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You know you are in Melbourne when...

Now that I have been living in Melbourne for a while, and some of this city’s quirks became normality, I feel like it’s time to talk about the things that I still actively acknowledge when I go about my daily life. These are the things that would make me snap out of my internal singing along to Spotify, and make me re-assess the fact that I am in Australia and this is how things are.

You know you are in Melbourne when

Other than my well known difficulty with keeping left, and the whole ‘how are you?’ issue, I’ve pretty much adapted to the culture here. Yet, I would notice the following things and they would make me somewhat conscious of this reality. Some things may be common, others may be in the list purely because of my Italian background, some are positive, some could be improved, that’s not the point. The point is that these are not first impressions or ‘strange things only Australians do’, neither Part 1 nor Part 2.

  • Bus etiquette
When you are sitting next to someone on the bus and their stop is coming up, there is a silent rule that everyone seems to follow: they would lightly touch their bag handles. That’s the signal. When you see it you need to get up immediately, no words needed, just do it. I find this a very effective practice, compared to the awkward tapping on shoulder and saying things and removing earphones and apologise and thank, that I was used to. Also, if you really want to avoid any social interaction, when the bus is mostly empty and you are sitting on the outside, blocking a stranger, you should get up and seat by yourself. 

  • Most shops close at 4 or 5 pm
I get it, paying staff to work outside business hours might be expensive but, if you have a job, good luck buying that last minute present for your friend’s birthday that you completely forgot about. In Italy, shops are closed around lunchtime for hours, they would open again at 3, and stay open until dinnertime. Which makes a lot of sense to me. Also, here, shops close early on weekends too! If you decide to sleep in, grab a bite, get in your car and do some shopping, it’s already too late and you won’t be able to spend your money on stuff you don’t need. First world problems.

  • Ugly Xmas sweaters
When are you supposed to wear those tacky Christmas themed winter tops? I’ve recently asked this question to my colleagues while wearing a Xmas cardigan. In spring. The options are: only around Christmas risking instant melting, only in July because people celebrate Christmas in July here. Or, option C: always, because they are awesome and perfect ice-breakers.

  • Hugging to greet
Greeting someone with a warm hug is not everyone's cup of tea. I totally respect that and wish people could guess when long hugs and three kisses are not wanted. In Europe, hugging and kissing to say hello and goodbye is the norm, whereas Melbournians don't seem to hug that much at all. Well, I thought it would be paradise, not having to be affectionate to friends all the time (my Italian friends will remember my half-assed hugs), but I found myself actively looking for 'Free Hugs' just to get me some friendly physical contact.

  • Foreign languages
I had a hard time noticing it, but once you see it, it cannot be unseen! Starting from the airport, where you will read words in English and Chinese only, to export shops in the city with Chinese names and offers, to advertisements here and there written only in Chinese. Personally, IMHO, for me, it’s a bit silly and unfair to use a language that is not the official one in the Country, especially for public businesses, advertisements, etc. I think that, if you move to a place that speaks a different language, you should know that language or be willing to learn it as part of your new daily life.

  • Cafes are closed at night
You know that aesthetically pleasing fusion food that we all love here? It’s available only for breakfast and lunch. All these restaurants and cafes close before 4pm. For dinner dates you need to lower your Instagram expectations and go have a tasty kebab, or vegan food, which is great, but not as great as blueberry hotcakes with maple syrup mascarpone, berries, fairy floss, and flowers on the plate.

  • Creative looks
Tattoos and coloured hair are the norm here. You will meet girls with undercuts, guys with ear piercings, parents with tattoos, creative fashion styles, and so on. And you can rock glitter concealer anytime without people laughing at you, pointing, taking sneaky pictures, or asking if it’s Mardi Gras already. All true stories, my Gothic-Lolita friends can testify that’s the norm in Italy, even in big cities. So, good job Australia for letting us be creative. In most places, that is.

  • Footy and cricket
In Italy, every time a sport is mentioned, it's usually soccer. Coming here, I realised what's all over news channels isn't, in fact, rugby or soccer, but football. Mind you, not American football, and not quite rugby, even though they look pretty much identical to a not-so-keen eye. Also, cricket is all the rave. What's funny is that they need to add special effects to cricket ads on tv, possibly to make it look remotely interesting. I care to say I haven't heard anyone denying this statement.



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