The differences between Australia and Canada, part two: climate.

Canada’s token animal, the terrifying beaver. I reckon that tail could do some damage to a shark…

The most obvious difference between Australia and Canada is the climate. Australia is hot, shark infested, and full of palm trees and deserts. Canada is cold, beaver infested, and full of maples and snow.

Being on opposite ends of the Earth, seasons are at opposite times. It’s summer in Canada right now while it’s “winter” in Australia. However, on any given day you could look at the forecast in certain areas of both countries and the temperature could be the same.

In Canada there are four definite seasons with all sorts of cues to signal change:

Summer is during June, July and August. It’s hot no matter where you are, but weather is different depending on which province you’re in. For example, it’s very humid in Ontario and so dry in the Okanagan that forest fires are rampant. Wardrobe includes breezy summer dresses, sunscreen, shorts and tanks, strappy sandals, and flip flops (also know as “thongs” in Australia). In Ontario, it’s also key to always have an umbrella at your disposal because a thunderstorm could surprise you at any time.

Up next is autumn, which is my favourite season. It lasts from September to about mid-November. It’s the slow transition from summer to winter, with visual cues such as pumpkins for sale on the side of the road, leaves changing from green to orange, yellow, and red, and cute boots, scarves, and layers. It’s the perfect time to wear suede! The air feels clean and crisp and it’s not too hot or cold. It’s also the season that holds Thanksgiving, which means turkey and pumpkin pie for everyone!

Winter is on deck after autumn, lasting from mid-November to March, which to me feels like a lifetime. On the plus side I can’t get enough of hockey season, and I’ll admit that the first snowfall is exciting. After the clouds open up and snow is sprinkled over dead grass and bare

Snowmageddon hits London, Ontario! December 2010.

branches, the landscape around you completely changes. When the sun is shining everything sparkles and radiates cleanliness. I tend to enjoy this view from the comfort of my home in front of my fireplace with a hot tea and heavy sweater. Unfortunately, the beauty doesn’t last in the city: snow gets covered in gravel, salt, and mud. It piles up on the side of roads and driveways, and starts to melt and turn to slush. However, a fresh snowfall always cleans up the ugliness. In terms of dress, it’s time to bust out the heavy winter coat, wool socks and scarf, mitts, toque, and water resistant thermal boots. A word for the wise: beware of the slush! There’s nothing worse than wearing boots that are fashionable but impractical: slush will attack your feet, numb your toes, and it always leave a salt stain (a helpful reminder that the cute boots always lose — that is, lose warmth and cuteness.)

Thankfully, just as you think you can’t handle another day of winter (although this moment normally happens to me on January 2), spring swoops in to save the day! Rain starts to fall in April and melts the snow away. Tree leaves start budding and grass begins to grow. The temperature only creeps up to around +10 at first, but everyone ditches their clothes anyways. Hey, after -25, +15 feels balmy. People wear bright colors, matching the new growth surrounding them. The sun isn’t hot enough to get a tan, but it’s enough to keep you warm (and still try to tan…)

Delicious pumpkin pie.

There are definite changes in each season, with all sorts of cues to signal you: visual, temperature, and scent. Each season smells different, and I associate these smells with particular months of the year — fall smells like pumpkin, apple, and mud. Winter literally smells cold — everything is frozen. On the flip side, spring smells like the ground is defrosting. Summer smells like grass and sunscreen. I associate tastes with months as well — winter tastes like gingerbread lattes, spring tastes like strawberry shortcake and ice tea, summer tastes like crisp salads with fresh tomatoes, and autumn tastes like pie (ALL PIE. Pumpkin, apple, raisin, rhubarb…etc.)

I often forget what month I’m in because I’m used to all of the cues I mentioned before to signal me of the time of year, and it’s all opposite here. According to the fashion industry, Australia has four seasons as well. However, without the cues from the magazine aisle, I would forget that we’re entering into spring. To me, it’s just winter and summer. Officially though, summer is from December to February, autumn is March to May, winter is June to August, and spring is September to November. Temperatures range from 50 degrees Celsius to below zero, but it never gets as cold as Canada’s extreme weather, partially because Australia lacks very high mountains and is lucky enough to have warming oceans around its coastal regions. I’m living in Queensland (lovingly referred to as the “Sunshine State”). In Brisbane the average low is around +15, and the average high is around +26. I haven’t experienced an entire summer here yet, but apparently it gets very hot and humid.

