We Are All Priceless

We are all priceless 2I know people like Obama, J Lo and Clinton have a brand. Tony Abbott’s brand would have to include the famous budgie smugglers. Bob Hawk’s would include his beer skulling skill. There is an outlet centre here in Perth that asks as part of its advertisement, “What is your brand?” So clever and insidious. All the sudden you are thinking about yourself solely in terms of the toothpaste you use and the shoes you wear. You are adding up each piece of merchandise you buy and determining that the sum of the parts equals the whole you.
I have been taking this Marketing for Managers class and either it is messing with my head and making me paranoid or everywhere we go marketing teams are adding us up and slotting us into a nifty niche to determine where we fit in their campaigns. It is called market segmentation and basically it breaks us down into brands we buy, values we have, our age, our geographical location etc… I was talking to one of our professors about this the other day and he said I was a freak. He said it in a much nicer way because he is a very nice man but, yeah, I am a freak when it comes to trying to break me down to my parts and add me up. Why? Because I like to read labels, I like to know if there is citric acid is in my cereal. I don’t know what citric acid is but I still want to know whether or not this crazy little chemical is in my food. I want to know whether my coffee is rainforest certified, fair trade or organic. There are other things that make me unusual apparently. Things I wasn’t aware of, like the fact that my husband and I like to watch three different news broadcasts every evening. Overall though, I wasn’t surprised I was unusual or, as the professor described it, “a purchaser who lies on the periphery.”  I embarrassed my mother enough as a child to know that the way my brain works is a little bit wondrous and scary all at the same time. I called my first headache a brainache and refused to use the proper word because I felt it did not accurately describe my suffering.

We are all priceless 4
It is not as if the idea is new. The saying “You are what you eat” has been around for ages. Paying celebrities to promote brands is an age-old marketing ploy. The idea that we are a brand is attractive to a lot of us.The funny thing is I am not saying we aren’t a brand but if we are, maybe the brand shouldn’t be made up of things that can be purchased with money. We have a friend in China who can fix absolutely anything. He is magic. He cannot be replicated or broken down according to the tools he uses or the overalls he wears. I guess if someone was to ask what my brand is, I hope the answer would be so much more than my jacket or my shoes or the suburb I live in. Intangibles are what makes up all of us and it is a shame if we fall into a trap that convinces us that merchandise is what we are all about.
You are what you eat, or study, or the clothing you wear, but truthfully we are worth so much more than the sum of our purchasing parts. I hope I am worth a thousand hugs from two wonderful boys, love given and received from friends around the world, the wisdom that has been shoved into my brain by many We are all pricelesshardworking mentors, the look in my husband’s eye when he sees me after a long day of work and so many other priceless parts. By the way, no matter what a certain credit card company says, not one part of those things can be purchased with money. When I look at my friends I don’t care about their jackets, but I love their honesty and their smile when they see me. I don’t look at a house and see a sofa that is custom-made or a sofa that was passed on from a relative. What I see is a sofa that we sit on and drink coffee while we chat. What I see is good times and memories.
What has changed about the way marketers break us down is that they have access to so much more information about us. They can keep track of what we buy and where we go. The interesting thing is that even though they have all of this information and the new ability to use the information so much more effectively, marketing campaigns still fail. They fail spectacularly to the tune of millions of dollars spent by massive corporations that should have been able to predict our purchases much more accurately. They fail because our intangibles, the stuff that really makes up our “brand” is not quantifiable information that can be put into a spreadsheet. How wonderful is that?
So today celebrate the priceless you. Come on let me hear you say it with me, “I am more than the label on my undies!” Well maybe that is a little embarrassing. Instead why not comment and tell us one of the things that makes you priceless?

 

If You Give An Aussie A Public Holiday

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If you give an Aussie a public holiday…

he will want to do some hard yakka around the house. He won’t have the tools he needs though and he will decide…
to go buy some tradie stuff at Bunnings. He will be awfully hungry though and after he gets to the shops…

he will want a sausage from the barbie stand outside. He will also be thirsty so…

he will need a fizzy drink to wash down the tucker.

