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Expat in LA

Los Angelinos love to talk routes | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Differences between America & Australia, My LA story, Posts

Los Angelinos love to talk routes

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Los Angelinos love to ...

Los Angelinos love to talk “routes”

Routes.  Better known to us Aussies as which way to go.

We call them “roots” they call them “rowtes” (row as in argument not what you do in a boat).  However you say it Los Angelinos love to talk about it.  It starts every conversation when you meet up somewhere, and it will be the last conversation you will have when you part ways.

“Which way are you going…?”

“Which way did you come…?”

“Did you take the 405…?”

“Which way should we go, the 101 is busy at this time of day, is it quicker to use the side streets?”

Even recently, when an Australian friend was talking about which way her friends were going on the way from the airport to her place, she said this:

“From LAX they took the 105 to the 10 to the 101….”  Only at the end did she say “they went via Downtown.”

The sad part about that is not that she just didn’t say, “yeah, they went via Downtown,” it’s that I actually could picture the “route” (said with an American pronunciation if you will) they took.

One time when I hadn’t been here too long and went off to Disneyland for the first time my friend said, “Let me send you the best way to get down there.”

405S
105E
605S
91E
5S
Disneyland exit.

“Don’t I just plug it in my GPS and follow?”

Which way you go is a sport in LA.

And now it’s fuelled by apps like Waze (pronounced ways) that will tell you the “fastest” way to get to a given destination.

Waze has fuelled the discussion even more making it an extreme sport.

“Did you check Waze?”

“What does your Waze say?”

And Waze has a lot to answer for in the back streets of LA.  I’m too lazy and selfish to suck up my phone’s battery to use Waze.  My GPS will be just fine.  But I have to confess I’m getting suckered into the “Which route …?” discussion too.

Gotta love LA.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

My LA story, Posts

Los Angelinos love to … Hike!

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Los Angelinos love to ...

The first (or last!) in a series of what Los Angelinos love to do. And the very top of the list is that people in LA are obsessed with hiking. Yep, Los Angelinos love to … hike!

At first I didn’t really get what all the fuss is about but now I’m starting to get the picture.

Thanks to Google, Pinterest and earnest Bloggers I found a few links to LA Hikes. I had pinned this article a while back and as a good “gunna” (aka going to but never do) person that’s where it stopped. Until now.

I don’t think you can hike alone and when fate hooked me up with a fellow Aussie at an ANZAC Day function we decided to check out LA’s hiking scene and see what all the fuss is about.  The goal is for us to do a different hike each week.

If you live in LA—or if you’re just visiting—I’m going to share my quick two-cent’s worth about each hike we’ve done as well as a link so you too can do the “LA thing”.

Hike 1/Week 1.  Runyon Canyon

Billed as the “Celebrity hike” I haven’t seen one in my two times (!) I’ve been. When you’ve come from Australia & your morning walk/run was around the Bay in Leichhardt/Five Dock/Haberfield hiking along a dirt track with the possibility of coming face to face with a rattlesnake takes a bit of getting used to (yes, it’s a bit of a come down).

 

See that hill? I hiked that today yes I did! #greeceready #itstartedinla #myreality #runyoncanyon #4k20s #sola #hiking

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Having said that it’s a decent hike and the fact that you’re essentially walking down the hill from Mulholland Drive down the Hollywood is still pretty cool.

Good for: dogs (there are heaps that go hiking too!)

Watch out for: parking police—parking can be hard but be read the signposts carefully.

Address:
(the bottom end) Runyon Canyon Park, 2000 North Fuller Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046

(the top end) the 7300-block of Mulholland Drive, Hollywood Hills

Detailed information from someone that puts their heart and soul into Blogging about hiking in more descriptive detail:
http://www.modernhiker.com/2007/08/16/hiking-runyon-canyon/

 

Hike 2/Week 2.  Tree People

The second week we ventured a little closer to my place and not far from Runyon Canyon.  Also a spot I discovered via the Celeb Spotting pages, Tree People is off Coldwater Canyon & Mulholland Drive. Like Runyon Canyon is from Mulholland to Hollywood, Tree People takes you down to the Valley into the Laurel Canyon area.

It’s a little greener than Runyon Canyon, and probably not quite as good on the people watching but it’s a pretty good hike nonetheless. Once you know which track to take!

