Q’s オーストラリアレポート

Seasonal Foods in Australia – Fruit

One of the things many visitors like about Japan is that there are many seasonal foods. I’ve been asked by my Japanese friends and students if Australia also has seasonal foods. In my opinion, we do, but it feels like it is much less obvious or culturally defined in comparison with Japan. Traditionally, many seasonal foods were based on seasonal crops and the markets would be fully of produce matching the season. These days agricultural technology enables growers to bring produce to market in the off-season, so it is sometimes hard to notice the variety of fruit in shops change at all. Still, things like fruit are cheaper when they are in season, so people use them in their cooking more at that time.

Apricots - summer

One well-known summer crop is apricot. Apricots are often used in deserts and are also a popular dried food. Dried apricot is common in Australian breakfast cereals – like muesli – and in trail mixes.

Grapes - Autumn

Some types of grape are best picked in autumn. Most of these are used in wine production, but many people enjoy eating them them raw. Some people like to make jam out of them or even use them in salads.

Kiwi - winter

Kiwi fruit is still mainly only available in winter. They are mostly used in deserts or salads. They are also often seen atop Pavilova – an iconic Australian desert.

Strawberries - spring

Strawberries are very popular and are abundant in spring. They are especially common in cakes and jam. Children seem to love them in particular.

Housewives in Australia

Sometimes my friends in Japan ask me about Australian housewives: what do they do during the day? What are they interested in? And so on. It is actually pretty hard to answer without changing the terms a bit.

Mother 1

If we take ‘housewife’ to mean a married woman who stays at home while her husband works who also doesn’t have children, these people are very rare. Perhaps an example might be a women who was unemployed before she got married, someone injured or sick, or the wife of someone mega-rich. I don’t personally know anyone in this category and rarely hear of any one like this in real life. Generally speaking, marriage is not a reason for women to leave work in Australia. Like many Western countries, women are expected to contribute to both the family and to society, and therefore staying home (without children) is hard to justify. Most people, upon hearing about someone who left work after her wedding would expect there was a special reason, and be curious about the situation.

Mother 2

If we take ‘housewife’ to mean a married woman who doesn’t work and stays at home to look after her children, then there are many, but we call them ‘stay-at-home mothers’. However, there are significantly fewer stay-at-home mothers in Australia than in Japan. Dual income families are the norm here, perhaps becuase the cost of living is higher in Australia than Japan. This is in large part due to a very long housing boom (housing prices have risen rapidly since 2001). It is often a tough financial decision for a mother to leave work to raise children full-time.

During the day, stay-at-home mothers in Australia do much the same things as they do in Japan. Most of their time and energy is taken up with looking after their children and doing house work. Where they can, some like to watch TV or Netflix, others might read. As the children get older many stay-at-home-mothers no longer stay at home, but take on part-time work or study.

Mother 3

My experience is that the role of stay-at-home mother in Australia has much less status here than in Japan, and it is a smaller segment of the population, further lowering its position. Being a stay-at-home mum is not a fashionable or enviable role. It is rare here to see a group of mothers out of the house enjoying each other’s company noisily at a cafe or park like in Japan. The flip side is that compared with Japan, it is easier for women to get jobs in Australia, to hold a high position in the company, and to make a salary more or less equal to men’s salaries.

Careers in Australia

Having lived in both countries, the type and spread of jobs and careers in Australia and Japan doesn’t seem so different to me. Perhaps the most notable variation is that there are more jobs involved with manufacturing and heavy industry in Japan, and more jobs involved with agriculture and natural resources in Australia.

Jobs1

According to the most recent government data, the most common careers in Australia fall into the following three categories: Professionals (22.2%), Clerical and Administrative Workers (13.6%) Technicians and Trades Workers (13.5%).

‘Professionals’ includes qualified workers in areas areas such as arts, science, business and engineering. The percentage of the Australian workforce employed as professionals is increasing (up by 10.5% between 2012 and 2017).

Jobs2

‘Clerical and Administrative Workers’ are roughly what most people think of as office workers. While a lot of the Australian workforce is employed in clerical and administrative work, the total number is slowly decreasing (down by 2.3% between 2012 and 2017).

‘Technicians and Trades Workers’ includes occupations like carpenter, auto mechanic and plumber. The percentage of the Australian workforce employed as technicians and trades workers is slowly increasing (up by 1.6% between 2012 and 2017). Interestingly, the highest paid job in this category is electrician, and tradespeople are 99% male.

Jobs3

In terms of educational background, the most common occupations for people with a bachelor degree or above are registered nurses and primary and secondary school teachers. Men with a bachelor degree or above were more likely to be accountants or software applications programmers, whereas women were more likely to be registered nurses or primary school teachers.

