Three Things I’ve Never Experienced Outside Australia

Since I’ve arrived in Australia, I’ve noticed that, although the country is much like my home in the States, some extreme differences do, happily, exist. Here’s three biggies.

The illegality of transporting food, plants and animals across state lines – When I flew to Australia, the customary do not bring certain foods off the plane spiel sounded through the cabin as we were about to land. The announcement didn’t mention only fruits and vegetables, though, instead droning on and on and on and finally concluding with “processed foods in packages.” Okay. So no food or plant materials of any type – at all – are allowed in this country from elsewhere. Australia is very protective of its ecosystem. That is a beautiful thing. However…

…weeks later I flew from New South Wales to Western Australia, with a backpack laden with snacks for the subsequent long bus ride from Perth south to Bridgetown. To my stunned ears, the forbidden items announcement rang through the cabin. On a domestic flight. It stopped just shy of mentioning packaged processed foods. Later I learned that food, plants and animals are forbidden to travel from state to state even by automobile in Australia. Quarantine bins and often even border patrol agents are stationed at state lines within Australia, and they and their dogs will search you and your car to ensure that no non-native vegetable seed strays from its home. I suppose I had it pretty easy at the airport. I stood and ate my stash just outside the plane at the quarantine bin, with its lights flashing and a recorded announcement warning of “fruit and vegetable sniffing dogs” over and over and over.

The effects of the hole in the ozone – Although the ozone hole over Antarctica is 4,400 miles away from Australia, the intensity of the sun blasting through makes me happy I’m not here during the summer. On the sole warm day we’ve had since I’ve arrived in Western Australia, I went to a medieval fair in Bailingup. The temperature was mild, but the beams shooting out of the sky were so intense it felt as if the sun was tangled in my hair. As the day progressed and I winced and withered, the sun slipped out of my hair and melted into my face. Really, I thought it might catch on fire. I suspect this hole in the ozone so nearby is responsible for Australia’s title as the country with the highest skin cancer rate in the world. The lack of natural protection from the sun is likely also the motivation behind the complimentary sunscreen which sits on counters and tables in businesses across the land.

Plunger Coffee – Coffee pots don’t seem to be as ubiquitous in Australia as in the States, even in the homes of coffee lovers. Instant coffee, in all its dirt-like glory, is somewhat more common in Australia than other spots on the earth. As if to say we’re sorry about so much instant coffee, also prevalent across the land is a type of coffee that lands in between instant and brewed – plunger coffee. Drop a few tablespoons of regular coffee (not instant) into the carafe of a plunger coffee maker, add hot water, insert a little plunger, slowly push it into into the carafe until it hits the grounds, then wait a couple of minutes and pour into a cup. This Australian coffee making method results in a cup of what tastes remarkably like the real deal. The more coffee you pour in the plunger, the more authentic the taste, in my opinion.