Stop Before It Gets Ugly Campaign

Stop Before It Gets Ugly print

Recently I wrote about Australia’s drinking culture and one effort to change it – Hello Sunday Morning. Here’s another.  The NSW Government and agency JWT Sydney have launched a new high impact campaign called “Stop Before It Gets Ugly”.

The campaign targets potential aggressors and those who can influence their behaviour in an attempt to reduce the number of people that are victim of alcohol-fuelled violence in NSW. JWT Sydney’s Executive Creative Director, Simon Langley, explains that, like Hello Sunday Morning, the goal isn’t necessarily to persuade people to stop drinking altogether, but rather to recognize where the “tipping point” is and stop before it gets ugly.

“Our primary target in the campaign is would-be aggressors. These are usually young men aged 18 to 35 who regularly go out drinking with their mates. They are decent, likeable guys who wouldn’t normally behave in a violent or anti-social way, but need to be reminded that with too many drinks, things can quickly turn ugly,” he said.

The campaign also encourages friends to watch out for their mates.

What do you think of the campaign?

Hello Sunday Morning

Hello Sunday Morning

Last week I attended Swarm Conference, Australia’s only conference for online community managers. I’ll spare you all the nerdtastic details as most of it doesn’t relate to the expat experience. There was one presentation, however, that is of interest and it’s also important. Jamie Moore talked about his community, Hello Sunday Morning, which aims to change the relationship Australians have with alcohol.

I enjoy a cocktail from time to time, but I make no secret of the fact that I’ve never been drunk. There are numerous reasons for that including the incredibly stupid and irresponsible way that people behave when they are drunk and the hangover the next morning. Alcohol has never been an important way in which I socialize with others, celebrate, or otherwise enhance my experience in any significant way. I don’t need alcohol to have fun or to loosen up and knowing when to quit has never been a problem for me. The same can’t be said for many Australians.

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How to Cope with the Australian Sun

Here in Melbourne we’re still layering up before we head out and brave the chill, but those winter clouds will part and the grey sky will be bright with the blistering hot Australian sun.

The incidence of skin cancer in Australia is one of the highest in the world. According to Cancer Council Australia, skin cancers account for around 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers and between 95 and 99% of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun. That’s why when True Blue Migration sent me this infographic, I had to share it. It’s aimed at Britons looking to move to Australia, but it contains good information and advice for everyone on sun safety.


Are you in the habit of wearing sunscreen every day or wearing a hat when you’re out in the sun?

Blood and My Iron Deficiency

Spectrum of Iron Deficiency

It was serendipitous that I met a woman who is studying iron levels in women as part of her PhD studies. She asked me if I would participate. Since it just involved answering questions and giving a blood sample, I said yes. The results were a shocker.

If you don’t know what the role of iron is, I don’t have a complete understanding of it, but basically iron is present in our cells and one of its vital functions is to carry oxygen to the tissues from the lungs as it is a key component of haemoglobin. Iron deficiency can lead to iron deficiency anaemia. A normal range of ferritin (F), which is the level of iron stores in your body, is 15-165. Mine was 1. Yeah, one. My acquaintance recommended I take the results to a doctor. The doctor sent me to Mercy Hospital for Women.

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Keep Your Cool: Surviving a Heatwave


Earlier this week, I blogged about the heatwave. Despite the fact that it gets really hot in Melbourne every year, hundreds of Aussies still suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and death due to exposure to extreme heat. Below are some tips collected from across the web as well as personal experience to help you stay cool and safe during one of Melbourne’s heatwaves.

The first thing to keep in mind is that a heatwave isn’t just normal summer heat. According to the City of Melbourne, a heatwave is an unusual and uncomfortable period of hot weather where the average of the daily maximum temperature and the overnight temperature of the following day is 30ºC (86°F) or greater, and negatively impacts health, community infrastructure, and services.

