Thursday, February 9, 2012

Twelve things they don't tell you about Sydney before immigration

1) Lice infestations are a regular occurence at Sydney schools - they love the moist warm climate, and we've had at least 10 delousing sessions in our home.

2)Australian drivers have never heard of turning right from the middle of the road, so if you want to go left you have to patiently wait even tho' you could have gone five minutes ago if the d-ckheads in front of you would move over 5 cms

3)You may have to take a number and wait in a queue even just to buy a pair of shoes, as happened to us on our last school shoe shopping expedition

4)The police and justice systems can be incredibly petty, punitive, inflexible and myopic, and are often about income generation or power as protecting and serving citizerns. Take one small example: On the 19th of May 2012 we decided to pull our bicycles out of the garage where they had been gathering dust for six months or so. We put on our old bike rack and drove to Centennial Park. Inside we dove along at 15km/h looking for a parking space when a siren went on behind us and we noticed a flashing light. We pulled over and a highway policeman emerged and told us that our bikes were obscuring our license plate and he couldn't read the B and the P at the beginning and end of the plate. He explained that this was a violation and that the plate needed to be on the bikes. I said - truthfully - that we had been using the bike rack for 4 1/2 years (and had driven to parks and campsites all over and outside of Sydney) and had never been stopped or been told this before. He disappeard into his car and emerged a few minutes later with a $353 fine. I was suitably shocked and depressed as was my wife. "Its punitive" I said to him,"if someone had just told us it was not allowed we would have taken apropriate action. Now, out of the blue we suddenly get this huge fine. Can't you just give us a warning?"
"No there's nothing I can do" he reassured us, "the best advice I can give you is to write to the state debt recovery service and see if you can get it changed to a caution." And hedrove off, leaving us to enjoy our Saturday afternoon cycle. And there you have it Ladies and Gentleman - the incorruptable and fearless nature of the boys in blue! 

5) Mainstream Australia is terrified of emotional depth, complexity and ambiguity, so an affirmitive response to a request you make will be closely followed by a declarative "no worries" or "no dramas" - not that anything you said was likely to give rise to worry or drama. When a young Australian is going to send you an email they "just flick it over to you." All is sweetness and light and civility, the repressed and dark angry underbelly generally only emerges when sufficient alcohol has been imbibed, or groups of young men or women find themselves together and the nanny state (in the form of teachers/police etc) is temporarily hidden.

A while back there was an outraged article in an Australian Tabloid about Indian call centre workers who had been told that "Australians dote on their dogs, they're lazy, they love sport, and there's no point in phoning them on a Friday night because they'll all be drunk." No comment.

5)Even tho you have no intention of procreating with the guy at the garage or cash register, he'll still call you mate - and this holds true even if he's only been here a short whil a few days from Iran or Afghanistan or Bangladesh, because everyone wants to be accepted into Australianess (= the Anglo Celtic stereotype thereof)

6) Capitalism and inauthentic relationships based on commodification are more matured here then they are in South Africa, so commercial interactions will often be sealed with a ghastly and synthetic "enjoy your day". That this is generally proffered sincerely is even worse, indicating ho conditioned people are in this society and how alienated from anything that they call deviance and I call living pathlessly (with a nod to Krishnamurti). As for calls to call centres where humans transformed into automatons follow ghastly scripts and you are processed like a sausage by the plodding machinery of corporate idiocy, the synthetic nature of these interactions would be enough to make poets and gurus weep out of compassion for the victims on both end of the line (or signal in these digital days.)

7)Service is non-existent in many large Australian retailers, or incoherent, or unbelievably slow. In general the wheels turn slowly here, except for tax rebates, which ar processed remarkably quickly, so yarmulkes off to the Australian Tax Office for both fleecing and clothing us with remarkable efficiency. In general getting a passport or a mediacare (national health insurance) rebate is incredibly quick and efficient compared to the developing world nightmare of South Africa. But almost everyone in Sydney seems time poor, and most things (commutes, shops, finding parking, public transport, school days, work, finding who to complain to) take an inordinately long time.

8) Sydney housing is amongst the most expensive in the world, and many lower middle class families spend more than 50% of their incom on exorbitant rents or exorbitant mortgages.

9)Australia is one of the most regulated countries in the world and nothing happens here without a plethora of red tape. If you are an entrepreneur, don't expect to make easy money; all the loopholes are plugged, and many many hard working and capable middle class professionals an entrepreneurs struggle to save or to grow their worth.

10) The big four banks here often put up their rates on mortgages even when the Repo rate has not gone up, and what's more, when the repo rate falls the banks Commonwealth, ANZ (infamous for its financing of coal fired power stations) NAB and St George don't pass on the rate cuts to their clients - they care more about their shareholders than their customers, which I guess is how mature capitalism works. (So you 'have' to become a shareholder yourself if you don't want to get too screwed.)

Another strange and blighted thing which emblifies the inflexible in-the box systems based approach here is that if you are self employed it is much more difficult to get a mortgage, and you have to provide a lot of info to get one, even if you can show you have been paying rent consistently for four or five years, rent greater than your proposed mortgage repayments will be.

By contrast if you are formally employed, and can produce 3 or 4 current payslips, its quite easy to get a mortgage, even though you may be retrenched or fired or resign the day after getting the mortgage, and be unable to make the repayments.

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