Then the Aussie will have a go at balancing the tools, the sausages, managing the kiddies and getting to the car. He will try to avoid dropping anything while opening the boot. After he finally gets the family in the car they will discover a sausage isn’t enough…

https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/

https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/

so a trip to Macca’s needs to be made. He will get a burger with beetroot and of course spill pink juice all down his shirt. Tired, hot and sticky the Aussie will know he can’t finish his DIY today so…

he might as well be off to the beach. No worries with that because an Aussie fam always has bathers in the boot. After a refreshing dip in the big blue it will back to the house for some spag bog. After tea, he will realize he has more energy so …

once the kiddies go to bed it will be time to reconsider trying to finish that project. His wife will say, “Good on ya for having a go”, and so the Aussie will have another crack at it…

but probably won’t finish and now he will be tired and sore so he will decide…

that it is time for bed. He will need to have a shower first and then he will drift off but…

https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/

https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/

when he wakes up sore and bleary-eyed, he will realize he wants another public holiday

…so he will chuck a sickie.

Put A Label On It

Put a label on it 4

Putting a label on things used to be bad. The 90s were interesting that way. We wanted to have a DTR, “Defining the Relationship Talk”, but because we thought labels were so bad we made fun of the fact we had a label for it. . Then we got into slogans, mantras and mottos for people, products and places. Now it seems like everything has a label on it. I hadn’t even noticed, but then the other day I was out shopping and bought instant soup. There were two kinds of powdered instant soup and one kind said, “Made with responsibly grown New Zealand pumpkins.” Can you guess which soup packets I bought? Yes, I bought the reconstituted pumpkin with maltodexin thickener, sugar, creamer, glucose syrup and hydrolyzed corn protein. I felt good too, until I realized how ridiculous that was. I mean what does responsibly grown even mean? On top of that, it is powdered soup so does that even make it taste better? Does anything make powdered soup taste better? I guess in the end I am really happy for those pumpkins because they were raised well. The label did make me feel better though. It made me feel better long enough to pick up two packets of that soup and bring it home.
After I thought about how silly my responsibly grown pumpkin soup was, I started to wonder how many labels were on things in my house. I found quite a few. My lotion says, “Gentle formula for sensitive skin.” Our peanut butter said, “Never oily, always smooth.” I am not sure how on earth peanut butter is ever not oily. My tomato sauce says, “No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives”, but it lists sugar and food acid as main ingredients. My brownie mix says, “premium brownie mix.” Any time you put premium on a mix I PUT A LABEL ON IT 2think a chuckle is deserved. My coffee has a fair trade logo on it but I will be honest and say that I don’t know exactly what the details are of why one product is allowed to put fair trade on it and another product isn’t. Is it actually a fair product which helps people in need or does it just make me feel less guilty? Does it make me feel like I have done my part without actually researching what I am putting in my pantry? I found a drink mix online and its slogan was, “There is love in every cup.” It also said, “Australian Brand.” I am not sure that love is something I can taste, contrary to what pop culture might tell me. Also, being an Australian brand doesn’t actually guarantee that the product is made, packaged or grown here.
Now if you think I am getting snarky, well maybe I am, but my point is not that the products may be misleading us, but that we like to read those things on our products. We buy those things for our house and feel just a put a label on it 3little better, maybe we even feel a little healthier because someone wrote five words on a plastic bottle.  Maybe you don’t, maybe it is just me and my premium brownie mix but I felt good about that too. I may buy brownie mix instead of making brownies from scratch but gosh darn it is premium brownie mix. It says so right there on the box. My zip lock bags have, “Secure lock guaranteed”, printed on the front. I don’t know for sure that they work better than the other brand but I sure do like it when someone prints guaranteed on the front of something. My dishwashing liquid is apparently, “safe for hands and for the environment.”  I am not a scientist, so I have to trust that the label on that dishwashing liquid actually means what it seems to say.
Some of those labels mean something so I don’t think we should do away with labels all together, no matter what the 90s taught me. I just think we have to be really careful about letting the labels make us feel better about the kind of person we are. Do I feel like I am a better person because I have a label on the soup in my pantry which says the pumpkins are responsibly grown? Does the fair trade label on my coffee encourage me to feel superior?  Sometimes we just let it makePut a label on it 1 us feel healthier. My soup must be healthier because it says the pumpkins are responsibly grown. I let that label make me think that, even if only for a short while. I think marketing companies are talented and I think sometimes I am silly. I do not think you will see me reading the back of every product in the grocery store, but if you have time to do that then more power to you.  I don’t think you should put the fair trade coffee back and go home and research the fair trade stipulations on the internet before you purchase coffee again. I would be in real trouble if I suggested that, because I can’t make sense out of the written word until I have had my coffee in the morning. I just think we need to buy what we buy without thinking it changes the person we actually are. No matter what those labels say it does not make me healthier. I am an exercise-hating, chocolate eating and coffee-drinking booklover and no amount of responsibly grown pumpkins is going to change that.

