Archive for the ‘Whinging Pom’ Category

Australian Do Not Call register: success or failure?

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

It’s just over a year since the Australian government launched the Do Not Call Register. By adding your name and phone number to this register, you (theoretically) stop telemarketers from cold-calling you. I hate telemarketing calls – they’re a complete waste of my time and energy – so I signed up straight away.

So, how has it worked out over the last year? Well, the number of telemarketing calls we get has dropped from over 1 a week to maybe 2 a month, so that’s a definite improvement. I had one very persistent debt collection agency calling me repeatedly every 2 days after I was on the register, but after making a complaint on the Do Not Call Register website, they stopped. (Turned out they thought I was somebody else. Nice bit of research there.) We also had a call from a mortgage company last month, but again, a quick complaint seems to have sorted that one out. (Apparently many people had complained about the same company. I hope they get hit with a nice big fine.)

It’s for a good cause – honest

The biggest problem, though, has been with charities. For some inexplicable reason, charities were made exempt when the Do Not Call Register Act was introduced. Charities are all to eager to exploit this loophole, too – we get more charities calling us now than ever before.

I don’t understand the logic here. I’m no Scrooge when it comes to charitable giving, but what gives a charity the right to call me, when I have explicitly stated that I do not want to receive telemarketing calls? When a telemarketer calls me at 6PM and wakes my sick baby who’s just got off to sleep, I don’t care whether they’re selling me mortgages or donations to one-armed homeless Martians, they will get an earful from me. (Apparently though they’re providing a service to the community by waking my sick baby.) Telling them not to call me again rarely works either. (more…)

The Aussie petrol price lottery

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Petrol droplet with dollar signNow that we have a car, we’re obviously buying a lot of petrol. I have to say, the way they price petrol in Australia is insane. It’s cheap enough – compared to the UK, that is – but you never know what the price is going to be one day to the next. They change the prices every day! At least in the UK if fuel was £1 a litre one day, there was a reasonable chance it’d be £1 a litre the next day. Here in Sydney, it might be $1.29 a litre on Wednesday, $1.40 a litre on Thursday, then back down to $1.35 a litre on Friday!

So what gives? According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), petrol prices are subject to all sorts of factors, including international wholesale prices and movements in the exchange rate. But do petrol stations really have to change their prices every single day? Just think of the wasted time and effort changing all those signs each morning! (Well it keeps the petrol station owners fit, I guess.) In fact, sometimes they change prices several times a day! Talk about a lottery.

Anyway, for the record it appears the best time to buy fuel in Sydney is on a Tuesday, and the worst day of the week is Thursday. So now you know.

Induction cooking! Woo, yay!

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Induction cooking in actionI’m thinking of starting an “Australia: 20 years behind the UK” category…

I’ve just been gobsmacked by an article in my local paper that burbles enthusiastically about the delights of induction cooking. It says, and I quote: “Professional chefs and restaurants are leading the trend towards induction cooking” and “Induction cooking began to attract interest in Australia about two years ago”.

I assume this is the same type of cooker that’s been on sale in the UK and Europe since the 1980s?!

Wow…

Australian fashion

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

An example of Australian fashion

No comment.

Watching Aussie TV – without a TV

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

Old televisionWe don’t have a TV. We had one in the UK, but heard rumours that not all UK TVs work over here, so we sold it in the UK when we moved here in 2002. We didn’t buy a new one here because our UK expat friends tell us that Aussie TV is – to put it politely – not worth watching. Also it’s nice not having a TV – gives you time for chatting and reading. And blogging, of course.

(It also gives you a great excuse when the Foxtel door-to-door mob come a-calling. “Why don’t you want to have Foxtel?” “We don’t have a TV”. “Oh…”)

Weirdos

Interestingly, when we tell people we don’t have a TV, their first reaction is, “Woah, weird!”, closely followed by, “No, good on you – you’re not missing much…”

When we go on trips, though, we love watching the TV in our motel/B&B room. It’s a real treat. We do mostly watch ABC and SBS though – everything else seems absolute tosh. (We did get strangely addicted to Channel 7’s Border Security on our last couple of trips, but it’s still tosh.) (more…)

When your suburb becomes a slum

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

This is the scene in our street for four weeks every year:

Junk in street

Do I live in a slum? No! This is how you get rid of your junk here in Australia!

In the UK, the councils have a sensible system whereby you ring them up and arrange a day for them to collect all your junk. You put the junk outside your house the night before, and the next morning, it’s gone. Easy, simple, and low-impact.

In Australia, they have a rather different approach: The junk of everyone in the street gets collected on the same day. Twice a year.

This causes two problems:

  1. Your street looks like a council rubbish tip for two weeks before each collection.
  2. Some morons always take the piss and start putting their junk out two months early. Or, even, whenever they feel like it throughout the year. Of course, they can get away with it by saying, “mate I thought it was the council clean-up next week!” (Unsurprisingly, this ruse doesn’t work in the UK.)

It’s insane. Sort it out, Aussie councils!

(Actually, there is one good side-effect of the Aussie way of junk collection: it gives other folks a chance to grab other people’s junk before it gets taken away. It’s an efficient way to recycle your stuff, I guess…)

Sydney public transport is great!

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

Public transport logosThis may surprise many people who live in Sydney, but your public transport system is actually really good. Compared to the UK, that is.

I’ve often heard Sydneysiders moan about packed buses, delayed trains, price increases, and so on. You know nothing. Try living in England for a year, then let’s see if you still want to moan about Sydney.

