A friend in Melbourne has just had a bonny new baby so on Monday I took a little stroll to the post office. (Or Post Shop as it says on the sign, in a way that still amuses me.)
“I’d like a first class stamp for domestic post please,” says I, in a plummy English accent with a faint hint of an Aussie rise at the end of the sentence. (A habit I’ve no doubt developed from mimicking my husband.)
The Post Shop man contemplates me from above his spectacles.
“There’s one thing you need to learn darl.” (He probably didn’t say darl but I thought it would be nice to add it in for this reenactment. Adds colour, you know?) “In Australia we are a classless society.”
He stares at me very seriously, long enough for it to be awkward.
“Good joke, bro,” I’m thinking, “But where’s my stamp?”
Still he says nothing and still I have no stamp. Eventually he breaks away from my expectant gaze.
“Where’s it going?” he asks.
“Victoria,” I say. And then he flings me a stamp and sends me on my way.
Outside the Post Shop I stare at what I now know is a standard Aussie stamp. Boring story Jayne, you might be thinking, but the thing is I must have bought at least 20 ‘first class’ stamps since moving to Oz. It’s been 2 years and this is the first time someone bothered to tell me they do not exist.
This enlightening experience has been playing on my mind ever since.
For a Brit living in Oz the culture shock/adjustments are pretty minimal. Sure, the back-to-front seasons still trip me up. (The other day I was in the supermarket, wrapped in my winter layers, feeling a bit miserable about the cold, so I told myself, ‘cheer up it’s nearly Christmas.’ Then I remembered it was July. I got really sad and homesick for trifle.)
But I am slowly learning that cafes close at 3pm, a hotel is sometimes just a pub and even though I crave sandwiches from Pret and anything from M&S on a daily basis at least I can get avo and sea salt on sourdough on every corner.
Basically, for first time in a long while I was reminded that this isn’t my home country. It was reminder that I still have lots to learn about living in Sydney and the culture, quirks and customs of Aussies. But most of all I was reminded that being an expat still excites me. I got a little thrill out of learning something new about life in this sunburned country, and all it took was a visit to the post office!