I use this blog as a soap box to preach (ahem... to talk :-) about subjects that interest me.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Australian peculiarities

To start off, I feel I have to explain why I haven’t been posting much lately. I have begun working at an historical novel. The subject is: “The struggle of an Italian sailor to make a family, on the background of his ten years of war, from 1935 to 1945”. It will be based on my father’s life, which was more adventurous than most. And now, to the actual post.

My wife and I like Australia, and have decided to spend the rest of our lives in Canberra, its capital. Of all the places we lived in (Hamburg, Rome, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Stuttgart, Zurich, and Paris), and of all the places we visited (London, New York, Washington DC, Sydney, Milan, Venice, and Cairo, to name some), we found that Canberra was for us the best city to settle in. And yet, for central and southern Europeans, Australia has got some peculiarities that require getting used to.

For example, there are no square-ruled notepads. This is something that Australia shares with other English-speaking countries, notably the UK and the USA. And yet, it doesn’t cease to amaze me. When confronted with this, the Australians feel criticised and reply jokingly by saying that the continental Europeans must have problems in keeping their numbers lined up. But in fact nobody has ever been able to explain why people have to study Math and Geometry on the same lined notepads used for writing.

It Italy we even have (well, at least it was so when I lived there...) two different sizes of squares: quadretti piccoli (small squares) with 4mm sides and quadretti grossi (big squares) with 5mm sides. Perhaps this is an Australian market gap that I should try to fill.

If you happen to know why Australian paper never comes printed with squares (except high precision graph paper for drawing plots), please comment on this post and tell me.

Another thing that is almost completely absent in Australia is deodorant sticks. The deodorants come in containers that work like big ball pens: when you roll their 4cm ball on the body they leave behind a slimy stripe of liquid deodorant.

Also food in tubes is missing. Tubes for tooth paste and other creams are everywhere, but do not expect to find tubes containing mayonnaise, tomato paste, anchovies, or other edible stuff.

Some decades ago, Australia switched to the metric system, but it seems that they haven’t quite got the hang of it, because they insist in using millimetres whenever possible. For example, the construction plans of my house show that it is 25,520mm long and 12,470mm wide. Another example: in a TV programme on gardening, they recommended to dig a planting hole 500mm deep. Definitely too accurate a measure for a hole in the ground.

Beer bottles have a capacity of 750ml or 375ml, never 1/3, 2/3, or 1/2 like in Europe. Wine bottles, even of very good wines, are almost invariably closed with screw caps, which makes Europeans think that the wine is of poor quality.

OK. I don’t seem to come up with further peculiarities, but I am sure that there are more. I will add them as they come to mind.

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