Address:
Coldwater Canyon Park, 12601 Mulholland Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Parking can be tough, especially at busy times so beware.

Detailed information from someone that puts their heart and soul into Blogging about hiking in more descriptive detail:
http://www.modernhiker.com/2009/02/09/hiking-fryman-canyon/

 

Hike 3/Week 3.  Franklin Canyon

Once I discovered I could enter via Mulholland Drive (opposite Tree People) rather than drive all the way around into Beverly Hills then up again I was much happier. This is a gorgeous place to hike—easy to park (during the week), lots of options to hike and some great spots that make you feel you’re in the middle of the bush when you’re actually in the heart of Beverly Hills.

There is water in Beverly Hills

There is water in Beverly Hills

 

There are several hikes here and we only did one of them so I’m looking forward to coming back to do more.

Address: 2600 Franklin Canyon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Also great for dogs.

Watch out for: Yogi-Bear like stop sign cameras. When it says there is a camera, they mean there’s a camera and you’ll get a ticket in the mail. They’re also serious about the sign that says you better be out of there beyond sunset—I know because I met a girl who had to front up with a “please explain” what she was doing there beyond this time (her answer: trying to leave!).

Smarter than your average bear! When the sign says they're "photo enforced" it means they're "photo enforced!"

Smarter than your average bear! When the sign says they’re “photo enforced” it means they’re “photo enforced!”

 

Detailed information from someone that puts their heart and soul into Blogging about hiking in more descriptive detail:
http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/franklin-canyon-park-hastain-trail/

http://www.modernhiker.com/2012/10/12/hiking-franklin-canyon-reservoir-loop/

 

Hike 4/Week 4.  Caballero Canyon Trailhead Santa Monica Mountain Reserve

It might be week four but I wasn’t ready for this one. This was a beauty—or at least the trail we chose (a steep climb to the top) was bloody hard.

Hiking LA style #H2ED #myreality #itstartedinla #greeceready #la #90210 #bloodyhard

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While we were troopers and did it (minus a little incident that we won’t talk about in this forum) there were a number of very fit people who do that trail quite a bit.

When we nearly got to the top we thought we should head back down again. We bumped into a couple of “old-timers” who warned us against going back down the steep trail again but continuing on and following the loop as it was a much more gently decent.

It was great advice but when they told us it was just ‘around the corner’ don’t believe them. That and “the bench” which would be our marker to descend down the gentle decline. Everyone we asked kept telling us we’d see the bench but that bench was a long time coming. Clearly they were walking a lot quicker than we were. (If you click on the link from the Blog below you’ll see plenty of pics of that infamous bench).

All in all a good hike.

Address: Reseda Boulevard, Tarzana (start is just near Braemar Country Club).

Tips: Take plenty of water to hydrate & be on the lookout for mountainbikers hooning down the track.

Detailed information from someone that puts their heart and soul into Blogging about hiking in more descriptive detail:
http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/caballero-canyon-hike-tarzana/

So that’s four hikes so far.

This week’s hike: The Fire Trail on Mulholland Drive.  Keep coming back for a quick run-down and links to future hikes.

For more inspiration I’m also looking to cross a few of these off my list:

http://www.modernhiker.com/la-hiking/
http://www.modernhiker.com/la-hiking/5-best-l-a-hikes-for-beginners/
http://la.curbed.com/archives/2014/07/6_los_angeles_hikes_with_spectacular_endings.phphttp://www.hikespeak.com/los-angeles/

 

Happy Hiking—and be sure to have a cold drink (preferably a cold beer or glass of wine/cocktail) ready after you’ve done the hard yards!

 

xx It Started in LA xx

Celebrity, My LA story, Posts

A normal end to the school year–with a twist of 90210

Like everyone in my neck of the woods, with school finishing in the middle of the year rather than the end, it’s busy, busy, busy. There are fairs, thank-you breakfasts, end-of-year events and of course big assignments and exams to study for.

Last weekend we had the Annual Fair, which was moved from the school grounds to a private party on Santa Monica Pier. Each school we’ve been to (with the kids) has had a Fair/Fiesta/Fete of some kind. They’ve all been good but last year we (I) was so shell-shocked laughing at the fact that my kids are having their fair on the Santa Monica Pier.