Heat-related illness can come on suddenly. You may feel okay, maybe just a little thirsty, and the next thing you know you’re pale, dizzy, and about to faint. Muscle spasms, clammy skin, rapid heart rate, cramps, headaches, nausea, and vomiting are also some signs of heat-related illness. If you start feeling any of these symptoms, stop what you’re doing, get out of the sun and into a cool place, increase your fluid intake, wet your skin if possible, and contact medical help. Listen to your body and don’t shrug it off if you start feeling bad.

Stay out of the sun. If possible, just stay home. Postpone your errands if you can; the heatwave will only last a few days, public transport will be a nightmare, and the shops are probably closed anyway.

If you don’t have air conditioning, staying cool at home can be challenging. Keep your home cool by keeping the blinds shut and the curtains drawn. Some people recommend opening the doors and windows, but I think that will only let hot air in. You do want ventilation, but if there’s no breeze, I’d leave the doors and windows shut until the evening. Then, turn on the fan and let it draw out the heat and pull in the cooler night air.

Turn off powerful appliances that give off a lot of heat and avoid cooking indoors as the stove and oven will only make the house hotter. Use the barbecue, eat cold foods, order in, or go out to dinner. Do make lots of ice and keep your drinks chilled.

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Tending the Grass

Photo credit: tubblesnap / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: tubblesnap / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Everything Sucks Phase. I referred to the five stages of grieving as an analogy to describe a process of acculturation for expats. The Everything Sucks Phase follows the Honeymoon Phase. I’ll arrive at Integration eventually, but I don’t know what lies between now and then.

The reason I compare the process of acculturation for expats to grieving is because we experience similar emotions – denial, anger, depression – and while we may not be grieving for a person, much of what drives these emotions is loss, the end of a way of life, and the struggle to integrate new information that conflicts with previous beliefs. The fact is that living in Australia is very, very different than living in the United States.

My last blog entry gave me the space to explore and express some negative emotions surrounding expat living and it’s good to do that once in a while. There is no time limit on grief, but there are important reasons to avoid lingering in the Everything Sucks Phase.

Perhaps the greatest human task is the acceptance of reality. Psychoanalyst Melanie Klein viewed this as the cornerstone of mental health, contentment, inner security, and peace of mind. Buddha said, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

Psychoanalysts will always have a job because so many human troubles involve the preoccupation with having another life, a different life, a better life somewhere else. But the idea that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence is just a myth. When we allow ourselves to be persecuted by the belief that we do not have enough, we become depressed, anxious, envious, and greedy. We deny the goodness of our lives and lose focus and hope.

We can’t have someone else’s lawn, castle, or life. We can only have our own. If we can accept that, then we can begin to develop it, to improve it, and to grow it.  Robert Fulghum, an American author famous for his collection of essays titled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, wrote:

The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.

So, what are some ways we can tend the grass on this side of the fence, on this side of the world? There are a lot of things we could stop doing. We could stop complaining and stop comparing. These are easier said than done and, at times, we may feel our self-expression stifled, but consciously trying to stop complaining can be a move towards a more positive outlook. Nobody wants to be around a constant complainer anyway. Let’s take a look at some other ways we can tend the grass.

Do practice mindfulness. Be in the moment and accept it for what it is, positive or negative.

Do be adventurous. Among the best things about being an expat are exploration and discovery. Get out there, explore and discover.

Do attempt to make friends. Expat life can be really lonely and making friends as we get older gets harder. Check out some Facebook groups, Meetups, local clubs, sports, volunteer opportunities, anything that will get you out there engaged with people. Get involved in your new community. It’s tempting to seek out other Americans and expats, but try to meet local people.

Do use local products. I miss some American products and I’m still getting my tampons from the USA, but it’s important to give local products a try. I now use different brands of cleaning products, food, and clothing, and they’re all just fine.

Do vacation within your new country. It’s natural to want to go “back home” every chance you get, but travelling within your new home country will reignite that wonder and excitement you experienced when you first arrived.

Do remember it takes time.  In fact, it could take forever. I lived in the USA most of my life (so far) and I certainly don’t know everything there is to know about it. There’s no reason to expect you’ll learn everything about your new home within a certain amount of time or even ever. There is always something new to discover and learn.

What are some other ways to tend the grass on this side of the fence?