Let the train take the strain

A one-way train ticket from Sydney to the Blue Mountains – a 2-hour journey of nearly 100km – costs $11.60. A one-way train ticket from London Paddington to Reading – a 25-minute journey (assuming the train doesn’t break down) of around 40km – costs GBP 12.90, or around $32.00. (That’s the cheapest possible fare – if you travel during peak time, it’s GBP 15.60, or $39.00.) So you can stop complaining about high Sydney ticket prices.

You think Sydney trains are unreliable? Commuting to London, it would be unusual if the train wasn’t seriously delayed at least once in any given week. I’ve sat in stationary English trains for two hours, waiting for them to get moving again. (more…)

Australia: A tough country for vegetarians

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

Chicken saltI’m not vegetarian, but my wife Cat is. She finds it hard going in this country.

She’s not vegetarian for any moral “think of the furry-wurry animals” reason – she just hates the taste (and texture) of meat. The thought of eating meat or its various products makes her sick. So it’s not like she can have chicken “just this once”. It’s no meat, or no food at all.

Trouble is, the Aussie definition of “vegetarian” seems to be “pretends not to like meat, but likes it really”. Cat’s had this conversation in more than one restaurant:

“Here’s our menu, madam.”

“I’m vegetarian. What dishes can you offer for me?”

“You’re vegetarian? Do you eat chicken and fish?”

“Er, no. I’m vegetarian.”

You wouldn’t have thought it a hard concept to grasp.

Quite often we’ll go out for a meal on holiday, to find that only one restaurant in town has anything veggie on the menu. And that will be “stir-fried vegetables” (which Cat is understandably sick of by now). Often restaurants will have a veggie entrée, then the mains will all be meat. (As if vegetarians somehow have smaller stomachs or something.)

(more…)

The high cost of living in Australia

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

Dollars in a shopping cartFor some reason, when I lived in the UK I was always under the mistaken impression that Australia is a cheap place to live. I suppose it is cheaper living in Sydney than, say, London, but it’s by no means “cheap”. In fact, in some areas, Australia seems more expensive than the UK.

For one thing, electronics goods tend to be pricier here – presumably because of the cost of shipping stuff to this remote island. (I’m really hoping an amazon.com.au will open here soon, and create some decent competition on pricing.)

Even foodstuffs are often more expensive than in the UK. For example, Tesco in the UK sells pretty decent own-brand wholemeal sliced bread for around 55p, or AUD $1.35. That’s for an 800g loaf. Try finding an 800g wholemeal loaf in an Australian supermarket for under $3. Other basics such as potatoes and tomatoes are pricey here, though they fluctuate wildly according to season. (Not much chance of Tesco influencing prices here now, either.)

Then again, it’s not surprising food is expensive, seeing as the supermarkets import half their goods from the other side of the world. You’d have thought with Australia’s climate that the shelves would be packed with Australian olives, but 90% of them are from Greece or Spain. I have a Woolworths own-brand jar of strawberry jam in the fridge that was made in Poland.

I suspect a lot of this is down to the supermarkets; there’s not really much competition amongst supermarkets here, with Woolworths and Coles pretty much sewing up the “supermarket market”. If you shop in small local shops, such as bakers and greengrocers, you often get better quality food – I guess that’s a given – but they’re often cheaper than the supermarkets, and you get a bigger range too. The opposite of the UK, basically.

It also doesn’t help that the government happily slaps 10% GST – the equivalent of VAT – on anything considered a “luxury item” in a supermarket – and this includes things like coffee, biscuits, and toilet rolls.

To be fair, some things, such as milk and tins of beans, seem to be roughly the same price in both Australian and UK supermarkets, and of course the exchange rate has a big effect on these comparisons too. So maybe there’s not a lot in it overall.

However, books are ridiculously expensive – often up to double the price of books in the UK – and to add insult to injury that 10% GST applies to books too. Doesn’t the government want its citizens to read?! On the plus side, this makes second-hand bookstores very popular here.

Electricity has traditionally been relatively inexpensive – compared to the UK – but thanks to the major drought going on here at the moment, that looks set to change.

It must be said, though – compared to the UK, Australian public transport is a bargain. And the beer’s cheap too! :)

Bad spelling

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

I admit that I’m a bit of a spelling and grammar nazi (and that my own standard of English is far from perfect). I just like to see decent English, that’s all; blatant spelling and grammar errors make me cringe. It’s bad enough when you see the odd greengrocer writing “apples” as “apple’s”, but really, there’s no excuse for this:

allergys (sic)

This is taken from a large (half-page) advert on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald, a large, national Australian newspaper. You would have thought that a company that has created, and spends large sums of money marketing, an anti-allergy treatment would at least make sure they were spelling “allergies” correctly. Particularly when the word in question stands two inches high on the page. Failing that, you’d think that someone in the newspaper’s advertising department would pick up on such a blatant cock-up. It’s not as though Photoshop, InDesign et al don’t have built-in spell checkers.

This is only one of countless blatant errors that I frequently see here. There’s even an apartment block nearby whose name – lovingly created in wrought iron on the side of the building, so it’s not like they haven’t had time to think about it – is spelled “The Oak’s”. (Maybe the building belongs to a person called “The Oak”, I dunno.)

Is the standard of spelling and grammar worse here than in the UK? It seems so, to me. But then it’s been five years since I’ve lived in the UK; maybe standards have dropped there too. Or maybe I’m just becoming more sensitive to these things over time. Or maybe I’m just a whinging Pom. ;)