I never expected to be ever going back to LA let alone living here let alone having a private party on the blessed (pronounced bless-ed in place of a swear-word) Pier. This year we’re so LA that we’ve taken it all in our stride. Somewhat.

Cut back to my son’s school in Australia and the boys had to rock up to the Fiesta in full school uniform. While I can hear most of you that aren’t used to this thinking “WTF?” I can assure you it comes in very handy for three things:

  • Finding your son in a crowd
  • The girls finding a potential boyfriend in the crowd
  • Keeping the boys out of trouble—and if they choose to get into trouble they’re easily identified!

His Fair was fantastic. I love the excuse to hang out with my friends (may or may not sneak in a bottle of wine) and see the kids having a great time in the safety and security of the school grounds. Equally I love the scantily clothed girls hunting in packs checking out the talent—so easy to spot those strapping boys in their school uniforms. Such is the joy of single-sex schools and the lengths they’ll go to for the opportunity to meet someone of the opposite sex (yes, I am exaggerating).

My favourite thing about the Fair would have to be the silent auction. A lot of work would go into each class donating goods & services and we’d package them all up into enticing hampers. I would spend a considerable amount of time weighing up those hampers—what was in them, whether I was getting a bargain and whether or not I could use any of the contents as Christmas pressies. I was (not surprisingly) attracted by the alcohol hampers and scored many a bargain. At the end of the day I’d walk out with us all juggling a number of hampers trying to avoid doing more trips than we needed to.

I do love a 90210 silent auction though. On offer were things like Ellen tickets, tickets to the LA Kings, LA Lakers & Clippers, tickets to the American Idol final, Teen Choice Awards, lunch with Halle Berry and the opportunity to hang out with her on set and have lunch, and meet Steven Spielberg. By far the most popular prize was the chance for 12 kids to play basketball with legendary Clippers basketballer Chris Paul.  There were so many, many more amazing prizes it was hard for me to decide where to concentrate my focus.

I did very well this year. Instead of going home juggling several hampers I went home with an envelope with gift certificates and a Bass Guitar. Did I happen to mention that the guitar was Duff McKagan’s from Guns n Roses? No? Yes, as a matter of fact it’s true.

Proud owner of Duff McKagan's bass #myreality #itstartedinla #gunsnroses

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My gift certificates were for four tickets to see Rod Stewart in Vegas (as well as a photo opp & Meet & Greet—which seems really silly seeing as I’ve already met him and didn’t have to pay for the privilege but at least this way I get to take a few guilt-free selfies). That wasn’t all, four tickets to see Britney Spears and two night’s accommodation including F&B credit and Spa credit. Score. Yep, quite the haul indeed.

I say that we’re taking Fairs on Santa Monica Pier in our stride, we are, somewhat.  But we do have to stop and pinch ourselves and shrug our shoulders and think how on earth did we land here?  Seriously, the chance to bid on amazing experiences and events that simply aren’t available to everyone—especially for most people who live outside our bubble is not something we should ever take for granted.

“That” moment for us the other night was seeing the one and only Sandra Bullock just hanging out like a normal person (yep, new bestie material). For my son that moment was when he was on the Rollercoaster with her. Only in LA could you be riding a rollercoaster on Santa Monica Pier with Sandra Bullock. Hashtag Living the Dream.

The Californian High School Swim Season

I have to say I love how swimming is done here in the US. While I love, love, love the atmosphere, school spirit and passion that goes into swimming at my kids’ schools in Australia (especially the private boys schools) I’m forced to reflect that it’s somewhat elite. And in a strange way, it’s College level here.

Back home in Australia my son had to qualify to be in the swim team where they would compete in one bigger-than-Ben-Hur event. There are a lot of fast swimmers in my son’s school—most of whom qualify to compete at state level—and his times may or may not earn him a place on the team.

Here in the US my son had a swim meet each week, a tri-comp where three schools competed in individual events and relays. The events were broken up into girls and boys, Junior Varsity and Varsity. Everyone got to participate and compete on his or her level. They got to win, lose and get disqualified. They also got the opportunity to qualify for the CIF (which is basically all the private and public schools in California) for a mega meet to finish off the league season.