The Road to Residency Part 1: The Visa Medical


I have officially begun actively moving towards obtaining residency.

I’m applying onshore (that is, from within Australia, as opposed to offshore) for a de facto partner visa subclass 820, which is a temporary visa. If granted, after two years, if the relationship is still intact, I would be granted a permanent visa, subclass 801.

I have superficially reviewed the application in the past, but when I sat down a couple of weeks ago, read, and printed it all out, I quickly became overwhelmed and cried. Then I started organizing and planning.

One of the many requirements is a health examination, which must be arranged with Medibank Health Solutions.

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How To Beat Jet Lag

Earlier this week, ran an article on jet lag.

Ginger tea is thought to be a good way to counteract jetlag. Here’s a quick recipe:
• Boil water.
• Grate two teaspoons of fresh ginger (much better than powdered ginger) into a cup.
• Add boiling water.
• Allow to steep for five minutes.

Ideally you should drink it at the start of your trip, an hour before you take off, but often that’s not possible. Instead, you might take a small piece of fresh ginger to chew on the plane – but beware, it’s hot and spicy!

I didn’t know that about ginger tea. You can read the whole piece over at The tips come from the book The Lonely Planet Book of Everything by Nigel Holmes.

There’s only one strategy that has significantly worked well for me when trying to combat jet lag. As soon as I board the plane, I set my watch to my destination’s time and try to get on that schedule. Sometimes that means I don’t do what the airline staff want me to do. Many long overseas flights are overnight. They turn off the lights in the plane and want you to go to sleep, as you might normally, but that’s not always a good idea. The sooner I begin resetting my internal clock, the better I feel when I arrive.

When I arrive, I keep to the local schedule. Often I’m tired because it’s likely that I’ve just missed hours of sleep, but napping would only prolong the jet lag. If it’s daytime, I might not have my regular amount of energy so I’ll take it easy. I may take a bus tour, visit a market, or a park – staying active and being in the sun both help. That night, I’ll likely go to bed an hour or two earlier than normal, but I feel fine when I wake the next day. And no jet lag.

It’s worth noting that jet lag is personal. The speed at which the body adjusts to the new schedule depends on the individual. While I experience little disruption, others may require several days to adjust. We tend to think of jet lag as disrupting our sleep as we experience daylight and darkness contrary to the rhythms our bodies are accustomed to, but jet lag can also affect eating, body temperature, and hormone regulation, which can all lead to fatigue, irritability, headaches, and indigestion.

Do you suffer from jet lag? How do you experience it? Any tips to beat it?

Using Tampons in Australia

Tampon ghosts.

Tampon ghosts.

If you are squeamish about the subject of menstruation, you should stop reading now. And possibly seek therapy.

I’ve written before about some of the little differences and a couple of the big differences between America and Australia. Here’s another one that for some may be small, but for me is huge. Australia has a shocking lack of selection in tampons.

Fortunately, I’d heard about this before I traveled to Australia and I took a stash with me, but when I ran out, I was forced to see for myself. I went to both major supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, as well as several drugstores. The first thing I noticed is that while supermarkets and drugstores in the U.S., not to mention giant retailers such as Target, have as much as an aisle dedicated to feminine hygiene products, Australian retailers have a maybe a foot-wide section on a two or three bottom shelves. The second thing I noticed is that I didn’t know what I was looking at. The packaging of tampons, even familiar brands such a Carefree, Kotex, and Tampax, is not very descriptive. I couldn’t tell if they were scented (I prefer unscented) or get a good sense of the absorbency levels. The third thing I noticed is that only one of them, Tampax, said “Applicator Tampons.” So, the rumor was true; Australian women use tampons without applicators. Suddenly Australia seemed just a little bit less civilized.

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Dangerous Australia: 12 Animals Out to Kill Me

There’s always a sequence during “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” where they show clips of the rest of the world ringing in the new year. When they showed the fireworks over Sydney Harbour, my father said, “Oh, that’s Australia. I’d never go there. They have the world’s deadliest animals.” My mother and sister burst into laughter. Continue reading