deird1: Faith and Wesley, with text "rogue demon hunters" (Faith Wesley rogue demon hunters)
[personal profile] deird1
To make any of this make sense, we're going to need a map.

This is Melbourne:

More Mappish Info

That whole pinkish bit is officially Melbourne. The star in the middle is known as the "CBD" (central business district). It contains a whole lot of office buildings, some fancy historic stuff, and the Yarra River.

Geelong, on the left, is the second largest town in Victoria. It's nice, and has some lovely beachfronts - and, for the moment, that's all you really need to know about it.

Western Port Bay, on the right, has Philip Island and French Island. These are places that people will go for weekend getaways. They have beaches and animal sanctuaries, and are rather fun.

You'll also notice a place on the map called "Dandenong". It is not to be confused with "the Dandenongs", which are a whole different place. Dandenong is a run-of-the-mill suburb; the Dandenongs are gorgeous hills full of rainforest and lots of teashops.

Freeways and Tollways

There are two main freeways on your side of the city: the Monash, and the Eastern. (These are both on the map above - the Monash is labelled "M1", and the Eastern "M3".) The Monash goes to the south side of the CBD, and the Eastern goes to the north side. They also both go a long way out of the city, as shown on the map.

What isn't shown on the map is the fact that both freeways, at some point, become tollways.

If you're on the Monash (freeway), as you reach the CBD, it'll turn into Citylink (tollway), before turning back into the Monash (freeway) on the other side.
Likewise, as you take the Eastern (freeway) out of the city, it turns into Eastlink (tollway) on its way to Frankston.

Both tollways use the same electronic toll system, hooked into the car. If your car is registered for either tollway, both tollways will deduct payments automatically from your account. If your car isn't registered, you need to buy a daypass - this is one of the ways the Post Office comes in handy. (You can also buy daypasses over the phone, but I've tried this and would run screaming before I tried it again.)

Speed Limits

Speed limits are provided in handy signs on the roads, but in general...

100 - freeway speed
80 - major road speed
60 - minor road speed

The one that's going to catch you out is the back streets. In Victoria, all minor roads without any posted speed limit have a speed limit of 50 km/h. This is not said anywhere! For some nutty reason, the government decided it would be a fun game to have secret speed limits to catch visitors out. But now you know...

Buying Petrol

Petrol stations are self-service. You pay for petrol after putting it in your car.

Lots of petrol stations also come complete with car wash services. Some are the funky automatic kind, but some are self-service (and incredibly fun to use).

Hook Turns

If you're planning to drive through the tram-infested areas of town, make sure you go at least once with an experienced Melbourne driver who can demonstrate hook turns for you. Otherwise you'll end up stuck terrified in the middle of an intersection, gripping your steering wheel and screaming "But when it says 'turn right from left', what does it MEAN???"

Buses, Trams, and Trains

Our public transport system is completely integrated: a ticket from one will work on all three. Which is one of the few nice things about the World's Worst Ticketing System.

(Okay - it's not that bad. But you'd never know that from the way we talk about it.)

The tickets are "Myki" tickets, which are electronic. You need to buy one at a train station, and "top up" with money to use it. Hold onto it, because your life will forevermore be tied to your Myki card.

Trains radiate out from the CBD. They're useful if you want to go to the city, or to the other side of town.

Trams are only in the inner suburbs. They're awesome, but not helpful if you're more concerned with the outer parts of town.

Buses are everywhere - but unreliable. Eventually they'll show up, but "eventually" might not have that much to do with the posted schedule. Unless you're trying to catch them before they leave, in which case they'll leave precisely on time while you're still sprinting across the carpark.


Taxis are yellow. They can be paid in cash, or with credit cards.

As a rule, Aussies will sit in the front of the taxi, next to the driver. Sitting in the back can be considered rude.


Helmets are compulsory when riding a bike (as are seatbelts in cars). Make sure you wear one.

Funky Coloured Money

Our money looks like this:

And this:

It comes in 1s, 2s, and 5s. Like so:
1 cent (defunct)
2 cents (ditto)
5 cents
10 cents
20 cents
50 cents
1 dollar
2 dollars
5 dollars
...and so forth.

It's also plastic, and will survive almost anything you can throw at it.


We are not a nation of tippers.

The only time tipping will even be a possibility is in restaurants. Most eating establishments have a tip jar at the front, to be shared between all the staff. If you really like the place, give them some spare change. Otherwise, just smile and thank them for the meal.

