The difference between my life in Beverly Hills America & inner City Sydney Australia
The second instalment in my series in the differences between America & Australia (Americans & Australians) was spurred on by a recent end-of-year sleepover. With five teenage boys in the house the breakfast request was for pancakes.
“Damn, I don’t have eggs,” I said.
Enter the concept of the Corner Store or Milk Bars.
In Australia …
I would have sent the boys on their bikes or skateboards down the local corner shop to get said eggs. The boys would have got dressed and practically run out the door.
“Don’t forget to take the dog,” I’d yell at them, at which they’d promptly run back, grab the dog and the lead and continue racing out the door.
Sometime later they’d come home with eggs (and anything else I’d requested) and a treat for themselves. As payment. Works for them, works for me.
In America …
We live in the hills of Beverly Hills—down one hill is Beverly Hills “flats” (think the mansions and palm trees) and down the other hills is the “posh” part of the Valley, Sherman Oaks.
To “rush out” just to get eggs I need to hop in the car. (Yes it’s LA, everyone drives everywhere.) There’s no corner store to walk to. I have to go down one of my two hills to the closest “market” (which makes it sound really glamorous but it’s really just American for supermarket).
It’s not too bad, a drive down the hill to Sherman Oaks is around 10 minutes (out of traffic). Except couple that with the fact that you have to park, go in, get the eggs (it’s a big supermarket and the eggs are in the far back corner—good to know if you’re in Ralph’s Sherman Oaks and all you need is eggs), get back in the car and head back up the hill. That’s 30 minutes of my life I can’t get back all because I don’t have enough eggs. Yes, yes, I know I could have given them something else but it’s the holidays and they worked really hard to stay up all night what’s a sleepover without pancakes for breakfast???
I hate the fact that there is no corner store or local “market”. We had one at our local shopping centre it closed down now long after we got here. And even then I can’t send the kids there to go on their bikes, I still have to drive.
Flashback to Shanghai
In Shanghai our apartment was across the road from the international supermarket, CitiShop. The kids were a little too young to send over at the start but towards the end they could go themselves. Plus I didn’t have to get in my car and they had all the treats (like Tim Tams) I needed if I was feeling homesick. I just couldn’t look at the price.
I may be greeted with a smile and helpful “checkout chicks” here in the US but the kids going to the corner shop for me. Priceless.
Some years later I’m reminded of this post as I stumbled upon an article a friend emailed me. It was from the NY Times where the author gets nostalgic about the long-lost Milk Bar (as it’s known in Melbourne). It makes me so sad to see this “progress”. What cheers me up though is that our friends’ corner shop in Lilyfield is still alive and kicking. It’s one of the first places our kids visit when they go home and my girlfriend is still sending people to “Ramsay’s” to pick up bread, milk, eggs or fresh produce. Long live Ramsay’s!
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t ‘fess up to the fact that our corner store shut down shop since we left home. BUT there is another shop a little further down the road I can still send the kids to AND there’s a new mini Grocer (IGA) that’s opened close by that I can also send the kids to. Do yourselves a favour and support the local corner store, before you need to hop in the car to get bread and milk. Or eggs, don’t forget the eggs.
I’m back from my amazing Aussie holiday that went by so (too) quickly.
I had so many ideas for my first Blog post back and like I often do have written some great lines in my head.
But alas now that I sit down to write all I can think of is how amazing our holiday was and how Australian life suits us so well. Not so long ago I would have used the phrase, “… how we love Australian life so much better.”
Is Australia better?
And I probably would have gone into a spiel to say how weird America is. (Shoot me down now American friends). But I’ve grown up now and I can use mature, experienced Expat words—I call that experience rather than being politically correct because let’s face it that’s exactly what it sounds like I’m being (politically correct). (Oh, and I don’t really think Americans … ahem America … are/is weird!).
It was interesting going back and even more interesting that we all just stepped back into our lives like we had never left. My daughter spent the day at school–including an early start for tennis training at 7am and my son competed in a swim meet for his old school. It doesn’t get much better than that.
While we were in Australia we caught up with a teacher from the kids’ school who has recently moved from LA to Sydney. She’s a good 10 months behind me in time so she’s in the hard stages of change. I’m sure a good portion of the time we’d rather be in each other’s shoes. It got me thinking of the concept of home:
You love home and never really looked to move anywhere else no matter how divine your new destination is.
Because you love home all the familiar sights, sounds and smells of home play a big part in making you who you are. Everything else—especially when it’s actually so different but there’s absolutely no reason it should be (like Australian and the US)—is “weird”.
Weird is a matter of perspective
It’s not about which city is better or that the new city you’re in is “weird” it’s just that home is home. And your newly adopted city isn’t (quite yet). And, by the way, neither of us should get defensive when we say weird because it’s weird as in different-to-us-and-I-don’t-get-it not weird as in you’re-a-freak weird. There’s a difference.
I have many friends that live in Australia that wouldn’t move out of their suburb let alone move overseas. I also have many friends that have spent—and enjoyed—their time overseas they almost think Australia is too small for them. I fall into neither of those categories.
You know before I left for this holiday I was talking about settling down here and how good it would be to buy a house. I thought it would settle us. Now I’m not so sure.
The day after we arrived I went to the supermarket for milk, bread, fruit & vegetables. I remember when we lived in Shanghai and I’d go to the supermarket after a holiday it would drive me mental. With a capital M. It was difficult to navigate around and everything is in Chinese so it would remind me how hard something so easy could be. Then I’d get accosted in the supermarket isles by sales agents wanting to direct me to their washing powder or their mop that I’d run for cover, race home and text my friends to say wine o’clock is starting early today.