My son made it to CIF and his relay team made it to the finals.  I got a kick out of lots of things–nothing more than eavesdropping all day on other parents’ conversations–but the main one was them playing the national anthem before the finals.  The Amercians’ reverence and patriotism is certainly one to be admired.

Hats off & hands on your heart for the National Anthem

Hats off & hands on your heart for the National Anthem

 

The atmosphere and venue are second to none in Australia, the competition fierce but we’ll take swimming US High School style where regular, seasonal competition for your school is available.

Having said that I do wish the meets were bigger and had more of the ra-ra style cheerleaders that I expected to find when we moved here. I guess that proves you can’t have it all.

Exams v Assignments

Assignments are big in Australia, exams not so much. That’s what makes it harder the older you get when you actually have to start sitting exams and you’re not used to it.

Cut back here to the US and generally all grades (in our “College Prep” school) from 6-12 sit exams. But this year there’s been a little shift, a gentle shift but a shift nonetheless.

That’s right shock horror a couple of the departments opted for a major assignment rather than an exam. I’m on the fence about this. I thought that our American experience would have them so used to exams if and when the time came to head back to the HSC (Higher School Certificate—which it is in NSW) they’d be experts and it wouldn’t be so daunting.

Alas my son in 9th Grade (a “Freshman”) has an exam for every subject except for English and my daughter in 7th Grade (she’s a “Middle Schooler” so she doesn’t have a fancy title) seems to be in the grade that they keep changing the rules for, she’s missing English and History. Last year she was supposed to start exams but they opted for only a couple of the subjects having exams. In the middle of the year she was also supposed to start exams but they opted for only exams at the end of the year. Wonder if this is the start of a trend?

So you see the end of our school year isn’t that much different to yours but it does have a 90210 twist. And that 90210 twist is what makes life that little bit exciting here.  It’s what makes the mundane bearable and the move worth it. I’m sure when we’re home in a few years we’ll look back on this time and not believe it was us.

Enjoy the rest of the week!

xx It Started in LA xx

 

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Expat tales, Posts

Two-year itch: Confessions of an Expat junkie

It’s true I’m an Expat junkie.  The only problem is I’m not that good at it.  Sure, I’m good at saying “yes” and jumping in boots and all, I’m even good at moving and making the transition.  But then reality starts to hit and I get really bad at it.

I want to be out “on the road” but then I want to be settled at home.

That’s why I haven’t written for a while…

All I seem to be doing these days is apologising. And the apology seems to be for the same thing: not writing enough. Blogging is like having a pen-pal—you’re all gung ho at first then it gets harder and harder to find time to write.

Well this time the reason I haven’t written is that I think I’ve lost my mojo. I hate being negative so like I tell the kids, “if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say it at all.” So radio silence.

Life in LA hasn’t been that bad it just hasn’t been that great. Truth be told it has nothing to do with LA and more to do with me.

Our two-year visa was nearly expired so we had to leave the US and reapply for new ones.

Another two years

There was no way we were going home after two years—after all the time it took us to get settled we need to stay at least another year.   We only lived in Shanghai for two years and we left there kicking and screaming so if we can stay then we definitely should try.

So we went back to Australia to re-apply for our visas.  I really didn’t want to go back to Australia—it was too soon. I wanted to go to see mum in Wales or check out Canada to get our visas but Mr H insisted we head home to Australia. I couldn’t argue with him: there are no holidays here at the end of year (once school starts back after summer) and we plan to travel during summer so this was the only chance we had to head home. So home we went.

I don’t know if I had it in my head that it would make me homesick but I just knew it would stuff me up. And it has damn it.

I wasn’t going to write about it. Then I thought I should. Then I didn’t know where to start. Have I really lost my way? Days and days doing everything I could to avoid blogging.

One foot in each continent

Imagine this. Get a map of the world. Here’s one.

There's a lot of land (& sea) between LA & Sydney depending on which way you look at it.

There’s a lot of land (& sea) between LA & Sydney depending on which way you look at it.

 

See there’s one pin on the US and one pin on Australia? Yep, that’s me: I’ve got one foot in each country. I’m trying to keep one foot in Sydney while trying to balance on the other foot in LA.

