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Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

Old Jan 4th 2008, 5:15 am
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Smile Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

Hello

Thought I would just share our experience of an Oz Christmas with all you people about to make that big plunge that involves leaving all things familiar behind as you emigrate south towards the sun.

Actually this wasn’t our first Christmas down under, we were here last Christmas, at least in body. What I mean by that is that we had just stepped off the plane and were caught up in that whirlwind of activity necessary to obtain tax file numbers, bank accounts, Medicare and Medibank, buying a car and finding a place to live. All of which sort of distracts you from the general merriment that seemed to be taking place all around us….in the sunshine!

Not that we had a bad first Christmas here, on the contrary. We actually were adopted for Christmas day by a wonderful family! It was less than a week before the big day and we were killing time in a café while waiting to pick up the keys to our newly acquired house rental. The lady taking our order picked up on our accents and was duly appalled to discover that we had no family of friends to spend Christmas day with, so she insisted that we join her family for the day! Which we did!
We were treated by this family of complete strangers with such friendliness and warmth that neither of us will ever forget and this act of generosity certainly made our first Christmas special. A very special family and a very special Christmas day - but not a Christmas of our own making! That would be this years!

So this was the first opportunity for us to experience the build up (which let’s face it, is probably the best bit) and to plan our very own Christmas down under. So how did it catch us? A little off guard truth be told. You must bear in mind here that we hail from the North West coast of England where Bing’s promise of a ‘White Christmas’ has always been superseded by weather more akin to that of ‘The Perfect Storm’ or ‘The Day after Tomorrow’ if we’re talking movies here. So Christmas in the sunshine was always going to be a bit of a strange one.

It was probably the very tail end of November when driving home from work one Friday night that it occurred to me that something festive was in the air. I had that Friday feeling, window down, radio on, the Melbourne weather had started hitting the summer climate a couple of weeks earlier after promising spring for quite a while and I’m deliberating what to pick up from Dan Murphy’s (probably the best off licence in the world....... if Carlsberg built bottle shops, this would be it) for tonight’s BBQ.

My whole body clock, after being finely tuned to the UK weather cycle for the last forty years is screaming summer time – that’s when I first saw Santa!

That is if you discount the Christmas Eve when as a five year old I recall clearly excitedly announcing to my elder brother that I had just in fact seen the big guy from the North Pole himself scaling the neighbours roof! To which he curtly informed me that no such person actually existed and robustly supported his argument by showing me presents wrapped and hidden underneath our parent’s bed! It was little consolation to later learn that I had in fact witnessed an attempted burglary! The information that I passed onto the police was largely discarded as they were not in a hurry to start apprehending any of the usual local suspects based upon the festive flavoured description of the culprit which I begrudgingly provided. Should have dobbed in my brother in hindsight!

But back to the antipodean Saint Nick who had just knocked me out of my Friday night summer stride. He (or she) is standing by the side of the Highway in the full regalia waving at passing motorists. Well, sort of standing and sort of slumping against the tree that he is desperately trying to find shade beneath as it has actually just cracked the thirty degree mark. Santa is fighting off heat exhaustion while trying to distract passing motorists to look away from the three lanes of moving vehicles that they are part of to look at the huge plastic awning that is plastered over what I’m sure was an empty warehouse two weeks earlier but now apparently is ‘The Christmas Bargain Grotto’. I do hope they stocked Oxygen & icepacks as I’m pretty sure they were about to lose one of their temporary seasonal workers otherwise.

This is when the UK body clock and the Oz Christmas first collided and I started to notice things. The decorations in the shopping mall, the festive goods in the supermarkets, the ads on the TV & radio. Now I’m sure that the commercial side of things had creaked into operation a good few weeks prior to this ephiany but that’s when I first noticed - Christmas was coming up fast!

So, first thing the following Monday I put in a couple of weeks annual leave at work which I think always makes things a bit more real and started to engage in those sneaky conversation with my wife that are designed to discover what would be the appropriate gift to buy this year. Let’s face it, we think we are being cunning here but in truth we are probably being beyond transparent and in truth allowing our partners too subtly (or not) steer us in the right direction of a gift that has some use beyond Boxing Day. We think we’re clever, our partners get something useful! Everyone’s a winner.