The newspaper and magazine section of my local Carrefour, Shanghai, China, 2009
Thankfully grocery shopping isn’t that hard in America. I was safely minding my own business when I got to the checkout and started unpacking my shopping trolley. A lady came behind me and blurts out, “Is there another aisle open?” I looked at her. She says, almost to herself, “Well you have to ask”. I looked at her again, careful not to stare and show exactly what I was thinking.
I bit my tongue. There are very few people that would say that in Australia—and the queues are often much longer. I felt like saying to her, “chill love, by the time you’ve unloaded your trolley they’ll be ready to check you out.” Honestly, seriously, by the time someone opens another checkout, they log in and she moves she’d be better off staying where she is. But she doesn’t want—like—to wait. I find that weird. Someone who’s moved to Australia from the US might find it weird that we wait. In silence.
I get that the service is better in the US. I love that the service is better in the US. When we checked through Coles Burwood last week in Australia (stocking up on our Aussie treats) my husband and I looked at each other and said, “It’s not quite Ralph’s service with a smile and a chat is it?” But seriously … still weird. Chillax chick.
Top five questions I was asked when we were home
Not that I’m one to dwell but was good to get a home fix. Especially when we were so acclimated that we were on such a high point here in LA we didn’t really need to go back to Australia for a visit. So aside from my close friends and the “how are you going?” question there are lot of different things people wanted to know about life in LA. Here are my favourite questions (and answers).
1.Who has been the best celebrity you’ve seen and what were they doing?
I initially answered with JLo but my friend wasn’t interested in her. Bette Midler? Joan Collins? Yes, much better responses. I saw Bette at my favourite West Hollywood restaurant and Joan Collins having lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel by the way. Joan Collins is forever classy. (Still think my favourite spot to date is the very yummy Joshua Jackson aka Pacey from Dawson’s Creek).
2. Have you seen any celebrities? Do you go to school with any celebrities? What are they like?
Ummm, yes. Lots. It helps that (yes) there are plenty at school but they’re just normal people doing normal things like attending school functions and back-to-school nights. Except the Kardashians but I haven’t seen them around (even though Kim & Kanye used to live just up the road from us).
3. What are the people like?
It’s pretty much the same as being at home: there are people you like and people not so much. Like at home there are people who are extremely egocentric and others who are very kind and considerate.
There is a paranoia that exists here more than at home and I have to say that I feel like we should be more paranoid at home and the Americans (especially around here) less so.
Then: have they all had lots of work done?
We noticed it when we first arrived then we just got used to it. Then we noticed it more when we got back to Australia (the lack of work) and again since we’ve come home. Funny. So … yes.
4. How long do we need in Disneyland?
As little as you can. Seriously. The happiest place on earth is wonderful … until it all starts to go pear shaped and then you need to exit stage left IMMEDIATELY. The problem is it’s very hard to judge when the right time is to leave so be prepared for pear-shaped.
5. Are you ever coming home?
Three funny things I noticed being back in Australia
It’s interesting being away for some 15 months then coming back again. It’s more interesting the things you notice that you didn’t before.
1. We talk funny.
At least we use very different phrasing (non Australians might in fact say “weird”). We were on the Virgin Australia flight up to Hamilton Island and the hostie was taking drinks orders. “Too easy” was her response. I laughed out loud. I hadn’t heard that in a long time. What does that even mean to an outsider? Only in Australia.
2. We don’t stop drinking.
That’s right, hard to believe? The day we arrived we got to my girlfriend’s house where we were staying and settled in with a few bottles of wine. We had friends stop in and go and stop in and go; it was so lovely and informal. By about 6:00 in the early evening we were still going and no one even considered we’d be stopping. Ah love an Australian drinking afternoon. So informal and I didn’t even have to stop. How good is it to be home?
3. We walk everywhere.
It was our last day and I had a couple of jobs to do: drop some stuff off to an artist friend, deposit some cheques and a last-minute dash to the supermarket. What struck me when we were driving around was the number of people walking everywhere. Not parking and walking but actually walking; like from point A to point B. (I know LA readers, I know; breathe).
Admittedly I live in the inner suburbs of Sydney and that essentially means our houses are in walking distance of the nearest pub/bank/post office/coffee shop and other conveniences that it’s really easy to walk.
My kids went to the corner shop more times than we could count just because they could–one there actually is a corner shop and two because they had the freedom to go that they’d missed so much here in LA. They even cycled to get their fish & chips for dinner. Love, love, love the freedom and independence Australia allows them.
Walking is a sport here in LA not a pastime so there are barely any footpaths let alone people walking. It’s funny what you notice when you’ve been away.
It is good to be home
Alas I’m home. I’m re-adjusting to LA life and I do love it here. I went to the doctor this morning to follow up on my yearly checkup. Sit down Australians he actually took my pulse and listened to me take deep breaths. He actually spent some time with me and cared to follow up my results.
I said that I could neither think Australia is too small for me or could see myself living anywhere but Australia. I am so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given first as an “Expat brat” living in the Philippines and now as a “trailing spouse” (revolting term but can’t be bothered coming up with something sexy at the moment) in Shanghai and LA.
The first-world problem that arises out of the scenario from my perspective though is that I will always want the best of all worlds. Sadly there’s no such thing as a perfect world so I’ll just have to pull my head in and be thankful I’m getting the chance to experience life from many different angles.
Enjoy your weekends,
xx It Started in LA xx
PS: Happy birthday to my gorgeous friend Kristen Long who was the reason for our return trip and thanks to all our friends (old & new) for making our trip ah-may-zing!