We agree we want to stay on and continue the adventure: Mr H is enjoying work and the kids are doing well at school; I even have a work permit now. But why can’t we let go of life in Sydney? Part of it is the fact that we moved for a new job in a different country that’s not really a posting: this is it. If we head back to Australia it’s resigning from Hollywood and securing a new job and staying there.

Your future’s where you might not necessarily want to be

We know our future is here—at least for the next few years—so why is it so hard to accept? Will our world come crashing down? I doubt it. Will we lose our friends back home? Hardly likely. Well then, why the doom and gloom and moping around? Why is it so hard?

Well we’re back to that problem of feeling unsettled—unsettled when we should totally be feeling settled. I’m not talking about feeling unsettled with friends but come back to the house—a home.

I’m a Cancerian so to feel like I’m not in my “own” house unnerves me. When we lived in Shanghai we knew we could be moved at any time, and we had the ‘expat’ package to make up for it—that and our fabulous apartment on the Bund right in the hustle and bustle of downtown Pudong, Shanghai (but close to creature expat comforts like the Shangri-la Hotel and City Shop).

But like I said we’re not about to get moved—unless we decide to move. Why did I feel more settled in Shanghai? Is it because we were in a salubrious apartment that was possibly the nicest place I am ever going to live in?  Is it because two years wasn’t long enough for us to feel unsettled?

Do you buy a house in your new country?

So that brings me back to buying a house here. It makes sense doesn’t it? It’s the great Australian dream—why pay someone else’s mortgage when you can pay off your own?

But buying a house isn’t really the problem. No, commitment is. Sure we’re committed to staying but actually using our (hoarded) money in Australia is a bigger step than I thought. Add to that the complication that taking that money out of Australia and moving it to the US means it’s not there to use to renovate our house before we head home. Uh-huh. That there is your problem.

Sounds like choices have to be made—buy a house here and feel settled or keep renting and use our money in Australia to eventually renovate our house (with plans and council approval waiting for us).   Reluctant to let go but wanting to establish some roots.

Yep, it sounds like I can’t have my cake and eat it too. Still I guess I am in LA—land of Kale & Quinoa—I shouldn’t be thinking about eating cake.

Will keep you posted but instead of feeling better, writing this post has just depressed me even more: I want to eat cake!

What does your Expat life look like? Are you on edge to see when/if you’ll be moved? Have you made the decision to move away like we have and are in limbo? Have you taken the bull by the horns and established yourself, bought your own home? Or are you somewhere in between your old home and your new one? I’d love to hear about it.

xx it Started in LA xx

Oh and by the way in case you’re a knight in shining armour or a mortgage broker who will let me use my Australian house as security deposit please get in touch with me, I’m really really worth it and I’ll be so so grateful ;-).

Ausmerican
My LA story, Posts

Perspective: an expat’s realisation

I had virtually written this week’s post.  I started writing it on the weekend because it had been a busy week so the content practically wrote itself.  And then Sunday night (Monday in Australia) happened.

On our way home from checking out Grinchmas at Universal Studios I was getting ready to post some pics on Facebook and Instagram and started seeing some disturbing posts.  The posts were confused initially but all saying that if you don’t have urgent work in the City you should turn back because a large part of the City near Martin Place was in lockdown and there was a siege going on.  In my hometown of Sydney.  What became more clear a couple of hours later was that someone had taken over a coffee shop in Martin Place—the Lindt Café—and was holding hostages.  The situation was being treated more seriously than a standard robbery and early speculation suggested terrorism.

American news covers America-only content

We raced home to put the TV on and see what was going on.  There was a mention on one of the local news channels and they concluded the short update with “we’re keeping an eye on the situation.”  I was so sure CNN would be covering it—it had all the ingredients of 24/7 rolling action.  Nothing.  Normal Sunday night programming which was a basically a magazine-style current affairs show rather than news.  Say what?

Naturally my first reaction was to take to Facebook to vent.  It seems there was online coverage but no TV news networks had picked up the story.  Thankfully we have a Samsung Smart TV and Channel 9 and ABC.net in Australia had live streaming (Channels 7 & 10 the other free-to-air stations streaming didn’t work “in our geography”).

I was really shocked that CNN decided it didn’t warrant rolling coverage.  (It did in Australia btw).  Or any other TV news network here.