The one big commonality between the UK & the Oz Christmas I believe comes each time you spend more than an hour in one of the large indoor shopping malls that Australia does so well. Once inside there’s climate control, not much influence from the weather outside, Christmas decorations every where and all the usual Christmas songs being drip fed into your sub conscious. The vibe is the same world over, you could be in Gateshead Metro Centre, Trafford Park or any of the big UK shopping centres. Only the discerning eye would notice the surf boards and BBQ units wrapped in tinsel which granted, would look more than a little odd in the UK in December.

The last day at work people tend to do the traditional ‘having a drink or two’ with colleagues which again is a little different to what I have been used to in the past and does tend to follow the Aussie way of socialising rather than the pattern common to the mother country. That is to say when people actually do go out for ‘a couple of drinks’ it is not code for – finishing work at midday, going from one pub to the next until you can no longer speak, hopefully avoid any conflict in the fast food take away, before falling sleep in front the TV with most of the afore mentioned take away meal on your shirt!

We shared Christmas day with a couple of good friends we have met this year and done what we had always done. A big Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. The big difference was sitting in the sunshine having a beer before lunch. That felt good. Sitting in the sunshine again after having eaten a full roast dinner maybe didn’t feel quite as good but hey – you live and learn. Maybe a BBQ and salad next year?

Missing the family is a big thing at Christmas, no getting away from it. It’s never going to be easy but that’s one of the hard if not the hardest choice we all make when we decide to emigrate. It does make for a nice evening though, sitting on the decking calling all your (not so) nearest and dearest to catch them on Christmas morning. They are just getting up and opening gifts full of the Christmas spirit and you will probably be just starting on the spirits that hail from the much favoured Dan Murphy’s bottle shop mentioned a little earlier. Getting through on the phone can be a bit of a jam though, lot’s of people trying to phone overseas. Having Skype on the computer certainly helped.

Rounded off the night with our next door neighbours inviting us over for a drink, real nice folk who again, we never knew this time last year. Friendly faces do help so much in the absence of family, they will never be a substitute for family but boy does it help.

One thing we have learned in this first year is how important it is to invest your time and energies into making friends and headway into your new life and not spending all that time maintaining every single link to your old life. This can be hard, but I don’t think you will find any ex-pat who won’t tell you the same story of how many of the calls and e mails from friends and colleagues dry up not long after leaving the UK. Your family and close friends will never drift too far, but time spent trying to force communications with others is wasted. The good times that you had in your old life can’t be taken away, but it’s time to start build building tomorrow’s memories here in your new life. That’s how we see it!

Boxing Day was good too. It was certainly the tradition where we come from for people to head out to pubs, clubs and sporting fixtures. I now know why – going to the beach was never an option!

So, how do the two compare? Which is better? Well, that really is up to you. For us, our first Oz Christmas in its entirety was fantastic. Different, but good different.

We know of some people originally from the UK who are considering going ‘home’ next Christmas as ‘it’s just not the same here!’ They’re right too, it’s not the same, it is different, you realise that each time you look out the window. It really is a case of everyone to their own on this one, and if the homesickness thing is going to strike, Christmas has got to be prime time, certainly in your first couple of years. But if you expect it and make some plans to keep yourselves busy, try some different things and even prior arrange times when you will call the family or when they can call you it all helps.

You don’t have to abandon all your long standing Christmas traditions, maybe just fine tune them and establish a few new ones of your own along the way. Santa may have traded in his Sleigh for a Holden Ute and his Reindeers for Roo’s but it’s still Christmas and you’re still surrounded by lot’s of people who are celebrating it.

That’s how it was for us, not saying this is how it is for everyone, just telling how it was for us. Hope it helps.

By the way, you will be pleased to know that Santa recovered well from his case of heat stroke and can currently be seen dressed as a can of Castlemaine XXXX distracting motorists as they drive past our local Dan Murphy’s drive through……

Wishing you all the best of luck for the New Year…
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Old Jan 4th 2008, 8:10 am
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Default Re: Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

Excellent post mate, enjoy!
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Old Jan 4th 2008, 8:40 am
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Default Re: Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

Excellant post!
Like you say, it is different but then again the same as we're all celebrating the same thing, just doing it a little differently.

