Ideally, when you’re travelling the world, every day would be full of new and mind broadening adventures, without a touch of the mundane or ‘day to day’ shit that you have to deal with in the real world. However, unless you’re blessed with a very full bank account, at some point you’ve gotta face facts and get a job. Which is how I ended up in a bungalow in a suburb called Atwell, in Western Australia, looking after three children.
I’ve always been desperate to have my own children, picturing adorable bath times, and lovely cuddles, and those moments when you think ‘thank the lord I have been blessed with motherhood’. Au pairing, however, has completely killed off any maternal instinct I’ve had, for at least the next ten years. And that’s on a good day… It’s not even like I have hideously naughty kids to look after, but when you have to explain to a four year old that a leotard and wellies aren’t appropriate wear to the library, and then deal with the following half an hour breakdown, you start to wonder what, precisely, the point in life is.
And then there’s the strange Aussie language. Trousers are pants (there has been many awkward misunderstandings over this), bikinis are bathers, and a duvet, for some strange reason is called a duner. For a country that supposedly speaks the same language as us, I have no bloody idea what anyone is talking about half the time. But the worst? ‘How are you going?’. It turns out this frustrating phrase doesn’t actually mean ‘are you going anywhere/are you almost there’, but it’s kinda like ‘how are you’? Which I figured out after telling my house mum (fancy name for the mother of the children you’re looking after) that I wasn’t going anywhere, as, y’know, I’m working.
For a country that us greedy Brits founded, it’s pretty crazy how different it can be. Especially when it comes to food. Turns out the whole Aussie ‘chuck a shrimp on the barbie’ stereotype isn’t all that far off; every house I’ve been to actually has a barbecue in the garden as the norm, and I’m not talking about the crappy disposable type you get for a fiver in Tesco’s. Dinner here is basically meat and salad aaaall the time, in particular lamb seems to be a big thing here. Which is awkward as I don’t like lamb. Oops.
Okay, and then there’s vegemite. The most disgusting thing in the world ever. Kind of like a super salty marmite with an extra dose of hideous, it’s basically an all rounder used on toast, in sandwiches, and even as a ‘special ingredient’ on Masterchef. Yep, I watch that now. #nojudgement. Even the little two year old that I look after loves the stuff, having been bought up on it from the second he jumped out of the womb (maybe). Safe to say I had a very bad start to the day the other day when I licked a used knife I thought was covered in Nutella, to find out it was covered it vegemite. Kill me now!
Despite the food traumas, actually living with an Australian family is the closest I’ve come to living the Aussie life. Like, it turns out hostels aren’t really the place to go if you want to meet real Australians (or get any sleep). When I put on my thongs (flip flops) in the morning, butter the kids’ bread with vegemite and dress them in their singlets (vests), before walking them to school through a suburb of bungalows (two storey houses aren’t a thing here, apparently), I kinda feel like I’m a real Australian. That is, until I rush into Woolworths (sadly, not the place with the pick ‘n’ mix, but an Aussie Waitrose equivalent), bulk buy food from the ‘British’ section, and read the ‘Daily Mail Online’ on my phone. Well, you can take the girl out of England…