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Even us nomads have to get back to grown-up jobs every now and again.
Faced with the prospect of another bar/retail/waiter/hourly job during my tour guide off-season, I experienced a moment of clairvoyance when my second season as a tour guide ended last month. “I’m going to live in a normal house and cook normal dinners and work normal hours,” I thought. It was less of a thought actually, more of an fantasy image of my future life. The thought of stability made me as happy and excited as the trip to Morocco I was on when I had it. Actually, as I was riding camels through the Sahara, surfing in Taghazout and fending off merchants in the souks of Marrakech, 10% of my brain was thinking about the daunting job hunt I had ahead of me.
Thing is, I’ve been out of a my chosen industry for three years now. I worked at an ad agency and newspaper in Minneapolis, but that was back in what feels like forever ago (2009, actually). Could I just tie up my travel and tour guide experience, put it in a container and throw it in the corner of my brain filled with the rest of my no-longer useful knowledge? Left to decay over the course of my life, I would look back decades from now and realize I scarcely remembered how to book a cheap flight, rebook cancelled ferry tickets for 50 people or understand the political complexities of 1930s Europe. The knowledge I will have once possessed will have long-since fallen by the wayside, just as so much training into the rules of Lincoln-Douglass debate did; or the methods to writing a term paper on no sleep; or the difference between 3/4″ tape and a BetaMax.
No, I can’t allow my future self to forget the knowledge my present self has from working as a tour guide. My three-year sojourn away from the bad economy in the media industry led me to an industry I loved even more: Travel. I want to spend my working days making dream holidays for people. I want to live the life where taking a jaunt to Morocco, Italy, Greece or Croatia isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime getaway, but just another day at the office.
That’s why I’m pleased to announce some pretty major changes in my life. Today, I started my first day at a new job. My new employer is launching a new product in 2013, and I’ve been asked to help with the launch. The product I’m working on specialises in charter yacht trips down Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. It’s a big step forward from my two years as a tour guide, and I’m very excited to be working with a small, family-owned business.
Of course, a permanent job means a permanent location, which is why I’m writing this from the comfort of my new flat in Windsor, England. Rubbing shoulders with Elizabeth, I now share a city with the castle in which the Queen of England spends most of her time. I’ll keep you posted on any sightings.
For now though, I must go. I have to do something I can’t believe I’m excited about. I have to wash my dishes after cooking myself dinner — something I haven’t had the opportunity to do since I last lived in my own flat in Galway, way back in April 2010. Stretching my legs around the world was nice, but now domesticity is appealing to me as much as traveling once did.
“I quit,” I said with my chuckle. “I’m not sure I can give you a full two weeks’ notice.” My boss looked at me and smiled. “Good for you.” He had counciled me on making this big life decision. I went back to my desk and typed up an announcement of sorts. I was going to quit my job, break my lease and move overseas. Indefinitely. That was three years ago today.
Because of the anniversary, I’ve been combing the archives of this little blog and feeling some schadenfreude for the poor sap who won’t just settle down and live in the moment. At the beginning of December 2009 I wrote this:
“I need to learn to better deal with uncertainty, to let go of my stresses and have faith that the universe will guide me to the proper course. I’ll be very interested in reading this post in a month with the knowledge of where I ended up.”
If only I could send a message to that guy and tell him where I am now: I’m in London’s Gatwick Airport preparing to tick my forth contient off the box. In an hour I fly to Morocco, where I’ll be touring traditional berbers, riding a camel in the Sahara and even taking a surfing lesson.
In the meantime though, I’d like to show you the highlights of some of the archived posts I’ve been reading. First and most noteably, I was almost deported upon entering Ireland. As I struggled to find a way to pay the bills, I went through some odd job interview experiences, most notably when I found myself way out on the side of a highway in Galway after an interview went horribly wrong and I was found myself suddenly hired to sell make-up door-to-door.
As I settled in I found myself alone during Christmas. The writing is alright, but the pictures that accompany my expatriate Christmas blog are among my best.