We took our boat out on Boxing Day and whilst most of Perth sweltered in 43 degrees we were chilling and fishing in the middle of the ocean, not even aware of the high temp. Now you can't do that on Boxing Day in the UK (well you could but you'd be bloody mad to )
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Old Jan 4th 2008, 10:24 am
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Default Re: Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

Great post, and I think sums it up very well. We have made new traditions, things that we didn't do in the UK, and I must admit this Christmas was probably the best one we have ever had.
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Old Jan 4th 2008, 5:51 pm
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Default Re: Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

That was fantastic, a great read. I was wandering this year what it was like. We had friends ring us on Christmas night (lunchtime). Don't fancy cooking a christmas dinner with all the trimmings in that heat!
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Old Jan 5th 2008, 8:46 pm
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Default Re: Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

Great post!

Really enjoyed reading it and now looking forward to my first Christmas in Australia.
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Old Jan 5th 2008, 10:19 pm
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Default Re: Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

Originally Posted by Mike H View Post
Hello

Thought I would just share our experience of an Oz Christmas with all you people about to make that big plunge that involves leaving all things familiar behind as you emigrate south towards the sun.

Actually this wasn’t our first Christmas down under, we were here last Christmas, at least in body. What I mean by that is that we had just stepped off the plane and were caught up in that whirlwind of activity necessary to obtain tax file numbers, bank accounts, Medicare and Medibank, buying a car and finding a place to live. All of which sort of distracts you from the general merriment that seemed to be taking place all around us….in the sunshine!

Not that we had a bad first Christmas here, on the contrary. We actually were adopted for Christmas day by a wonderful family! It was less than a week before the big day and we were killing time in a café while waiting to pick up the keys to our newly acquired house rental. The lady taking our order picked up on our accents and was duly appalled to discover that we had no family of friends to spend Christmas day with, so she insisted that we join her family for the day! Which we did!
We were treated by this family of complete strangers with such friendliness and warmth that neither of us will ever forget and this act of generosity certainly made our first Christmas special. A very special family and a very special Christmas day - but not a Christmas of our own making! That would be this years!

So this was the first opportunity for us to experience the build up (which let’s face it, is probably the best bit) and to plan our very own Christmas down under. So how did it catch us? A little off guard truth be told. You must bear in mind here that we hail from the North West coast of England where Bing’s promise of a ‘White Christmas’ has always been superseded by weather more akin to that of ‘The Perfect Storm’ or ‘The Day after Tomorrow’ if we’re talking movies here. So Christmas in the sunshine was always going to be a bit of a strange one.

It was probably the very tail end of November when driving home from work one Friday night that it occurred to me that something festive was in the air. I had that Friday feeling, window down, radio on, the Melbourne weather had started hitting the summer climate a couple of weeks earlier after promising spring for quite a while and I’m deliberating what to pick up from Dan Murphy’s (probably the best off licence in the world....... if Carlsberg built bottle shops, this would be it) for tonight’s BBQ.

My whole body clock, after being finely tuned to the UK weather cycle for the last forty years is screaming summer time – that’s when I first saw Santa!

That is if you discount the Christmas Eve when as a five year old I recall clearly excitedly announcing to my elder brother that I had just in fact seen the big guy from the North Pole himself scaling the neighbours roof! To which he curtly informed me that no such person actually existed and robustly supported his argument by showing me presents wrapped and hidden underneath our parent’s bed! It was little consolation to later learn that I had in fact witnessed an attempted burglary! The information that I passed onto the police was largely discarded as they were not in a hurry to start apprehending any of the usual local suspects based upon the festive flavoured description of the culprit which I begrudgingly provided. Should have dobbed in my brother in hindsight!

But back to the antipodean Saint Nick who had just knocked me out of my Friday night summer stride. He (or she) is standing by the side of the Highway in the full regalia waving at passing motorists. Well, sort of standing and sort of slumping against the tree that he is desperately trying to find shade beneath as it has actually just cracked the thirty degree mark. Santa is fighting off heat exhaustion while trying to distract passing motorists to look away from the three lanes of moving vehicles that they are part of to look at the huge plastic awning that is plastered over what I’m sure was an empty warehouse two weeks earlier but now apparently is ‘The Christmas Bargain Grotto’. I do hope they stocked Oxygen & icepacks as I’m pretty sure they were about to lose one of their temporary seasonal workers otherwise.

This is when the UK body clock and the Oz Christmas first collided and I started to notice things. The decorations in the shopping mall, the festive goods in the supermarkets, the ads on the TV & radio. Now I’m sure that the commercial side of things had creaked into operation a good few weeks prior to this ephiany but that’s when I first noticed - Christmas was coming up fast!