I’m living in a country where a car chase stops programming and we all stop to watch it.  I’m also living in a country that itself lives in fear of terrorism so I thought they could hype up Sydney’s misfortune and bring in expert after expert to analyse how this event might impact the United States of ‘merica. We were glued to our TV all night and I had Twitter by my side; I slept on the couch and kept checking in to see if any progress had been made.

At 7am my husband woke me up and we turned on the American news.  It was on the news by now—clearly they realised the enormity of the situation—and had made many front pages around the US.

CNN had finally come to the party that the next morning (I’m not sure when it started its broadcast) and they were doing exactly what I’d expected them to do 12 hours earlier—analysing the situation.  Excellent, we have coverage.

I hopped on Twitter to see what was going on and there it was breaking news that more hostages had escaped.  But CNN hadn’t cut to it.  So it was back to online streaming because we wanted to follow the local news that did have a direct vested interest in covering the news as it was happening.  (Oh wait, isn’t that CNN’s tagline?).

That night once it was all but over it was covered on CBS but it didn’t even lead the news coverage.  I can’t even remember what did.  To be fair it was a good story and re-capped the story well for us.

Disconnect with home

That’s when you realise you’re an expat living in a city that’s temporarily your own but it doesn’t always share the same interests as you do.  When something big happens at home you are still hugely connected there but getting news from far away can be tough.  As I’ve said over and over thank god for the Internet.

(When my dad was an expat in the Philippines he used to have a gigantic short wave radio so he could pick up the cricket.  In his day he had to rely on the commentators providing the visual for him.  He often listened to the cricket rather than watching it he was so attuned to it–to listen with him I had to learn the names of all the fielding positions.  But he learnt to adapt to being far from home and living in a country that didn’t share his passion for cricket.)

I lived in China so I’m used to the sick feeling you get when something big is going down in your home country and you’re not privy to the news.  It makes you feel disconnected and isolated.  Thank god for social media and live streaming.  (At least in China we had the Australia Network—a service taken away from all expats thanks to budget cuts).

I hadn’t even given it a second thought that CNN wouldn’t cover the siege as it was unfolding on Sunday night.  I didn’t want to read about it; I wanted to watch it.  Live.  That’s why/how CNN was invented.

Yes I got on my high horse.  I was shocked.  This was so big to me but it wasn’t big enough to interrupt normal programming.  It made me realise two things:

  1. America doesn’t really care unless it’s happening here.
  2. Australia is not as important to the worldwide stage as we like to think.

Before you get all defensive … I don’t mean that negatively.

America is not to blame here.  As a PR chick I taught media training and one of the strongest news angles when pitching a story is local relevance.  There was none.  Unless this was a global co-ordinated attack it has no (real) relevance to the US.  They did want to keep abreast of the shocking situation but they didn’t need to watch the situation unfold.

The news networks are pretty expert at hyping news but it was too early to make that leap.  Even for CNN.  To the Australian news however it was very relevant.

I don’t know why I thought CNN would cover it.  I suppose because it was absolutely relevant to ME and I forgot for a minute where I was.

It was funny though as part of Australia’s news coverage the networks were all saying, “We made the global news, it was all over the news in the US.”  Well yes it was covered online and it made the front pages (thanks most likely to that Islamic flag in the window) and the breakfast news shows obviously covered it, CNN got hold of it for a while; but it wasn’t really all America was talking about.  We’re a little country and we like to think we garner a lot of attention but we don’t really.  And that’s all right.

The news was so significant for my fellow Australians, many came back into Martin Place to pay tribute to the hostages and particularly the two heroes that didn’t make it.

 

Off the high horse now and back to what else is going on in 90210.

I don’t know where last week went.  I truly don’t.  I don’t think that’s a good sign given we’re creeping into the end of 2014.

America the good: car services

You know how in Australia you flinch when it’s time to get your car serviced?  You book your car in stay strong and try really hard not to get “done in” by the dealer (because you know this is how they make their money).

I had to take my car back for a service because I needed new brake pads.  Pain in the backside really as I just had my car serviced a month or so ago.  But the good thing is you don’t bleed your wallet dry when you get your car serviced here.  I’m not sure if it’s the same for every brand of car but BMW offers an ultimate service package when you buy your car.  That means we don’t pay for anything when it comes to servicing our car.  That’s right: nudda, zilch, zero, no more to pay.  That is with the exception of windscreen wiper blades (which you don’t need in LA because it never rains here).