Due to the strange facet of blogging that is SEO (search engine optimisation), what continues to be my most popular entry was a one-off in which I listed my top ten expat discoveries of everyday life in Ireland. I wrote more narrative posts, too, like when I endured my most embarrassing travel experience after being tricked by an Irishman. After getting a job as a lowly stock-room employee in Ireland, I was almost fired when I told my boss to “settle down.”
Before long, that job was getting tiresome for me and I found a new opportunity managing a hostel in Wales. After moving to the U.K. I had my first experience with Britain’s Big Brother-like network of cameras.
Before long though I was off to my next experience after I was hired as a tour guide through Europe. On my way over, I learned the hard way what happens when you deny the TSA the opportunity to frisk you. As a tour guide I faced some challenges, like when one of my passengers witnessed a suicide or when I witnessed a grisly car accident.
More recently, I’ve written about suffering the death of a family member while abroad (even if the family member in question was canine).
In the midst of it all, I produced a failed attempt to turn Two Passports into a multi-authored blog. While I’ve since abandoned that experiment, the masthead serves as a reminder of its existence with the pluralized tagline “Stories of lives lived abroad” (I’m still working on finding a new masthead). While the multi-authored idea didn’t take off, there were some great posts I’m proud to have hosted about living in Tanzania, Buddism in China, and British versus American English.
Finally, I started a series of travel videos using a GoPro camera, a series I just recently restarted.
…and that brings you up to date on my last three years. Thank you all for taking the time to read Two Passports and especially for those of you that have left comments. Everytime I go home I’m reminded of how many more people read this blog than I think. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a story and had someone stop me. “Oh yeah, I read this in your blog.” It has meant so much to me to hear your words of support during the hard times and congratulations during the good ones. Here’s to three more years.
This is part of a series of letters to a group of school kids in Sweden. If you missed the first one, make sure to check out here.
Hello kids in 5c,
Totte and I have been having a lot of fun on the road together. Earlier this week, we went to Berlin, the capital of Germany. I’ve been going to Berlin for two years now, but Totte said it was his first time so I took him on a little walk around. We went to the Berlin Zoo, and although we tried we couldn’t show Totte any real, live bears — they were all hiding — we did get a look at some monkeys, lions and giraffes.
One thing I wanted to be sure to show Totte was the Berlin Wall. There’s not much that’s left of it anymore, but it wasn’t always that way. Until twenty years ago, Berlin was actually two cities. One was called East Berlin and the other West Berlin. Between each city stood a big, concrete wall that nobody was allowed to cross. A lot of people weren’t very happy about this big, concrete wall cutting their city in half, so they invented some pretty amazing ways of getting around it. Some people went over it — one family even built a homemade hot air balloon. Some people went under it, digging a big hole in the ground. Some people even swam underwater in the river to get to the other side. Meanwhile, some people started painting artwork on the wall as an act of protest. The government in East Berlin told them to stop, but they kept doing it in secret, painting all sorts of things. Some painted beautiful pictures, while others just wrote their names. I think that’s why Berlin is one of my favourite cities. It is filled with people who “march to the beat of their own drum”. I’m not sure if that will translate very well into Swedish, but it means that they make decisions for themselves, without being worried if others will tease them.
Here is another example: While we were in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighbourhood Totte and I heard some very loud music and singing coming from a tunnel that went under some train tracks. We went to investigate and found two people playing violin very passionately. One was a man and one was a woman, but both were wearing dresses. I thought I might ask the man why he was wearing a dress, but he was too busy dancing and singing. The song he sang was filled with made-up words and sounds. As he sung and played violin, he also danced. He ankles were covered with bells that made a sound whenever he stomped his feet, so he used the bells as drums in his song. Meanwhile, the woman was dressed up sort of like a fairy. She sang in a beautiful soprano while he sang and danced. (Soprano means she sang very, very high notes.) It was one of the strangest things I’d ever seen, but when I stopped paying attention to the fact that the man was wearing a dress and the woman was dressed like a fairy, I realised that they were making beautiful music. I wasn’t the only one. When they finished I started clapping, and when I looked behind me I saw that a bunch of other people had come to listen to them. They were clapping as enthusiastically as I was. That’s why I love Berlin. It is the kind of place where anything could happen.