Credit Cards

Most places will accept credit cards or Eftpos. Very few will accept American Express. (Visa and Mastercard are the main ones you want.)

Fast Food

We have several fast food joints you'll recognise. Two small language issues:
- "Burger King" here is known as "Hungry Jacks".
- If you go into Maccas and ask for a "Fillay O Fish", you'll get blank stares. It's "Fillet O Fish", with an audible T.

Slower Food

We have lots of cafes and restaurants for you to explore. Some more small language issues:
- "Entrees" are the smaller things you start the meal with. The larger dishes are "mains".
- Coffee comes in "long black", "short black", and "flat white" - as well as other more exotic choices. There are many websites that can help you with this one. (for instance)
- If you're not a coffee drinker, like me, then you might want to get a "chai latte" - which is chai tea brewed in latte form.
- One drink that you should totally try is a lemon lime and bitters. They're awesome, and apparently only found in Australia.

Some restaurants will serve you kangaroo. Try not to cry as you're eating our cute, fluffy, and delicious national icon.

Most places will give you complimentary water, straight from the tap. Try not to react with unconcealed disgust; Melbourne's water is actually quite nice, and well worth drinking.


We have two main ones - Coles and Woolworths - and two smaller ones - IGA and Aldi. If anyone mentions "Safeway" to you, they mean Woolworths.

You can buy most groceries at your local supermarket - but not, as [personal profile] lizbee pointed out, pharmeceuticals. For most of those you'll need a chemist.

Be aware, an awful lot of food has different names here. I've seen Americans confused by capsicum, brown onions, pasta sauce, tomato sauce, eggplant, and cordial.

Speaking of cordial...

Some Aussie Foods

Cordial is a sugary drink, that is sold in highly concentrated form. Do not drink it straight! (Once saw a yank take a swig of full-strength cordial, before gagging in horror. I can't imagine...)

Sausage sizzles are fundraising events where people sell sausages. If you find yourself attending one, grab a slice of bread, fold it in half, and put the sausage in the middle, like so:

Meat pies are an awesome food that must be eaten at the footy. Before you buy one, get an Aussie friend to show you how to hold it. If you try holding it like a hamburger - like most Americans first try - the whole thing will collapse and drop hot meat in your lap.

This concludes our lesson for today. Questions? Comments?

Date: 2013-07-03 12:09 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I have never in my life sat in the front of a taxi, and never been with anyone who has, unless there were more than three of us. Maybe sitting in the front is a Melbourne thing... certainly no one in Sydney does it. Ever. :)

(This is Sue Ellen, by the way. I can't log in to anything from my phone at the moment.)

Date: 2013-07-03 04:26 pm (UTC)
eleanorjane: The one, the only, Harley Quinn. (Default)
From: [personal profile] eleanorjane
Everyone I've ever known in (Northern) NSW and Queensland sits in the front unless they have a specific reason, fwiw. :)

Date: 2013-07-05 02:25 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Wow, seriously? I honestly don't think I could do it - it's so ingrained in me to sit in the back. In fact, I can remember as a kid being worried when four of us in my family took a taxi home, which meant one person had to sit in the front... because until then, I had assumed that no one was ALLOWED to sit up the front with the driver. Curious. I'm going to have to poll my Sydney and Melbourne friends and compare notes. For the record, though, I *have* sat in the back seat of a Melbourne taxi before and the driver remained friendly. He may have thought me rude but didn't say it. ;)

Sue Ellen

Date: 2013-07-03 04:56 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy looking to the side in black and white (Default)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Sounds like taxi-riding will be a fieldmine if we travel around Australia! Well, we'll just play dumb Americans and follow the driver's instructions. :D

Date: 2013-07-03 12:21 am (UTC)
velvetwhip: (Archy the Cockroach)
From: [personal profile] velvetwhip
Your money is much prettier than ours. We have truly bland-looking money.


Date: 2013-07-03 12:28 am (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy looking to the side in black and white (!wine)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Your money is so pretty!! And the Danedongs sound wonderful. As does Western Port Bay. And I will totally try Lemon and Lime Bitters! Also, I'm excited about Melbourne coffee, as I hear it beats Seattle coffee, which IMO is quite good.

How safe/practical is cycling? In the CBD/inner suburbs? In outer suburbs? Does it work to combine it with the trains, trams, and/or busses? I believe I saw that it is permitted to take bicycles on trains, but if they're super crowded it might not really work anyway?