Me and My Big Nose

Sometimes the ways different cultures see your physical features is like looking in a fun house mirror. All the sudden small features are big and big features are just well bigger. I have this nose. It isn’t a large nose but then again it isn’t a small nose either. It used to bother me. I used to want a small button nose and blue eyes Fun-House-Mirror-300x300more than anything. When I was pretty young I used to wish that my eyes would change colours and my nose would somehow morph into a button nose. If I was going to wish on shooting stars then maybe I should have been wishing for a few more inches height wise but no one ever accused 11 year girls of being rational.
Maybe adult women aren’t that rational when it comes to their appearance either. I have been hearing about this body dysmorphic disorder recently. The Better Health Chanel describes Body Dysmorphic Disorder as, “…a mental illness. People who have this illness constantly worry about the way they look. They may believe an inconspicuous or non-existent physical attribute is a serious defect…” This is a serious issue but the first time I heard about this disorder I thought, “Well isn’t that like all women?” So I started trying to list features I have that I really really like and I came up with about three and that was a real stretch. I mean I spent the vast majority of my teenage years worried about my hips and now it turns out booty is all the rage. I was born too early. It is really funny because if you asked me about any of my female friends I would say they are beautiful. If you asked me why I thought they were beautiful you probably couldn’t get me to stop talking about all the ways they are gorgeous. The men in their lives are lucky to have them.
But for me my nose was just one of those things that used to bug me once in awhile. I felt like it was a little too crooked and a little too “prominent” let’s say. That is how I felt when I went to China. It turns out China was exactly what I needed. Chinese people didn’t think my nose was “big”, they thought my nose was “high”. In China having a high nose is kind of a good thing. They have celebrities with high noses and they talk about how good looking they are. Eventually after overcoming how self-conscious I was about people talking about my nose all the time, I started to be OK with my nose. It was my nose and it gave me character and character is better than being a Barbie Doll any day. Once I started being comfortable with my nose I started being more comfortable with everything else. I realized that if a change of geography was all it took for my nose to be OK then it didn’t really matter what the other features looked like because somewhere some people would think they were good.
That is certainly what happened with hips after all. It is not as though I get up every morning, look in the mirror and say to myself, “You are one hot mama. Work it girl!” IBE025880t is more like I just don’t really think that much about it. I enjoy putting on make-up and wearing pretty clothes but I am comfortable in my skin. It is what it is.
I also always wanted a tan. Blame this one on the 80s and 90s as well. I wanted golden sun kissed skin. Again, in China my very pale skin was great. Not all my features were great in China and there was plenty of discussion about each feature. It was difficult when it felt like I had to convince an entire country that my hair really was naturally curly. It was also challenging when people thought I couldn’t be American because I was too short and Americans are tall people. The real clincher was when one woman pinched my hips to demonstrate how generous the padding was in that spot. What it taught me was that the way we perceive our physical features is like a fun house mirror. Going from one culture to another is like walking into a room of fun house mirrors. One second you’re tall and the next second you’re tiny. Your legs look like stilts in one mirror and then tree trunks in another. To borrow from a very famoArticle Lead - wide983354421mjoyrimage.related.articleLeadwide.729x410.1mjo42.png1428883185861.jpg-620x349us Disney movie maybe it is time we just let it go. Maybe we should just all look in the mirror and realise that each feature we don’t like is probably a feature someone somewhere else wishes they had. Did you know that in ancient Greece the unibrow was fantastic? If a woman didn’t have one then they would use black paint to fill one in.
I am me and each of my features expresses exactly who I am. I am short, which is so handy if you are also mischievous. My eyes crinkle up so much when I smile they almost disappear. That is good because when I am old everyone is going to know I laughed and smiled and loved my family. My hair is curly bordering on downright frizzy which is fine because I can’t really imagine mornings without my hair sticking up all over the place like Albert Einstein’s.
Have a big party with your friends and tell each other why you are beautiful inside and out. Tell your friends why you wouldn’t change even one of their physical features. Look up some of those fun cultures where exaggerated hips are prized. Remember you are not objective, whatever you see in the mirror it is filtered through a fun house mirror called culture.