After Totte and I walked the length of the wall, which they call “The East Side Gallery,” we ate some sushi for dinner and went home. Next stop: Munich!
Note: I did some research and discovered the band I saw was called Tribal Baroque. I’m can’t stress enough how amazing they sound. They have a music video of the song I saw being perfomed. Check it out:
Some weeks of memorable anniversaries for me start today. Three years ago on November 1 I posted my first entry to Two Passports. That entry was in anticipation of an event that I celebrate the third anniversary of on the 14th of November, the day I became an expatriate.
Finally, today is my birthday. I turn 27. Twenty-Seven is the twilight of my twenties, when the term “late twenties” can be said with ever-increasing accuracy and, notably, when a whole boatload of famous people have joined “The 27 Club” (aka died).
Amy Winehouse, Curt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and many other musicians never made it past 27, and I can see why. There’s a sense of invincibility that comes with being 27. My confidence in myself has increased so much — I look at some of the posts I made on Two Passports and can hardly recognise the guy writing them. He’s so unsure of himself, of his direction in life and what other people are thinking of him. Fast forward three years. While I don’t have much more of an idea of where I’ll be in three years as I did when I wrote those first blog entries, I’ve come to terms with living in the moment and enjoying this amazing opportunity to live abroad while it’s available to me.
In my early twenties everything was tentative. I wasn’t an expat, I was “living abroad,” a term that implies a finite end date. I wasn’t working as a video editor at one of the world’s leading ad agencies, I was “just” working an internship and hoping for something more. I wasn’t working a dream job in an industry where jobs were almost impossible to come by, I was “only” working in a contracted position at one America’s top newspapers. A side-effect of my early twenties was to temper expectations, to cut myself down before people had a chance to judge me for themselves.
Well, no more at 27 years of age. I’ve got the confidence in myself without the stigma or responsibility of old(er) age. For those members of The 27 Club, that confidence enabled their depression of drug addiction. God-willing I won’t follow the same path, but today, twenty-seven is sounding alright to me.
I’m the guy who got into arguments with friends in college who said they wouldn’t vote. I chastised a classmate of my when I was first studying abroad in Ireland in 2006 for failing to obtain an absentee ballot. I worked on GOTV (Get Out the Vote) campaigns in 2004. I believed (and still do) that voting is not just a right but a responsibility every American has a moral duty to fulfil.
But this year, I can’t bring myself to vote in the American presidential election.
Even though I’ve lived abroad for nearly three years, I’ve continued to read more American media than most of my friends back home. I’ve followed this ridiculous election cycle/bad reality show for its two year existence, and I’ve listened with increasing disbelief and candidates argue against concepts so central to European life that it gets translated into garbled, white noise. “Does not compute,” my brain seems to tell me as I hear Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan argue not how a government should provide basic healthcare to its people, but whether it should at all.
They talk about reducing the burden on college students by making student loans more readily available, as if adding more student debt is a solution to a country where I can emerge from university with thirty-freaking-thousand dollars in debt (payments starting six months from the day I graduated, regardless of my ability to pay). Remember, the UK was a place where students rioted and attacked Prince Charles and Camilla’s car over a tuition increase that would increase tuition to $14,500 (that’s in US dollars. the average US tuition rate is $21,500 for public, $42,000 for private universities).
The presidential candidates argue over not just abortion, but whether birth control can should be included in government healthcare plans when Viagra long since has been.
They talk about gay marriage as if it’s not a forgone conclusion that every person should be free to make whichever choice they’d like regarding whom they would marry.
And although I’m inclined to cast a vote for President Obama due to our similar policy positions, the fact that he entertains the debate instead of brushing off these counter-arguments like the Crazy-Homeless-Person-Shouting-in-the-Street arguments they are is insane to me.