It’s fascinating because when winter began here, Canadian’s were experiencing spring and temperatures were about the same in both countries. However, as I wrapped a wool scarf around me and put my sandals in storage, my friends back home were running around in shorts and summer dresses.

Feeling cold is relative: when you’re used to it being really hot, as soon as the temperature drops your body starts freaking out. Symptoms include goosebumps, chattering teeth, and freezing hands that make other people jump when you touch them. However, when you’re used to it being freezing cold, once it warms up a little bit your body is ready to party!

Great Ocean Road, VIC, July 2011. In Australia, this is appropriate winter wear. Coat, scarf, boots. My mom saw pictures and said “nice sweater”.

Even though it was only around +18 at the beginning of winter, I felt really cold. Some Canadians may look at me and say, “Grace, you’ve gone soft.” That’s where they’re wrong. To them I say, “I was born soft!” I’ve always hated the cold. People often make the mistake of assuming that since I’m from Canada I shouldn’t mind when it’s cold here. However, I came to Australia because I really dislike being cold. Also, once you’re cold, you’re cold. Because of many factors, I would argue that it’s possible for your body to feel the same as it does in +10 here and below zero in Canada. In Canada we are prepared for the cold: we put on more quality layers and our buildings have heaters and good insulation. Australia is not as prepared so even though it’s not nearly as cold, it still feels cold. Even though I have felt cold in Australia, there is still nothing like the cold in Ottawa that penetrates straight through your skin and chills your bones, shaking you to the core.

With all of that said, I have come to this conclusion: I, Grace Davis, love Australian winter. I never would’ve thought I would put “love” and “winter” in the same sentence, but to me Brisbane winter is like permanent autumn. It’s the most perfect, pleasant weather!

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The differences between Australia and Canada, part one: food.

I was originally going to write about what I have observed to be the  general differences between Australia and Canada, but ended up having so much to say about food that I’m going to have to write about social differences next time. Show’s where my priorities are..

Cheese:

Orange cheddar does not exist here. If that doesn’t throw you for a loop, cheddar tastes very different as well. Dairy products in general do not taste the same. Different agriculture, different cows, different product!

Milk:

Okay, this is confusing, but stay with me. In Canada, we have 2%, 1%, 3.25%, skim, half and half (for coffee) and cream (also for coffee). I would say 2% is the most common with 1% skim running a close second. They don’t bag milk here – it’s all cartons. I asked someone about it once and recieved a confused look and a “Canada is weird” response. In Australia, there is full cream (I believe it’s 4%, and this is their most common milk), “lite” (2%), skim, and thickened cream (for desserts). I was pretty confused the first time I went to the grocery store for milk: “But what are the percentages?!”

Coffee:

Percolated coffee doesn’t exist in Australia. It’s all about the espresso here (although it’s not commonly called espresso… It’s just called coffee.) People drink cappuccinos (espresso, steamed milk with a decent amount of foam and chocolate sprinkled on top), flat whites (espresso, steamed milk, and a thin layer of foam in the same mug used for cappuccinos), lattes (same amount of foam as a cappuccino but it’s in a clear glass without a handle), long blacks (shot of coffee and hot water), and short blacks (espresso shot). On the plus side, coffee is more of an art here — people become skilled at making coffee. I’m constantly impressed with the pretty designs – a treat for your eyes and your taste buds! On the downside, coffee is incredibly inconsistent. I’m pretty sure I’ve had more bad coffee than good here. I’m always nervous taking the first sip of coffee at a place I haven’t tried, or even a place that’s normally good but a different barista. There are many factors involved: the coffee roast, properly rinsing the machine in between coffees so that bits don’t get burned, running the water through the shot immediately so as not to burn the coffee, steaming the milk appropriately, and the list goes on. Needless to say, there’s a lot of potential to mess it up. In Canada, percolated coffee is pretty consistent. Once you find a place with a good roast, you’re good to go. However, I think that percolated coffee is mediocre at best, whereas a good espresso based coffee is delightful. Depends on if you want to play the risk or go for the sure thing.

