What’s in a name?

As a British migrant raised on Neighbours, I didn’t anticipate many language issues in Australia. Sure, there would be Aussie slang to deal with and I would have to learn to drop the final two letters from programme, but I reckoned there would be no struggles with pronunciation. Everyone speaks English, right?

Right – except an increasing number of those English speakers have come from somewhere else, and brought with them a fantastic array of names. Prior to my move here, my only real experience of Asian names was the branch of my extended family with the surname Ng. The trouble was, no-one ever said it out loud, so I grew up having no idea how it was pronounced. In the end I learned from US alternative band They Might Be Giants. Continue reading

Becoming Australian

Australian flagIn less than a week the Silver Fox and I will become Australian citizens.

Our Aussie citizenship has been almost five years in the making. First there was the 457 visa that got us to Perth, swiftly followed by an application for permanent residency. A few months, one excruciating English test for the (native English-speaking) Silver Fox and a quick trip to Sri Lanka for activation purposes later and we had PR. Then, just like with Australian health insurance, there was a waiting period: four years before we could apply for citizenship.

Four years is plenty of time to fret about the next stage in the process – the exam.

The citizenship test has almost mythical status among ex-pats here. Rumours abound as to its content. Don Bradman’s batting average features heavily in these rumours, as does an encyclopaedic knowledge of AFL teams. In reality, the knowledge you need to pass is probably far less useful in everyday life. You are quizzed on the various Australian flags, on the rights and responsibilities of citizens and the way government works. More than one Australian friend has told me they would struggle to pass. Continue reading

Moving to Oz? Six things you need to know about Australian supermarkets

Coles - one of the big two supermarket chainsI love supermarkets. Well, ethically, I’m not so keen on their dominance of the marketplace and their ability to put small traders out of business in a flash, but from a sociological point of view, I find them fascinating.

On trips abroad I love wandering round the local hypermarché or supermercado to get an idea of how the natives like to live. And had I known that when I arrived in Perth almost five years ago, the big supermarkets were forced by law to shut at 6pm (a situation thankfully now changed) I might never have got on the plane. It proved to be a very accurate indicator of what living in Perth would be like.

I thought Australian supermarkets would be much the same as British ones, and they are. But as a new migrant, there are still a few things you need to know about shopping at Woolworths or Coles. Continue reading