I don’t actually think he should brush off those arguments, speaking from a political perspective — but I find myself increasingly removed from the society that allows these debates to continue.
That’s why I’ve come to the conclusion I can’t vote this year. I’m too far removed from the the country that is staging this election. I moved out of America before President Obama had finished his first year in office. I’m no longer a resident of the United States of America.
It’s where I’m from.
It’s what I sound like.
It’s informed much of the person I am today.
But it’s not where I am now, and hearing debates over issues that are so far from European culture has made me realise I don’t want to be part of the machine this election cycle. It would be far more appopriate for me to vote in a U.K. election.
If only doing so wouldn’t threaten my the status of my U.S. citizenship.
Me with my new friend. The sign on his neck reads:
“”Hi, my name is Totte. I come from Sweeden. I live in the south of Sweden, close to Malmö.
I want to travel around Europe and visit many countries and cities.
Please sent the class in Sweden, who is taking care of me, photos and messages from the places I visit. Send them to our teacher: [email address]. Thank you!
I want to be back in Sweden next Spring (2013) so I can tell all the pupils in my class about my trip. I hope you will help me! Class 5c [name and address of a Swedish school]“
Email sent 28 September 2012:
Hello Class 5 c in Hjärups!
My name is John, and last night I had the pleasure of meeting your friend Totte. I was checking into a hostel in Amsterdam when I found him sitting at reception with a sign saying “Please take me!” From the note around Totte’s neck and the look in his eyes, I can tell he wants to see the world, so I’ve decided to take him with me for a few weeks. It’s a good thing we found one another, because I was just thinking about how I needed a travel partner.
Today, Totte has been helping me at work. For work, I’m a European tour guide. I bring groups of Australians through thirty-three cities in nine countries in Europe. Totte is helping me today bring a group of people from Amsterdam to Berlin, where we’re going to have two days of free time to explore places like the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag (where Germany’s government lives) and Berlin’s famous TV Tower. We will try and take some photos of our travels. After that we will head to Munich for Oktoberfest, a big festival where Germans drink from very big glasses and eat lots of meat. After that we will spend some time in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic before we take a holiday to Morocco — that’s in Africa. There we will ride camels through the Sahara Desert. After that I will return with Totte to London, where I will have to introduce him to a new travel partner.
So far, Totte seems okay with this plan, but I wanted to make sure it was okay with you kids. Would it be alright with you if I keep Totte through November on my trip to Morocco?
Thanks for the new friend, and a happy Friday to you all.
P.S. Here’s a picture of Totte and me, hard at work.
The beer in my hand is a prop. Not for drinking (although I will take the occasional swig), but for showing that I’m a wild and crazy guy, always up for the BIGGEST. NIGHT. EVER.
I’m now concluding what has been the strangest two working months of my life. For the last 58 days I have been circling the Cycladic Islands of Greece leading groups of mostly young, mostly Australian tourists on their holiday. I have drunk more alcohol in this time than I previously had in at least a year. Every day on every island at every bar, I run into a bartender who I haven’t seen me in 11 days (the tour is 9 days long with two days in between for admin work and rest). Every time, they want to celebrate my return by getting me drunk. Make no mistake — this is not simply a friendly exchange. As a guide of 40 young Australians who are here to party, I am the holder of the money hose. Whatever bar, restaurant, gyros shop or souvenir stand I bring my group to, I make that business owner’s night. Me leading my group to a bar can mean the difference of hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars.
In Mykonos, the island that plays host to world-famous DJs at clubs with overpriced drinks and €35 entry fees, I’ve collected over €1,000 in cash from my group to hand to a bouncer — that’s before anyone buys a single drink. At each bar my first job is to grab a tray full of shots to hand them out to my passengers — “Hey guys, I bought you shots!” And thus continues my 58 BIGGEST. NIGHTS. EVER. Even though I’m coughing up a lung, losing my voice and haven’t had a full night’s sleep in ages, every night people in my group will ask me, “Is it going to be a big one tonight?!