So, first thing the following Monday I put in a couple of weeks annual leave at work which I think always makes things a bit more real and started to engage in those sneaky conversation with my wife that are designed to discover what would be the appropriate gift to buy this year. Let’s face it, we think we are being cunning here but in truth we are probably being beyond transparent and in truth allowing our partners too subtly (or not) steer us in the right direction of a gift that has some use beyond Boxing Day. We think we’re clever, our partners get something useful! Everyone’s a winner.

The one big commonality between the UK & the Oz Christmas I believe comes each time you spend more than an hour in one of the large indoor shopping malls that Australia does so well. Once inside there’s climate control, not much influence from the weather outside, Christmas decorations every where and all the usual Christmas songs being drip fed into your sub conscious. The vibe is the same world over, you could be in Gateshead Metro Centre, Trafford Park or any of the big UK shopping centres. Only the discerning eye would notice the surf boards and BBQ units wrapped in tinsel which granted, would look more than a little odd in the UK in December.

The last day at work people tend to do the traditional ‘having a drink or two’ with colleagues which again is a little different to what I have been used to in the past and does tend to follow the Aussie way of socialising rather than the pattern common to the mother country. That is to say when people actually do go out for ‘a couple of drinks’ it is not code for – finishing work at midday, going from one pub to the next until you can no longer speak, hopefully avoid any conflict in the fast food take away, before falling sleep in front the TV with most of the afore mentioned take away meal on your shirt!

We shared Christmas day with a couple of good friends we have met this year and done what we had always done. A big Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. The big difference was sitting in the sunshine having a beer before lunch. That felt good. Sitting in the sunshine again after having eaten a full roast dinner maybe didn’t feel quite as good but hey – you live and learn. Maybe a BBQ and salad next year?

Missing the family is a big thing at Christmas, no getting away from it. It’s never going to be easy but that’s one of the hard if not the hardest choice we all make when we decide to emigrate. It does make for a nice evening though, sitting on the decking calling all your (not so) nearest and dearest to catch them on Christmas morning. They are just getting up and opening gifts full of the Christmas spirit and you will probably be just starting on the spirits that hail from the much favoured Dan Murphy’s bottle shop mentioned a little earlier. Getting through on the phone can be a bit of a jam though, lot’s of people trying to phone overseas. Having Skype on the computer certainly helped.

Rounded off the night with our next door neighbours inviting us over for a drink, real nice folk who again, we never knew this time last year. Friendly faces do help so much in the absence of family, they will never be a substitute for family but boy does it help.

One thing we have learned in this first year is how important it is to invest your time and energies into making friends and headway into your new life and not spending all that time maintaining every single link to your old life. This can be hard, but I don’t think you will find any ex-pat who won’t tell you the same story of how many of the calls and e mails from friends and colleagues dry up not long after leaving the UK. Your family and close friends will never drift too far, but time spent trying to force communications with others is wasted. The good times that you had in your old life can’t be taken away, but it’s time to start build building tomorrow’s memories here in your new life. That’s how we see it!

Boxing Day was good too. It was certainly the tradition where we come from for people to head out to pubs, clubs and sporting fixtures. I now know why – going to the beach was never an option!

So, how do the two compare? Which is better? Well, that really is up to you. For us, our first Oz Christmas in its entirety was fantastic. Different, but good different.

We know of some people originally from the UK who are considering going ‘home’ next Christmas as ‘it’s just not the same here!’ They’re right too, it’s not the same, it is different, you realise that each time you look out the window. It really is a case of everyone to their own on this one, and if the homesickness thing is going to strike, Christmas has got to be prime time, certainly in your first couple of years. But if you expect it and make some plans to keep yourselves busy, try some different things and even prior arrange times when you will call the family or when they can call you it all helps.

You don’t have to abandon all your long standing Christmas traditions, maybe just fine tune them and establish a few new ones of your own along the way. Santa may have traded in his Sleigh for a Holden Ute and his Reindeers for Roo’s but it’s still Christmas and you’re still surrounded by lot’s of people who are celebrating it.

That’s how it was for us, not saying this is how it is for everyone, just telling how it was for us. Hope it helps.