First World Problems And Our Children

Ball 1st World

Our family is pretty average. In case you are scoffing, hear me out. We have two kids, live in the suburbs, have two cars and a dog. We get our groceries from a local supermarket, but sometimes we go crazy and take a trip to the farmers market. We recycle. Yes, for a family that is an Australian and American blend and used to live in China, we are pretty average.
We didn’t used to have two cars. We used to be able to cope with no electricity and no running water for at least a couple of days. Our internet went down all the time when we lived in China. It was very fast but extremely unreliable. This was the stuff of life. I bathed my children in bottled water, lit a bunch of candles and moved on with life.
Books 1st WorldWe used to be so used to dealing with little irritations that I was surprised recently that a few little bumps in my very “average” First World life threw me off. I got stressed about these things. I got upset that they took so long to fix.  The internet went down, our second car was in the shop for 6 weeks and our air conditioning died. In the midst of my miniature meltdown about all these things I did have the presence of mind to say to myself, “Hey princess! Yes you! A lot of people in this world don’t have one car, wouldn’t know what to do with internet and just deal with heat. Suck it up sweetheart and put a smile on your face.”
You can attribute that last bit to my mother. She is great for telling like it is. It must be a Southern thing. To be fair I was big on the pout and whine as a child so she had to develop some serious coping tactics. I often heard her say, “Hun a frown never fixed anything. Put a smile on that face and go get dressed, you’ll feel better.” To be honest a smile, a pair of jeans and some makeup does go a long way.  Southern women learn this early on in life.Pokemon 1st World

After I had a good long talk with myself about my attitude, I had some thinking to do. I realized how much I needed to check myself when my youngest child walked in our living room totally despondent that he couldn’t download a new game app. We were using all the data allowances on our phones for the boys’ homework so he had to go without. (I am not the only used to the First World lifestyle, half my children’s homework requires the internet.) I was teasing him about what a rough life he thought he had because he couldn’t download new games for a week when it hit me that I was behaving much the same way.

I won’t deny that it gets hot in Perth, but as a girl raised by a Southern mother I know there is no amount of hot that can’t be fixed by a tall glass of iced tea and a fan. So I don’t have internet in my house for a week or two. Instead of downloading new books maybe I can reread a few classics. Certainly wouldn’t kill me. The second car was the biggest stress, but the truth is our office is right on the train line. It is pretty easy to get to. You know what I missed about having a second car? I missed being able to call my husband and asked him to pick up something I had forgotten for dinner before he came home. I also really hated getting up 20 minutes earlier in the morning. I am that spoiled by my first world life and my kids know it.

Book Cover 1st WorldHow bad is it that my reaction to not having a second car is so blown out of proportion when you take in account that there are people in the world who struggle to find drinkable water? What am I teaching my children when I lose internet and act like it is a huge deal? There are several big problems in the world right now, like the number of orphans, pollution, human trafficking, violence, hunger etc… To act as though having no air conditioning is a big problem may be teaching my children that it is actually a big problem. None of my problems are life-and-death and I need my children to understand that there are life-and-death situations in this world. I need my reactions to my “First World problems” to indicate I understand that there are bigger issues in the world than these tiny little problems. So many people in our world would be happy to have my problems. Can you imagine if I told someone who was starving that I had a fridge full of food, a car, access to medical care and a good education for my children but I don’t have air conditioning, internet or a second car so I am really struggling?

Last year our family had to go without a fridge for a month because ours broke down and a new part had to be shipped in. Didn’t bother me a bit then, and it is not like I really lost it when I had to deal with these problems, I just let them get to me. When I realized that I had let these things get to me even a little a bit and that my children were in turn letting these things get to them, I knew it was unacceptable.

My children’s generation who have grown up in the first world, have grown up with the world at their fingertips. The slightest inconvenience seems to be interpreted through their eyes as a big issue. I want my children to grow up seeing the bigger picture. I want them to be able to put their problems in the context of the larger world. If I want them to truly grasp other people struggles, then I need to clearly demonstrate what actual problems are. I need to show them that I understand what a real problem looks like. I do not want to give my children implied permission to treat their “First World problems” as life and death when they are really more like small irritations.

So I am getting back to where I need to be. Thankful for my First World comforts without allowing the times they don’t work properly to shift my perception of what should actually trouble me.

A Teeny Tiny Beast- Cultural Adjustment

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Beast on the loose!

