Okay, it’s time to come clean: I’ve been in Australia for the past few weeks, but I had plenty of blog topics to keep me writing about France. By the time you read this, I’ll be holidaying on an island on the Great Barrier Reef before heading to Brisbane for a family wedding, then back in France next week.
Until then, I want to write about how easy it is to idealise a home country when living abroad. It’s natural for anyone to compare countries, but I’m now comparing France to an Australia of ten years ago. In that time, a lot has changed: toll roads; skim-milk Big M flavoured milk; water restrictions from drought; new stadiums; and slower traffic just to name a few. Although I’m a fan of the low-fat flavoured milk, having to restrict showers to three minutes, using the government-provided egg-timer on a suction cup for the shower tiles is not as attractive. I guess I’ve used Australia as my normality guage for other countries I’ve lived in. I have idealised my country.
For example, I explained to my French travel partner that he wouldn’t need to pack a rain jacket because ‘Melbourne is having a drought and it only rains a few times a year so we’ll be fine.’ It rained two days after we arrived, then again the next day, and then again the following day. At least that might prevent shower times from dropping further. Then, after parking the car outside a shop advertised as ‘Open 24 hours a day’, we noticed, as we walked up to the door at 6.59am, that the staff were just unlocking the door after being closed overnight. I guess they just didn’t specify which days they’re open 24 hours.
When we spent a day snowboarding at Mt Buller, we hired equipment rather than lugging our own from France. Our first attempt to hire failed massively. We had our equipment fitted and had chatted to the ski technician about where we live in France and how pointless it would be to bring snowboards with us from there just for one day. His assistant then asked for a credit card. Apparently, my debit card isn’t good enough because there’s a risk that we’ll flee the country with, shock horror, very old ski hire crud including smelly boots, damaged snowboards and heavy bindings. I asked my partner if he had a credit card, but like me, he only had a debit card. They said if my driving license had been Australian and not British, it would have been okay. Errr, what? Common sense did not prevail and they said the risk of us not returning their old, worn out hire equipment was too great. We were stupidly honest with them about only having French debit cards, which are labelled only as ‘Carte Bleu, so on our way to the next shop, we agreed to give them a Carte Bleu debit card and not tell them it was a debit card. It worked and we hire some equipment.
Idealism shattered, I’m pleased to say that the positives have by far outweighed the negatives: friendly shop assistants; native birds tweeting outside my mum’s house; great food; a return to sunny weather; a fantastic city to explore, and so much more. I still call Australia ‘home’.
…but I’m still looking forward to winter in the French Alps.