Eggs:

The eggs from the grocery store are more orange here. There are a lot more options with free range, caged, grain fed, farm, and so forth. Also, in Woolworths eggs aren’t stored in a fridge. Eggs are always refrigerated in Canada.

Biscuits:

I have had the privilege of eating Tim Tams, and believe me, they are a gift from the cookie masters. A Tim Tam is an Australian “biscuit”, or in Canadian terms, a chocolate cookie. In the grocery store there is an aisle for biscuits, which are essentially cookies and crackers.

Meat:

Lamb and veal are incredibly popular here. They are not that common in Canada. That’s that.

Bananas:

Banana’s are so expensive here! I haven’t bought any bananas since I’ve been here because one single banana could cost almost $3! The banana fields got wiped out in the floods back in January, and ever since they’ve been too expensive.  Sad.

Restaurants:

Mc Donald’s has many a nickname in North America. One that I hadn’t hear till I arrived down under was Maccas. There’s also a place called Hungry Jacks, which has the exact same logo as Burger King. Speaking of burgers, it’s hard to find a good one here. As for restaurants, you can always find lots of Italian, Indian, Thai, and “Australian.” Also, there’s a kebab (shawarma) place on every corner. Oh, and fries are called chips.

Bacon most commonly used at North American restaurants.

Breakfast:

Australian’s are better at portion control. In Canada, if you see “eggs on toast” on a menu for $12, you’d assume it also comes with hash browns, meat, and maybe some tomato or fruit. Here, it literally means, eggs on toast (gasp!).  Also, over easy eggs don’t exist here. You can have eggs fried (sunny side up), scrambled, or most commonly, poached. Bacon is a lot more thick here. It kind of looks like long strips of peameal bacon.

Food health and safety:

The type of bacon commonly used in Australia.

I’ve worked at two restaurants in Australia and we’ve never been randomly tested for health and safety. In Canada it’s very common for  someone to come and do tests to make sure cleanliness is up to snuff. Also, I know in Toronto and London there are grading systems outside of restaurants so that patrons can see how a restaurant did on testing (red, yellow, green, etc). I haven’t seen anything like that in Australia. This definitely speaks to the differences in cultures. North America is a lot more legalistic and Australia is much more laid back. However, this doesn’t mean that restaurants here are unsafe. The places I’ve worked at are incredibly clean and I haven’t walked into any super sketchy places.

Chocolate:

Let me tell you about Max Brenner, also known as a glimpse of heaven. It’s this glorious restaurant that serves chocolate fondue, chocolate brownies, waffles with chocolate drizzled on top, chocolate smoothies… So. Much. Chocolate.

MAX BRENNER!

Need I say more?

Overall, there are a lot of a food differences between Australia and Canada, with positives and negatives in both countries.

Dear education: thanks for the brain workout.

This is the first semester that I haven’t been in school. After a lifetime of education, I finished my university degree in June. Even though my excitement to be done was tangible, the last day I walked around campus I thought about all of the things I would miss.

University is a place where people come together to think, create, and stretch their brains in uncomfortable ways.There’s something about walking around campus and being surrounded by people in different disciplines. While standing in line for a much needed caffeine fix, in front of me is an engineer crunching numbers that mean nothing to me, behind me is a medical student who knows exactly what that fifth coffee is doing to her body but orders it anyways because she’s running on little sleep, and at the front is a couple of philosopher’s arguing over who summed up human sexuality the best: Freud or Foucault. And then there’s me – a journalist whose time spent observing people standing in line for coffee is every bit a part of my education as the news writing and ethics class that I’m running late for.

Sure, I went to unversity to get a degree that will hopefully help me get the career that I want one day. However, the part of school that I loved the most isn’t the paper I received at the end. It’s the way different topics open your eyes up to parts of the world you never knew existed. It’s that teacher that is so passionate about what they’re teaching that they can inspire you to change journalism for the better, get you excited about fonts, or burn into your memory how different chemicals affect your brain. It’s that person you roll your eyes at because it’s the seventh time they’ve raised their hand in the past hour and they’re sharing another story about what their boyfriend thinks about an unrelated topic, like soup. It’s the sports teams, friends, Tim Hortons, early mornings and late nights.

During my last weeks I was excited at the thought of being done assessment and starting “real life.” However, I am going to miss being on campus because  of its unique atmosphere. There’s always more learning to do. After all, I never did sit in on an engineer class.