Our family is a mixed up blend.  When we moved from China to Australia four years ago we were all going through different things. My husband was returning to his home country. My boys were learning how to be more Australian because they had never lived anywhere but China.  Then there was me. I was immigrating. I am still immigrating. It is a long process.
I am learning to be something new while not losing what I already am. My children have embraced their new lifestyle. My husband is now enjoying being able to get back to all the things he loves about Australia. I am learning to love new things but that doesn’t mean that I am learning to love all new things. Unfortunately for my husband’s sake, cricket is one of those things I do not love.

4 years of transition have equaled laughter, sunshine and frustration and have seen me start this long process of becoming a member of the Lucky Country. I am American so the process is fraught with confusion and teasing from Australian friends. Don’t worry… I get my own back. How can you not good-naturedly  rib people who belong to a country in which the main point of any political party seems to be to overthrow the leader so that the next person can become king of the hill?  It seems like this country indulges in political blood sport every time the season changes. Yes, I good-naturedly rib them until I realize that while they have been born in this country I am voluntarily choosing to join it.

People might think that making a new home in another English-speaking country is easier than acclimating to life in a place like China. China presented its challenges but at least it was up-front about it. My roofunny-grumpy-angry-kid-girl-park-mood-swing-picsfunnyasduck.netmmate and I used to have what we called “bad China days”. It really meant we were in danger of behaving poorly or already had behaved poorly towards someone because of cultural stress and overload. I love Aussie land. I love the people, the weather, the lifestyle and the animals, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have “bad Australia days”. Australia’s cultural and language differences are hidden beneath a very thin veil of similarities. That veil of similarities makes it seem, from the outside, like it should be no sweat to adjust to life here.

Contrary to the illusion, the shallow similarities that these two cultures actually have, barely hides a deep chasm of differences between mind set and traditions. This chasm is where I find myself overwhelmed and likely to behave outrageously.   I recently refused to hang up on a customer service representative until my problem was resolved to my satisfaction. There is an iceberg under that tip of that story but sufficed to say I behaved poorly and I wish I could take it back.  I wish I could put off that call until I wasn’t having a day where I was struggling to adjust to a country which hates the tall poppy. A country where it feels as though sport is almost always more important that a really amazing classic novel. Where there is so much slang that I don’t understand so I have to spend time figuring it out and then using it. Most of all 220px-Attackofthe50ftwomanit is difficult to never quite fit in. I will never have a proper Australian accent.  I will never enjoy sport or the great outdoors, (unless the great outdoors is the beach with flavored iced coffee).  I would never choose to drink multiple cups of tea instead of coffee. A big stress is having to explain where I am from/not from, over and over and over again. I really should appreciate everyone’s interest and thoughtfulness but what happens is that some days it is really too much. My circuits overload in those moments and I have a, “bad Aussie day”. In my case this means a fire breathing dragon of epic Hobbit proportions bursts forth and everyone wonders where such a teeny tiny lady was hiding such a hideous beast.

Immigration is tricky and it is tricky business trying to angry-boo-cartoon-cute-girl-grr-Favim.com-41244make sure every Aussie I come in contact with knows how much I love this country while all the time trying to be diplomatic about the fact that sometimes the differences make me uncomfortable or stressed.  The ironic part is that now that I live in Australia, the Chinese community feels like a welcome relief from some of the adjustment stress.  They say that cultural adjustment is like a roller coaster that starts off with huge dips and scary peaks and then gradually slows down and the peaks and dips get smoother and smoother until you almost don’t even notice them anymore. At this point in the amusement ride the adjustment is almost over and hopefully the screams filled with terror have stopped. If that is the case then Australia is my roller coaster, a roller coaster that is starting to feel more and more comfortable, while Chinese culture would be the merry-go-round that is fun and different from normal life but not scary anymore. You might think that my experiences with adjusting to life in China had given me tools for eliminating cultural stress. You might see me drinking a flat white coffee and eating biscuits and think that I am an experienced world traveler and I breeze through moves to new cultures. Anyone who has known me longer than 2 Roller Coaster 2minutes can now proceed to laugh at the picture that presents. I do have tools for culturally stressful times,  but they don’t eliminate cultural stress. The tools I have tame the beast I become when cultural stress gets out of control. The times when I ignore the inner voice which is telling me I am not emotionally or mentally fit to face a certain task like a trip to a huge mall,  (the shops), and countless sales people. When I ignore that silent pressure to give myself a break then I am sure to become a raging beast which indiscriminately stomps all over innocent people and their feelings.  Just as it would be challenging to play Monopoly at the same time as you ride a roller coaster, dealing with tasks which are normally challenging while also coping with cultural stress is impossible and will have a different effect on everyone. Perhaps you have faced something similar. Maybe you don’t become a beast but something else happens. Want to share what nickname you have for the days you are struggling to cope?  Let us know in the comments below.