“Hell yes it is!” I reply. To say anything otherwise would put a pin on that money hose I’m carrying.
This sort of thing can be draining, so it’s nice to have familiar faces on the island. On every island every bartender, bouncer and bar owner knows me by name — many have my phone number. I’m ashamed to say I only have been able to remember about a third of theirs. They greet me when I walk into the bar, “JOHN!” I high five, hug and do a shot of Jäger with them. Jägermeister is the cultural currency on this island. If one of the bartenders at these clubs sees me at the bar for more than 30 seconds, they won’t ask, they’ll simply deliver two shots of Jäger, one for me and one for them, hence the prop beer — having a Corona in my hand at all times always makes it appear that I’m drinking — even if I haven’t taken a sip in 30 minutes.
Let me not present the impression of purity, though. I have been incredibly drunk on some nights out. On one night I bring my group to no less than eight bars. While my group is drinking at Bar A, I duck out and give Bar B a heads up that I’m going to bring them 40 people in 20 minutes. That’s a bit of guide etiquette I’ve learned — bartender etiquette is to have a shot with me before I return to my group. Once I bring my group to Bar B, I’m welcomed with another shot. Add that to the beer that is ever-present in my hand, and I’ve had a few sloppy nights. I’ve mostly learned now when to curb my drinking so I can still be in control of my group, but when I’m repeating the process for Bars C, D, E, F, G and H — let’s just say that by 5 am I’m sometimes squinting just to get my eyes to focus on my phone to check the time.
With all this mixing of work and play, it’s good to have friends on the islands. I’ve gotten to know a lot of bar staff who are incredibly friendly to me. I imagine most of them are being sincere — but I’ll have no way of knowing. A job requirement for the travelers and tourists who get jobs at the bars in the Greek Islands is to be nice to me. Even the appearance of being unwelcoming to a tour guide like myself is enough to get any bartender a bollocking from the boss. On my first tour I asked a bartender in Ios for a drink and he charged me for it — an unusual occurrence for me, but I’m always ready pay for my drink; to do otherwise would be rude and ungrateful. A few minutes later the bartender called me back to the bar. “John, I’m so sorry,” he said while he handed me back my money. “I didn’t recognize you.” A few metres away the bar manager stood watching him with his arms crossed and a scowl on his face. The bartender had clearly just been yelled at — and all because he’d charged me for a drink. It would have been the first drink I paid for in weeks.
Given all this drinking, it was odd for me to find myself spending a rare night off with two coworkers in Athens having cocktails on the Hilton’s rooftop Galaxy Bar, overlooking the Acropolis. As we sat around, sipping old fashioneds, we savored the organic night out, one that didn’t need to be the BIGGEST. NIGHT. EVER. There was even a certain satisfaction in paying money for our drinks. Here no one knew us. There was no tit-for-tat, no money hose. We were just friends out for a drink and some conversation that didn’t include reciting the story of how we got the job as tour guide or pointing out where the nearest ATM was. How refreshing.
Amie, our family dog since I was 16, must be the dumbest dog on the face of the planet. She’s dumb in an adorable “aint that special” kind of way, but there’s no denying that she is D-U-M-B. Thanks to her Habsburgian underbite and her massively oversized tongue, she always has a bit of her tongue sticking out of her mouth. She licks the couch regularly, trying in vein to extract some sort of taste out of a piece of fabric she’s licked countless times before. Sometimes mid-lick she’ll seem to forget she’s licking anything and rest her head on the couch, tongue still draped over the couch cushion.
Thanks to my sister’s unnatural holding of the dog like a baby, She will sit not like a normal dog, but like a human — she’ll work her way into the corner of a couch, leaning against the backrest with her paws just hanging there and her legs spread apart. I’ll come into the room to see her sitting like a human with her tongue sticking out. “What?” her expression seems to ask me.