For those with other non-school qualifications, the most common occupations were sales assistants, electricians and child carers. Men with other qualifications were more likely to be electricians or carpenters and joiners, whereas women were more likely to be child carers or sales assistants.

jobs4

My personal impression is that a lot more women work in different roles in Australia compared to Japan, and that jobs are not as polarised by gender. However, the data above shows that at least the same types of jobs are still dominated by the same genders in each country.

Bendigo – My home town

Bendigo1

I’ve lived in so many places, but Bendigo is the place I think of as my home town. I went to high school and university there. No one in my family lives there anymore, but I went back to have a look around a few weeks ago and felt very nostalgic.

Centreal Deborah Gold Mine.

Centreal Deborah Gold Mine.

While it’s not so popular with teens and young adults who usually wish they lived in a big city or on the coast, people from most other age groups like it there. It has all the facilities of a city, but very little of the noise and traffic.

Bendigo is a famous tourist location and was an early gold rush town. It’s most famous mine is the Central Deborah Gold Mine. It operated as a commercial gold mine from 1939-1954, but is still open today for tourists – offering authentic underground mining tours. It is also at one end of the popular Bendigo Talking Tram line.

Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Sacred Heart Cathedral.

As a result of the wealth generated from the gold rush (starting around 1850), Bendigo has some of Victoria’s oldest and most beautiful buildings. They aren’t very old by Japanese standards though, only around 150 years old. One example is The Sacred Heart Cathedral. It’s much smaller than the famous cathedrals in Europe, but it is still an impressive structure.

The Shamrock Hotel

The Shamrock Hotel

The Shamrock Hotel is another famous landmark, and due to it’s Irish heritage, it is a very popular drinking venue on Saint Patrick’s Day.

Australians on Vacation

Holidays! Simply hearing the word makes me feel happy and relaxed.

I think people in every country feel the same way. However, different people have their own ideas about what is a good holiday.

Many people in Japan enjoy traveling around Japan during the holidays. Australians are the same way. They enjoy traveling around Australia and it’s easy to see why. Australia has many different terrains, including beautiful beaches, off-coast islands, interesting deserts for camping or stargazing, rivers, mountains, and stylish cities.

Bali

Some Australians like to go overseas for holidays. Bali is a top tourist destination because it is not far away from Australia. It is only a few hours by plane. Also, as anyone who has been to Bali knows, Indonesia excels in hospitality and tourism, as they are some of its main industries. As a result, Balinese hotels, tourist sites, food, etc. are all crafted to fit Western tastes, so vacationing there is very comfortable for Australian people.

USA

The next most popular place to visit is the USA. America is certainly not convenient to travel to from Australia—it takes a minimum of 21 hours in transit to get there! But the country is vast and diverse enough that there is “something for everyone.” If you like nature and the outdoors, you could visit Big Sur or Yellowstone National Park. If you like cool cities, try San Francisco, Las Vegas, or New York. Some people love road trips—renting a car with friends and driving across America. America is also comfortable to visit, because Americans and Australians share many cultural values and speak the same language.

NZ

The third most popular place for Australians to travel for holidays is New Zealand. New Zealand has all the convenience of domestic travel- only a 3.5 hours plane ride from Melbourne! But the population is a fraction of Australia so it is peaceful and relaxing. In addition, New Zealand has some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. There are plants, animals and terrains that do not exist in Australia, so in spite of being convenient for travel, vacationing in New Zealand feels like an escape to another world!

Do you think you’d like to go to any of these countries? Why or why not?

Austrlia’s National Flower

Wattle1

Recently, most of my Japanese friends have been talking about how it’s Cherry Blossom in Japan. Some of them have naturally asked me about Australian flowers.

Wattle2

The Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) is Australia’s national flower. The Golden Wattle blooms in spring, – beginning September – in Australia, with large fluffy, yellow, sweet smelling flower heads. Each Golden Wattle flower head is a bunch of many tiny flowers. Acacias are popularly called Wattle.
The Golden Wattle tree, is a shrub of about 4-8 metres.

CommonHeath1

I’m living back in the state of Victoria now, which is where I have lived the largest part of my life. So, I identify with it as ‘my home state’. The pink form of Common Heath, Epacris impressa, was proclaimed the floral emblem of Victoria on 11 November 1958. Victoria was the first Australian State to give official recognition to such an emblem. Go Victoria!

CommonHeath2

I wonder if Aichi has a provincial flower?

The Signs of Autumn in Australia

Autumn is here!

Autumn in Australia actually starts on March 1st, so it’s been Autumn here for more than 2 weeks already. Like all our seasons, it lines up neatly with the start of the month. This is different from most countries in the Northern Hemisphere e.g. Japan and America, which have their seasons starting between the 20-23rd of the same months.