For those going through something similar all over the globe I would say it will get better! Time is key.

The following are websites with information on tools to deal with cultural stress.

Can I Buy A Vowel?

 

Now let’s turn our attention to thAustralia ee sounde “ee” sound in Aussie. There is a need to make Australia seem less intimidating to outsiders because it is home to a slew of many frightening and lethal creatures. For example, there are more deadly snakes in Australia than any other country worldwide. The answer to this problem seems to be adding an ie,y or ee ending onto several essential words. This sounds absolutely adorable! It does feel downright odd though that a country that speaks English in such a cute way has Blog 8men the size of Chris Hemsworth, as well as sharks, killer snakes, spiders and drop bears. With words like footie, sunnies, cossie, mossie, rellies and schoolies, it is like the whole language is designed to take a tourist’s naive mind off the deadly flora and fauna.
You can imagine an entire continent of people saying,Blog 9 “Look at the beach now look at my hand there is a bikkie. Look at the beach, now at my hand, there are some sunnies for you. Look at the beach. You could be here at the beach instead of in your country freezing vital parts of your body off. Oops! Sorry ignore the huge shark. Go for a swim, she’ll be right mate.”
Blog 5It would make sense if this were the case, if the language was a vast conspiracy of cute designed by Australians to distract attention away from the dangerous insects, animals and plants native to Australia. This is really not the case though. Australians actually love to point out the variety of bugs this country has that can kill you! Give an Aussie an uninitiated tourist and they will frighten the pants off them in 5 seconds flat. They will spout numerous facts about the gruesome kinds of death or injury you can experience in this country. It makes me think they take children aside in school and say, “Alright this is how we scare the tourists, pay close attention!”
To put this all in perspective though, this is a country which boasts unusual animals of all kinds. Wblog 7hile the crocodile, box jellyfish and redback spider are indeed scary, the country is also home to kangaroos, koalas, quokkas and wombats. Also home to, I kid you not, the Fairy Penguin. These are animals which go above and beyond just cute .TheyBlog 3 are adorable bundles of picturesque sweetness that will reduce any tourists to oooohs and ahhhs. Petting them is even better. I will never forget the feeling of a kangaroo eating out of my hand while snuggling into me.  Australia is a wonderfully weird place where the absurdly dangerous meets the absurdly cute.

I think this is the only way we can really make sense of the language. It may be hard but try to imagine Chris Hemsworthblog 4 saying, “chippie”, and there you have Australia in a nutshell. By the way chippie does not mean what you think it means. One of the more entertaining parts of my life in Australia is trying to figure out the meaning of new “ee” words.

So let’s dive right in, what are some words you need to know and understand here in the Great Southern Land.

Chippie- Carpenter

Sparkie- Electrician

Lippy- Lip gloss

Footie- Australian Rules Football, side note here; it is necessary to know the difference between rugby and footie. Some American commentators messed up the two recently and Aussies everyone got a good chuckle out of that.

Kindy- Kindergarten

Tassie- Tasmaniablog 6

Bikkie- Cookie or Biscuit. Not to be confused with bikie – a guy on a motorcycle.

Esky- Cooler

Uni-University

Sickie- Sick day

Brekkie- Breakfast

Pressie- Present

Rellie- Relatives

Cossie- Swimsuit

Shonky- Dubious

Dodgy- Not to be trusted

Lackies- Elastic bands

Telly-TV

This is just a taste of some of the terrific ways Aussies have altered words. You can imagine having an average conversation can be a little mind boggling. I was once told I should, “Rug up and have a bikkie.” I was pretty baffled until it was translated for me. I was being told to wrap up in a blanket and have a cookie.  I had no objections. Add a cuppa, (cup of tea), to tBlog 1hat and I will stay for life.