By the way, you will be pleased to know that Santa recovered well from his case of heat stroke and can currently be seen dressed as a can of Castlemaine XXXX distracting motorists as they drive past our local Dan Murphy’s drive through……

Wishing you all the best of luck for the New Year…
Great post. Are emigrating to Melbourne August time (terrified) and something i cant seem to get my head round is Xmas. Im GOING TO sit in a well air-conditioned room, curtains closed in a scarf and hat!!!!!!!!!!! - ive decided!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old Jan 5th 2008, 10:38 pm
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Default Re: Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

Just spent our first Christmas here having moved to Brisbane in June. (By the way everything is going 'swimmingly' for us all, kiddies in private school - could never of afforded that in the UK. Wife has a little job which she is very content with - and I have an absolutely fantastic to die for job).

We knew it would be different after 40 odd years in the UK. As long as you expect it to be different, try not to compare with 'back home, tradition etc. etc' Then it can be fantastic! Christmas eve we went to a Wet and Wild water theme park on the Gold Coast (We had no family and no xmas roast to prep for, so loads more free time than normal). Had a great day, Home and showered, then off to Redcliffe to be with friends for Christmas. Christmas day we opened up prezzies in the intimacy of our own bedroom. Joined friends on their patio for a big chrissie bbq fried breakfast. Went to Bribie Island surfing and swimming. Then in the afternoon /early evening we sat in their bubbling warm spa munching king prawns and oysters with a few beers whilst watching the sun go down. To top off a truely memorable day the stars came out, shining brighter than ever! Surprisingly the BEST christmas in living memory!
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Old Jan 5th 2008, 10:58 pm
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Default Re: Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

Oh thats great to hear - thank goodness! Glad everything is going well for you and your family.

We have 4 children - the eldest 2 will start college and the younger ones I need to find schools for. Our youngest who is 5 im sure will settle in fine. Our middle daughter who is 12 goes to a private school here is England. I really havent thought what im going to do with her at the moment, obviously wanted her to go private but wasnt sure about fees etc. but seems as though that is a good possibility.

Really terrified about the whole thing - but we're going for it. My husband Richard has a job lined up which is great, so its just sorting the kids, myself, accommodation, car, schools and most importantly WHERE THE SHOPS ARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks again for your reply

Jane and Richard
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Old Jan 6th 2008, 12:33 am
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Default Re: Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

Originally Posted by pinkjane8 View Post
Oh thats great to hear - thank goodness! Glad everything is going well for you and your family.

We have 4 children - the eldest 2 will start college and the younger ones I need to find schools for. Our youngest who is 5 im sure will settle in fine. Our middle daughter who is 12 goes to a private school here is England. I really havent thought what im going to do with her at the moment, obviously wanted her to go private but wasnt sure about fees etc. but seems as though that is a good possibility.

Really terrified about the whole thing - but we're going for it. My husband Richard has a job lined up which is great, so its just sorting the kids, myself, accommodation, car, schools and most importantly WHERE THE SHOPS ARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks again for your reply

Jane and Richard

Private school is way more affordable here, unlike the UK, as the school still receives the $ allocation per student from the government so all you are paying is the top up costs.

Last edited by mand8002; Jan 6th 2008 at 12:43 am.
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Old Jan 6th 2008, 12:43 am
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Default A few tips for getting here

Jane

Made this post a while back, hope it helps

http://britishexpats.com/forum/showt...03#post4250403

Good luck

Mike
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Old Jan 6th 2008, 3:21 pm
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Default Re: Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

Thank you so much - a great help

Jane
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Old Jan 13th 2008, 3:09 pm
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Default Re: Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

Hi Mike,

well i read ur last thread a yr in melbourne which mesmorised me and can i say u have done it again, we are planning on moving to Mornington area in May, ur last thread settled me in to moving to oz really reassured me, this xmas i have wondered and thought well i can always go home for xmas, but after reading this that way of thinking will get me no-where, i'm going to give it my best shot there, i already have friends there so its a bonus and we have already arranged to go to melbourne for new yr weekend for the fireworks . i think having xmas dinner on the terrace or gdn will be gr8, really looking forward to it.

Hope this yr is as good as ur first and keep writing those threads ur a natural


Diane
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Old Jan 13th 2008, 3:19 pm
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Default Re: Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

Mike,
What a great post!
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Old Jan 16th 2008, 8:17 pm
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Default Re: Christmas in Oz! What's it like then?

Great post,all the best to you and yours
painter man is offline  

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