I know, you’re probably thinking the same as me: it’s “free” but they’ll find something to charge you for.  They all do.  That’s how dealers make their money.  But there again is another reason I just think we’re being taken for a ride in Australia.  How does a BMW dealer make money if they’re not charging you for the service?  I’ve had two services and walked away: “no charge”.  I don’t know and I don’t care.  I love it.

User pays.  For everything.

Having said that it really is a user-pays system here.  Everything we do is paid for.  Here in 90210 everything is outsourced: gardener, housekeeping, security, car-washing, Christmas lights, dog walking odd jobs and every little thing you can possibly imagine.  It’s what makes the US economy tick over and how people earn a living.

Over and over I relish in the great American way as it directly affects my daily life (and how easy it can be).  I’m not sure if I’ve said this before but things like getting your car washed and valet parking are so cost effective it’s a way of life here.  I especially love valet parking.

But there are other ways this user-pays system just gets out of control.  Take the health care system.  I really am not very tuned in to the intricacies of how it works.  It’s taken me 18 months to start to understand our health cover.

When my mum was visiting she had an unfortunate accident, slipped and cut her head open.  I took her to an Emergency Centre nearby and I have to say we got the most incredible service.  They gave her a CT scan, looked after her, checked her out and before we knew it we were on our way back home again.  Too easy.

A month or so later I got two bills: one for the CT scan and one for $892 for “emergency physician service and “surgical repair wound”.  Fair enough, no problems.  We paid the bills, she claimed it on her travel insurance and we both agreed it was a great tribute to the health system that it was so simple, efficient and painless (except for the stapling which I believe was anything but painless).  A week or so ago I (she) got a bill for $4,000+.  Say what?  There was no description on the invoice so I called them to see what it was for.  “I thought we settled our bill,” I said.

“Mam, this is the “facility charge”.  Because you’re not insured that’s the invoice amount that is due to be paid by you.”

“So it’s a new charge that we have to pay?  I’m not all paid up?”

“That’s right mam”.

Oh my god.  We were there for two hours.  Let’s call it three hours and that’s $1335 per hour.  I’m in the wrong business.  How can sitting in a bed in an emergency centre cost $1335?  And that doesn’t include the physician—we’ve already paid for him.

That’s more expensive than a suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  I know where I’d rather be.

Gatecrashing

I was invited to my first-ever Holiday Gift Exchange.  Sounds so American doesn’t it?  I know.  This Ausmerican loved it.  It was so fun.  Like the game White Elephant that the kids play you all draw a number from a “hat”.  Starting at one and working your way up  when it’s your turn you either choose a present or you can steal someone else’s.  Each present is up for grabs twice and the third time it’s locked or frozen and it’s yours for keeps.

Three chicks host this every year—two of them are my friends.  So given they pull together around 18 people we all went around the room and introduced ourselves.  I simply said, “Hi, my name’s Gwen I saw the light on so thought I’d come in.  I’m the gatecrasher.”

“Wait who…?  Gate what?”

A room-crasher? Do you mean door crasher?

They had no idea what or who a gate crasher was.

(For the record a gatecrasher is someone who finds out about a party and isn’t invited and “crashes” the party.)

Literally

Speaking of language I’ve been chuckling to myself recently about how Californians love the word “literally”.  Everything is literally literally.  A bit like like.  So in a sentence …

“It has literally been raining for like two days.”

(I know pretty clever fitting like in there two huh?)

Cracks me up.  My daughter has been guilty of literally sneaking literally into her vocab.

But watching the Australian news for a couple of days I’ve realised our word is “certainly”.  In a sentence …

“This situation at the Lindt Café in Martin Place has certainly rocked our Nation.”

What’s your equivalent word?  Would literally certainly love to hear it.

Happy Hanukkah to all as it started last night and goes for eight days.  Merry Christmas to the rest of you for next week. Stay safe and after this week’s events in Sydney never take your loved ones for granted. Big hugs all ’round.  We’re off to light a candle at a local Australian-run establishment in West Hollywood in honour of the two people who died as they had ties back to our local Aussie community.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

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