Aussies are incredibly proud when their unique words make it to other parts of the world. Seeing the look of pride on my Aussie friend’s faces when I say a word like, “rellie”, in the middle of a sentence is worth feeling slightly strange when I actually say it. It may also make sense that Aussies speak this way since they also refer to their country as “lucky”. Why wouldn’t they? They live near the beach in temperate weather with a variety of beautiful native plants and animals. In fact if anything is a conspiracy maybe it is the built up reputation Australia has for being a place where death follows you constantly. Perhaps that is the biggest trick Aussies pull, making everyone think Australia is a frightening place to live when actually it is an insanely nice place to settle down.

I think you will see what I mean if you are brave enough to find an Australian and ask them about Drop Bears.

Down the Rabbit Hole-Stuck in Zhengzhou Part 2

Zhengzhou Rabbit Hole

Sitting in the dark, in a hotel room, in the middle of a town I had never been to before in China. The only sound was the echo of my slightly frustrated and emotional chuckle because seriously this day could not possibly be this bad. The temptation was to just burrow under the covers and pretend it wasn’t happening but that was not going to get the lights back on. I needed to put my big girl panties on and deal with it. Let me tell you how we got from a missed flight, newly booked flight and a hotel reservation to here.

I had a ticket and I managed to call a hotel and get a reservation but I now had to negotiate the taxi line. ThosNice Tourist Signe who have lived or are living in China can commence laughing at me now. Zhengzhou is a smaller town and they haven’t gotten around to regulating airport taxis as of yet so imagine a tiny,irate, exhausted fireball trying to convince a long line of drivers that she wasn’t taking a taxi unless they used the meter. Joke was on me because my driver said he would use the meter then took the long way around so 260rmb, (Chinese dollars), later I finally arrived at my hotel which was a grand total of 3 kilometers from the airport. I arrived at the hotel tired, hungry and riding a very thin line between patience and a World War III emotional breakdown. I would not be the ugly foreigner again. I would be sweetness and light. Ha!
Since the airport did not take Mastercard I thought it would be judicious to ask, before I checked in, if the hotel took Mastercard. “Oh yes, we do, of course!” Except we don’t apparently. The hotel is brand new and the bank hasn’t approved it, they will have the Hard Time Signpermission by the end of the month. I was told this right after I was all checked in and they wanted me to pay. “You can’t pay in cash?” they asked.  No I couldn’t because as a rule I don’t keep that much cash on hand ever. Tomorrow would have to include a trip to the bank to get the money and pay them. Lovely.
I had not eaten all day either, so my next stop after the room had to be a restaurant, room service or a hotel restaurant. There was no room service or nearby restaurants but the front desk informed me there was a restaurant on the 3rd floor so I went there….except it wasn’t open…yet. It is a new hotel, in fact it is so new the elevator still has paint all over the mirrors, so yeah, ok you get the picture.
Thankfully for some reason they had a waitress looking after a restaurant that had tables, chairs, plates, polished flatware and napkinsChina_Funny_English_inscriptions_Summer-Palace-Beijing but no customers. No it is not the Twilight Zone, just a new hotel. They also had a chef. The two of them decided that they would give me food. I think if I didn’t have a husband, I might marry that chef because of his kindness to me. He made me egg and tomato noodle soup and an espresso.  I might marry him even though I have a husband because wow, he knows how to treat a girl.
My day was looking up. It was 9 pm, almost the end of the day, but I am an optimist when caught at the right moment.  I believed the day could still get better. I had a hotel room, I had a flight, I had eaten and developed a very proper crush on the hotel chef. (Don’t worry my husband will understand, he knows all about my relationship with caffeine.) Nothing could go wrong. All was right with the world. I blame the caffeine for this uncharacteristic rush of euphoria.
But… five minutes passed and the power in the whole hotel went out.  My rush of euphoria promptly left and I could only laugh and  I lived in Welcome Zhengzhou Airporthope my flight did actually make it out of Zhengzhou the next day.  I was also thankful for my Chinese language at the moment. Most days I feel that you can make it in China without a lot of language. Today, however, if I could not speak the language I am afraid I would have been stuck forever. To be honest, I am not sure I am going to make it out of this city even with the language. I hope I see you all again, if not, I guess I have moved back to China.

And the rest of the story…

For those of you wondering what happened with the power and paying the hotel bill this is the happily ever after. After looking out the window and determining that it was a whole hotel problem, I started trying to contact the front desk. I had no luck but did find a maintenance man out in the hall a few minutes later who assured me he would have the power back on in 10 minutes, and he did. After a very good night’s sleep, I was taken to the bank the next day by a lovely member of the hotel staff. Not the chef. I arrived and the bank president promptly came out to show me the banks brand new ATM machine. He was quick to point out the English capabilities of the machine and I was very thankful, if a bit embarrassed. I paid my hotel bill and got to the airport where my flight took off and landed in Beijing. I made it through another 18 hours of flights and some layovers and home to Perth.

