time, I found myself reading, referencing, and even exclusively searching blogs for information. And it all started with recipes. Okay, wait. I know what you’re thinking… “Oh geez. Not another recipe blog!”. I know, I know. Some out there are really great and some of them are really boring but I promise you this: there will be no recipes on this site. Stamped it, no erasies. At least for now.
Fashion, gossip, recipes, social media trends, the best place to get a bagel/pho/veal sandwich, economic development initiatives, you name it, I was reading it. And now I’ve converted and joined the team.
So what can you expect from this blog?
Priority #1 = Entertaining
Priority #2 = Share interesting experiences (cultural, culinary, zoological) of living in Brisbane
Priority #3 = Share ideas and information about everything and anything that interests me. **We’ll revisit that down the road**
Priority #4 = Be experimental in terms of content, ideas, etc.
Giving a great big hug to my inner thirteen year old and taking the leap forward.