Autumn1

Unlike Japan, most Australian forests are made up of evergreen trees, which means their leaves don’t change colour like the leaves of deciduous trees. So, the signs of autumn arriving are not as obvious. There are some places where the change is similar though. There are many vineyards here, and the leaves of grapevines change colour and can be very beautiful.

Autumn2

There is a very different sign of Autumn in Australia that is perhaps more noticeable in everyday life – the approach of Easter and the change in the supermarkets. At Easter time, we eat chocolate Easter eggs and Easter bunnies (rabbits), and in preparation for this, the supermarkets all dedicate a lot of shelf space to the sale of brightly wrapped Easter chocolates.

Autumn3

What do you associate with the arrival of autumn? How about of spring? Does it seem strange to you to imagine Autumn in March?

High School Entrance Exams in Australia?

exams1

While I lived in Japan I’d see junior high school students studying furiously every year to pass exams to get into their preferred high schools. This was unusual to me, as in Australia, students generally don’t do that at all. Mostly, they just go to the high school nearest their house. Quite often, junior and senior high schools are the same place so students don’t have to change schools at all.

exams2

There are some exceptions. Some parents choose to send their children to private schools, which are more expensive than state schools. Also, a growing number of students are home schooled.

When it comes to high school students studying to get into university however, things are much more like they are in Japan. High school students are much more stressed about their future. One difference is that students’ scores from the internal tests and assignments of their high school classes are used to rank their eligibility to enter universities. Generally, each university doesn’t have its own tests like many do in Japan. Another difference is that the most important final tests for Australian high school students are in November.

La Trobe University, Bendigo - My mother and I both went here.

La Trobe University Bendigo – My mother and I both went here.

One final thing of note: It is quite common for people to attend university later in life in Australia. For example, after high school, some may forego university and instead take up a trade, travel the world, or start a family. Then when they are in their 30s or 40s, go back to university and complete their degree. These are called “non-traditional students” or “mature-age students” in Australia, but they are common. I rarely heard of this happening in Japan. Around 40% of Australian tertiary students are between 25-64 years old. As a matter of fact, my mother went to back to university in her late 30s to study to be a high school teacher!

Valentine’s Day Down Under

What do you imagine when you hear the word “romantic”?

Valentine 1

For English speakers, the word “romantic” carries the image of a happy couple, enjoying a date in a beautiful location. Maybe there is wine, good food, laughing and light-hearted flirting. February 14, Valentine’s Day, is one of the most romantic days of the year! It is a day that celebrates romantic love. Restaurants, parks, and movie theaters in Australia will be crowded with couples on that day.

Valentine 2

In Japan, people celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving presents or chocolate to all their favoured coworkers and friends. But Valentine’s Day in Australia is mostly just for partners in a romantic relationship. In addition to romantic dinners, couples in love in Australia might give each other chocolates, roses, bottles of wine, or cards. (If you give chocolates to every girl you know for Valentine’s Day, you may find yourself in a bit of trouble J )

Valentine 3

Of course, not everyone is in a romantic relationship. Many people are single, windowed, divorced, or uninterested in romantic relationships (And everyone deserves a day especially for eating chocolate!). So, some people decide to celebrate other types of love on Valentine’s day, such as love for friends and family. In addition to couples at restaurants, you may see groups of young women out, dressed up in their most beautiful clothes, having a “Gal*-entines Day” celebration. They might even buy each other cards, roses, champagne and desserts in order to say “I am thankful to have you as my friend.”

Whether you have a new crush on* someone at school, are in love with your spouse of many years, or just thankful for the love of your best friends, make sure to tell your loved ones “Happy Valentine’s Day” today!

*Gal- slang word for girl.

*To have a crush on- when you like or are attracted to someone you know

Australia Day!

Australia Day1

Last Friday was Australia Day, forming the Australia Day long weekend.
There were all kinds of celebrations, parades and community events. Australia Day itself was a pleasant 28 degrees but two days later on Sunday it go up to 38 degrees – so hot!

From left to right: meat pie, fairy bread and lamingtons.

From left to right: meat pie, fairy bread and lamingtons.

Some people have a tradition of eating Australian foods on Australia day. I had some friends visiting from America so I found a bakery and had them try some Lamingtons. They are cubes of sponge cake layered with jam, dipped in a chocolate sauce and covered with coconut. They were well received but I can’t vouch* for their healthiness.

Australia Day 3

Not everyone was light hearted and happy though. There were some big marches and protests by the Australian Aboriginal people and those sympathetic to their cause. They took to the streets to raise awareness of racism and native land rights.

*to vouch for – to guarantee something or someone, to assert that it is true based on personal experience