If you are looking for more great ironic pictures of signs in China, try this link Shanghaiexpat.com.

Newcomers to Australia have a lot to Offer

Below is a beautiful story out of the Australian Newspaper today about a young Iranian, new to Australia, with a talent for the English language. There are so many encouraging stories of those who choose to make Australia home. This is just one of them.

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Can I get some help?- Well, I need some

In March 2014, Ross Taylor, President Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 11.17.05 AMof the Perth-based Indonesian Institute, suggested that Indonesia could provide nannies for Australians and relieve some of the issues surrounding childcare in Australia. A huge problem in this country which every mother has experienced and to which there does not seemed to be a well thought out solution in place.  It is a dilemma, and it seems that leaders think if we just talk about the problem and then sort of ignore it well it might just go away. Probably more to the point, they will get elected looking like they care and then do nothing and no one will be all that surprised. The wonders of democracy around the world!

There was almost nothing said in the media about the fact the Indonesian Instituthe-nanny-diaries-5290a42c68b23te had suggested it. No one was leaping at it as a possible solution. Overseas Foreign Workers send back $5 billion a year to the Philippines and have been called heroes by one of the country’s former presidents.  Has The Nanny Diaries scared us all off? Are we scared of Asian immigrants stealing day-care jobs?  I find the non-reaction funny because if by some miracle Indonesia did start sending nannies over and, big if, we could afford it, then we would be running over people to invite an Indonesian nanny to come work for us.
Let me tell you why. We had a Helper in China. A Helper is a person who is employed by the family to well… help. She did, so much. She heHelper Chinalped me by teaching me language for everyday things. She made delicious Chinese food for us. She laughed with me on my days when I didn’t seem to be able to figure out how to do even the simplest things in China. She cleaned our house. She became a loved auntie to our children. She spoiled them…rotten. We ate at her house and her daughter played with our children. She hugged me and cried with me when my grandmother died. She was and remains to this day, a friend.

Is it possible for some people who are employed in these types of positions to be exploited? No one would like to hear this, but yes and it happens more frequently than we would like to know. It is hard work and when the employer is from a different culture then there is the possibility that every day will mean culture shock or, in the worst scenarios, abuse for the employee. They can be asked to do too much. We can blame them for mistakes we made ourselves. I have done that.  I would rant to my husband about a sweater that was lost and claim that she must have put it somewhere strange only to find a that I had lent it to a friend. If you can think of a mistake to make with someone working in your house, chances are I did it because I am flawed like that.
There were plenty of friends and family living in other countries who would make judgments about our lifestyle based on the fact we had a Helper. I was teased many times about my “high on the hog” lifestyle. To those who teased me I laugh and say, “Yes and I loved it!” I have a friend who nicknamed her Helper the “Dinner Fairy”. They both got a good kick out it. She was charmingly overboard in her gratefulness and amazement at the wonder of a dinner which magically appeared without the need for her to slave over it. I don’t blame anyone for being green with envy over that lifestyle and if the employee is happy and fairly treated then I don’t see any reason to apologize out of a silly sense of misplaced guilt.
We kept it as fair as we could by paying a decent wage, fairly allocating sick days and holidays, making friends with her, and providing training. Our helper learned to cook many western dishes to sell to others. Training Helpers
She always made them better on her first try than I made them after a lifetime of practice. She would make tortillas once a week for our youngest child. All he ever had to say was, “I am hungry” in Chinese and he had tortillas. Spoiled rotten! One of our friends tutored her Helper in English and she became a teacher’s assistant. This was not something our Helper desired but I think it is important to provide opportunities to learn new skills.
It doesn’t always work well and I wouldn’t want the job of figuring how to legislate this for the best of everyone involved, but the cultural enrichment and relationship is fabulous. It must be free and fair. I have no interest in a program which abuses people.  I would love to make a new friend. Maybe I would make a fewer mistakes than I did before.

Our helper didn’t live in our home, which is a whole other ball of wax. So, would you hire an overseas nannie if you could?

*I have omitted our Helper’s name and have not included photos of her out of respect for her privacy.