She has no idea how to share a bed. Before Amie we had Charlie, another boxer dog that I trained to sleep curled up in a ball at the bottom of my twin bed. Now when I go home I sleep in a double bed, yet somehow more space doesn’t mean more sleeping room. If I let Amie sleep on the bed I invariably wake up in the middle of the night grasping the sheets as I fall off the bed, pushed by a three-foot (one metre)-high dog that somehow finds the twin bed not big enough for the both of us.
She has the giddy excitement of a kid in a candy shop everytime I go to let her in from outside. She’ll run up to the door and spin in circle at an alarming pace. She’ll look at me, look and the door, then jump in a circle two or three times and repeat. It never fails to crack me up. Even at nine years old, she has the energy of a puppy, running around exploring everything she can. Last year I strapped my camera to her back and captured this hilarious dogs-eye-view of her exploring.
Last week while talking with my parents I got the news: Amie died on Friday. The news came as abruptly to me as it appears in this blog. Apprently she had been having seizures and the vet recommended putting her down, which my parents had to do while my sister was as summer camp (working as a camp councillor) and I was in Athens (working as a tour guide).
Getting the news has thrown me into a headspin. When we got that dog my family was all living under the same roof. When I went to college, got my first job and later began traveling through Europe, I would always return to a few familiar things. My house. My parents. My sister. My dog. While my life has been ridiculously dynamic the home life has remained comfortingly static. But as much as I’d like time back home to pause while I go on my big adventure, it doesn’t. My parents get older, retire. My friends get promotions, wives and babies. The more I’m over here the most I’m missing over there. The next time I go home (whenever that is), it will be with one less familiar thing. I’ll miss having that dumb dog jumping around in circles to greet me. Here’s to you, Amie.
“Kathy Dorn has cancer.” My parents told me the bad news when we first met up on their European trip last year in Florence, Italy. While you may not know that name, Kathy Dorn has been a friend of my family’s for my entire life. She’s one of those acquaintances that is a great representation of small-town living: She’s someone you get to know incrementally through run-ins at the grocery store of high school football game. She’s even continued to read and occasionally comment on this blog (hi, Kathy!). She’s also in the process of writing one of the most beautiful end-of-life blogs I’ve read. You should probably read it, too.
“Uncle Malcolm is in the hospital.” Again my parents delivered bad news, this time over e-mail. If you’ve read this blog for long enough you’ll remember that Uncle Malcolm is my great uncle, the last living relative born in Ireland, and my father’s namesake. We’ve connected in the last five years and I got to chat with him on the phone his 88th birthday this year. He’s been recovering from a fall and has been in the hospital for quite some time now.
“Amie had a seizure,” my sister told me over Skype. Amie is our dog of nearly a decade who my dad found this week walking around the living room with symptoms of a stroke. Luckily, those symptoms seem to have gone away with time, but it was our first scare as the family dog entered her geriatric years.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the dynamic part of my life be isolated in my travels. My home life has remained blessedly static over the past two and a half years. Every time I return home, everything is pretty much how I left it. I suppose that’s why these reminders of mortality have such such an effect on me.
If you’ll allow me to butcher one of science’s most famous equations, Einstein theorized that time spent traveling at great speed was experienced differently than time spent at home, so if you travel around at light speed for seven years you’ll return home to find hundreds of earth years have passed. As I get dispatches about family, friends and pets from home I become more aware that even though I’m out here living my own adventure, life and time continue to go on back home whether I like it or not. Damn you, Einstein.
A brand of sandles or “thongs,” as they’re called down here. You’ll have a hard time convincing an Australian to wear shoes to begin with, but if there is something on their feet, it’s almost always a pair or “Havaianas” as the rest of the world knows them.
It was enough of a challenge for me to adjust to the metric system after leaving The States, but now I’ve had to relearn how to order a beer. In the UK, you ask for a pint and you get a pint. A half-pint gets you half that. Here you have to learn that schooner equals 485 milliliters of beer — unless you’re in South Australia, where it equals 285mL. Long story short, unless you’re in South Australia a pot is a half-pint and a schooner is in between a half-pint and a pint. Oh, and “schooner” is pronounced “SKOON-er.”
