What I Like About You …

Our seven-year-old declared tonight that we all seemed happier living in America, and my heart broke a little bit.  She put into words what I know I’ve been thinking – observing – for awhile now. We moved to Australia for all the right reasons – family, space, and a good lifestyle – but I have to agree with the little one, we were more functional in our Brooklyn community.

The kids were well adjusted and generally happy.

Many of the things we moved here for now seem to have been a mirage, or just no longer exist: the extended family that congregated often for laughs and feasts and creating good memories; the big backyard, fishing and beach houses; seafood and generally terrific food aplenty.

The family is a soap opera in the making, we have a nice place in a good suburb but no big grassy backyard, and everything is ultra expensive. The cost of living in Australia is through the roof compared with the US and Adelaide can be mighty cliquey if you’re a newcomer.

Maybe we haven’t given it a fair go. Maybe things will get better. I hope so, because the thought of packing up and moving overseas AGAIN just makes my head hurt.

And if I leave again, I know I’m never coming back.

As the Brooklyn saying goes, ‘not for nothin’ I’ve decided to write a random list of what it is I miss about the US. Perhaps it will help give me some perspective and make it easier to just shutup and stick it out in Adelaide. If nothing else, it may be cathartic to at least think about what I miss. So here goes, in no particular order:

Friends and family, of course: the kids especially miss their paternal grandparents and their cousins, who are closer in age to them than their Adelaide relatives. We took for granted how well the kids all played together and the strength of the bonds they forged with their grandparents and aunt and uncle, even though we didn’t see them often enough.

My hairdresser: Michelle at Serendipity in Soho – you cannot be replaced. I have had three haircuts in Adelaide; one was a complete botch job, the other two were just ok. I went to Michelle for many years, from before I was even married to the week I left NY – she will be one of my first stops when I go back to visit.

Cheap manis/pedis: never underestimate an inexpensive mani/pedi from one of the hole-in-the-wall Korean nail joints in Manhattan or Brooklyn. For peanuts you can get your feet rubbed, scrubbed and toes polished and looking clean and shiny for weeks to come. I had one pedicure in Adelaide and besides the woman gouging my nail until it bled, the polish peeled off in a day – and it cost about $45.

Walking: it goes without saying that NY is a walking city. I walked the kids to school and back again everyday, I walked to the shops, I schlepped my groceries home. You walk and walk and walk – even when you ride the subway – you walk at either end. You don’t notice how much you are walking but your body notices when you stop walking and start getting into a car to run errands, to get to school or go around the corner.

To be sure, my husband and I have noticed a HUGE change in Adelaide since we first came here together to visit in 2000. People are getting heavier– there are more chubby folk than ever before squeezing themselves in and out of their enormous, sole-occupancy, gas-guzzling vehicles to go 15 minutes in any direction. I reckon it won’t be long before Australia was more heavy people per capita than the US.

Subway, Stoops + Street Noise

The subway; you can go anywhere at anytime. Enough said.

Stoops: there’s nothing nicer than hanging out on someone’s stoop – chatting to neighbors, watching the world go by, or holding a stoop sale. Stoops bring communities together. Front fences and gates and intercom-activated entry does nothing for community.

Street noise: even the occasional gunshots and police helicopters were okay. You knew you were living a city and there was life going on outside your four walls.

Neighbors: knowing that there were other people nearby whose door you could knock on it you needed to borrow a rolling pin, or a cup of sugar was comforting and handy. We could send the kids upstairs to a favourite neighbor’s apartment with a plate of cookies or some leftover dinner, without fearing they’d be abducted.

Cheap cabs: speaks for itself really. You could always find a way home, without breaking the bank.

Coffee: just a regular cup of joe from a street stand, with a splash of milk for a buck 25 – that’s $1.25 – not the average $4 you pay for a coffee here. I still haven’t worked out which coffee I actually like drinking here either. I just want a big cup of black coffee that I can pour milk into, godammit.

Delivery at all hours; one of the biggest issues with living in a small city like Adelaide is that you cannot eat after about 9pm. Kitchens close. Delivery is almost non existent. I miss the Spanish places on Smith Street that would bring beef stew, and rice, beans and plantains at 10pm for $12; I miss the pizza places that would deliver a piping hot pie at 11pm.

Pizza: there is no match for a good New York pizza. All the organic flours, handmade, flown-in-daily artisanal mozzarella and toppings in the world are no match for a plain NY pie.

That’s round one. I’ll add to the list as I think of things, but I already feel better for spilling my guts and remembering the good stuff.  I’m not trying to piss off anyone in Adelaide. This is a great place to live and raise a family – I wouldn’t have chosen to live here if I didn’t believe it, but I didn’t think for a New York minute that it would be so hard to settle back in.


9 thoughts on “What I Like About You …”

  1. Interesting to see your perspective on life in Australia… I do think there is a ‘mythical’ Australia where everyone’s ‘living the life’ at the beach, by the barbie etc. In reality it is so expensive living in a city like Sydney (or Adelaide) these days that the wheels never stop spinning… Everyone I know is a bit stressed and tired and cranky with the kids as they try to keep up (and, yes, in Sydney some of that is ‘keeping up with the Joneses’). Jim and I did a bit of a reconnoitre back home in NZ late last year exactly because we were feeling so jaded with Sydney.
    I should say, though, it’s true that when we came back to Sydney from London many years ago that there was a long transition period. It was at least a year (probably more) before Australia started feeling like home again.
    Keep venting!

  2. Venting is indeed a very healthy thing to do my dear. It sounds to me like you are in need of a good break. But please, don’t leave for good.

  3. Also, if you do find a good hairdresser in town – let me know! I feel like I haven’t had a proper haircut since I left the Barossa.

  4. I didn’t check for a while and here you are,
    miss you guys, come back, even if it is for a visit, I’ll treat you to a mani pedicure promise 🙂
    Hope you are hanging in there, lots going on here, love,

  5. For all the Adelaide folk freaking out reading this and worrying that I might be wallowing in perpetual misery – I’m ok, really. The reality is that moving from one home to another is stressful. Insert disclaimer here: it is not reflection on Adelaide – a beautiful, charming city with loads of good things and potential. xL

  6. if freaking out indeed you are, now all you adelaide folks know how all us ny folks reacted when the little miss declared her intentions to skat. lee — everybody wants you. oh the pressure!!!!

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