3. Short black/long black/long mac/short mac/flat white
I could write an entire entry on the incredibly specific terminology for coffee in this country, but here’s the breakdown:
If you’re American, a coffee is not what you think. They don’t do filter coffee here, so asking for a coffee gets you a latte by default. A short black is a shot of espresso. A short mac (or short macchiato) is a shot of espresso topped with a teaspoon of milk froth. A long mac is two shots of espresso topped with a teaspoon of milk froth. A long black is a close relative to an Americano. It’s a 50/50 mixture of hot water and two shots of espresso, poured so the crema is preserved on the top layer. A flat white is a latte minus the foam.
4. Iced coffee/Iced chocolate/Spider
Coffee shops also offer some interesting desserts. All these drinks are what I used to know as root beer floats, minus the root beer. An iced coffee is a scoop of ice cream floating in a mixture of espresso, milk and a spoonful of sugar topped with whipped cream. An iced chocolate is ice cream floating in chocolate milk topped with whipped cream. A spider is ice cream floating in “lemonade” spiked with a flavored cordial. (Note: Aussie lemonade is what I would call Sprite. Americans are the only ones I know of who are purists when it comes to lemonade. Lemonade here is a carbonated, slightly lemon flavored sugary drink.) Depending on the cordial, you will have a lime/rasperry/lemon/etc spider.
5. “Old mate”
This one had me stumped for a long time. Calling someone “old mate” is just a replacement for “that guy.” A lot of cultures have an equivalent for informally identifying an unfamiliar person. In Ireland it’s “your man/your wan” for a passing man or woman, respectively. Acceptable use: “Is your man/wan over there in line before us?” In Australia, “old mate” is incredibly broad and can apply to just about anyone. “Watch out for old mate over there, he looks shady.” “Old mate let me in the club without making me pay the cover charge.” “Old mate tipped well.”
6. Lemon Lime Bitters
One of my favorite things in Australia — a delicious summery drink enjoyed by just about everyone down here. It’s a squeeze of lime and lemonade (see above lemonade definition) topped with a slice of lemon and a few squirts of bitters. Ideally, is should be stirred so as to be partially mixed, but still preserve the red bitters-tinted upper layer and clear lemonade layer of the bottom.
Also known as board shorts, these are the only acceptable form of swimwear for men. They’re lightweight shorts that have no lining on the inside like the swim trunks I’m used to. No matter who I ask, I can’t seem to get a uniform answer from Aussies on if you’re supposed to wear anything under your boardies while swimming.
8. Footy/Soccer/American Football
Finally, a country that calls soccer “soccer.” The reason is Aussies have their only version of football called Aussie Rules Football or “footy” for short. The football I grew up with is reasonably popular to watch but needs the qualifier “American football” so as not to cause confusion.
9. Hook turns
Melbournians are fiercely proud of their tram system. It’s their trump card for anyone who claims Sydney is better than Melbourne. The problem with the trams is it complicates some busy intersections in central Melbourne. See, the trams share the road with the cars, so in the downtown area where things can get congested, a car waiting to turn right at a traffic signal would keep the trams waiting for ages (remember, traffic drives on the left side of the road in Australia). Since authorities don’t want cars waiting to cross the line of traffic to hold up the trams, they paint a parking space on the very far side of the intersection. In order to take a right, you have to pull into a painted box on the very left side of the intersection. You wait there until the light is juuuuust about to turn red, then perform your hook turn, scurrying across 4+ lanes of traffic in the few seconds before the light turns red and you’re hit by cars going in the other direction. It’s very confusing.
10. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha (Kookaburra call)
Okay, so this isn’t a word, but you can’t be in anywhere in rural Australia without hearing the constant white noise of the loudest bird call you’ll ever hear in your life.