I was an avid cyclist until wrist and shoulder repetitive strain injuries forced me to stop. I'm hoping to eventually get back in the saddle, though! And Monash Clayton looks to be about a km from the nearest train station, so being able to combine cycling with the train would be nice.

Actually, how does one commute to Monash Clayton? If one doesn't drive a car, that is. My car use will be limited to the occasional trip outside the city; I will probably hire a car in those cases. And just deal with being terrified!

Do you need to go to a chemist for over-the-counter drugs, like ibuprofen? Or are those available at supermarkets?

Lol, I'm sure nearly all restaurant water in Seattle is also from the tap, though they wouldn't advertise that fact. (Though self-serve tap water is common in cafes.) Our tap water is delicious. I'm glad to hear Melbourne's is too! When I travel to other places in the US with bad tap water I get so dehydrated.

Date: 2013-07-03 05:02 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy looking to the side in black and white (Default)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
I hope you're reading the other comments on these posts

Yes, definitely!

Where are you planning to live? That will have a big effect on how easy the commute is...

We don't know yet! The commute will be a big factor in the decision making, but it's hard to know without being there. We'll definitely look for places on the Packenham train line on the CBD side of Clayton, but if it turns out that I can deal with transferring trains every day we might expand that a bit. And once I have a sense of the bus service to Monash we can look outside the train line as well.

Edited Date: 2013-07-03 05:06 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-07-03 10:26 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy looking to the side in black and white (Default)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Nice, thanks!

Date: 2013-07-03 05:40 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
Monash Clayton is really easy to get to by bus. This is not true for anywhere else in Melbourne. You can catch a train to Huntingdale (if you're coming from the city side) or Clayton (from outer suburbs) stations and there are frequent direct buses. Also from Glen Waverley station which is on a different line, but that's a much longer trip by bus.

Date: 2013-07-03 05:05 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy looking to the side in black and white (Default)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Excellent. Is the bus service to Monash Clayton concentrated mostly in the surburbs around Clayton? Or is there also service from, say, St. Kilda (just as an example) to there?

Thank you!

Date: 2013-07-03 10:28 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy looking to the side in black and white (Default)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Ooh, thanks!

Date: 2013-07-04 10:57 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
It's more extensive than anywhere else, but your best bet is usually to get to a train station on the Dandenong/Pakenham/Cranbourne line and go from there, unless you are in the network [personal profile] deird1 points out below.

Date: 2013-07-03 06:38 am (UTC)
londonkds: (Default)
From: [personal profile] londonkds
Be careful when cycling around tram lines. If your bike tire runs along a tram rail you're very likely to skid and fall off - always hit them as close to ninety degrees as possible.

Date: 2013-07-03 05:08 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy looking to the side in black and white (Default)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Yikes! I completely avoid the (very few) streets with tram lines in Seattle for this reason, but that's probably not possible in Melbourne.

Date: 2013-07-03 04:36 pm (UTC)
eleanorjane: The one, the only, Harley Quinn. (Default)
From: [personal profile] eleanorjane
You can generally get ibuprofen, aspirin and paracetamol (acetaminophen) from the supermarket; weak-to-moderate opiod painkillers can be bought OTC at the chemist with no script; anything stronger requires a doctor's prescription.

Date: 2013-07-03 05:13 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy looking shocked, text says "OMG!" (!OMG)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Opiods? Wow. That is different from here. That's kind of good to know; I've stockpiled my now-expired vicodin, leftover from my wisdom teeth extraction, for the occasional migraine that NSAIDs can't touch. (It doesn't really do more than help me get to sleep for a while, but that's something!)

Date: 2013-07-04 10:58 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
We don't have vicodin here (though we do have oxycodone by itself), and anything that strong is prescription only. We do have OTC paracetamol/codeine and ibuprofen/codeine.

Soft drinks (not 'soda' or 'pop' or...

Date: 2013-07-03 03:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I was going to attempt to write a bit about the differences between ordering soft drinks in Australia and the US... but it's a total minefield, and depends which part of the US you come from, and what drinks you like to order and... well, here's the best I can do.

I'll sum up this way instead - go and have a look at the drinks section of the supermarket. Some of the drinks will be familiar, some won't.
Then, when you want to order a drink at a restaurant, you will know what brands you can fall back on if you need to describe the type of drink you're trying to end up with.

The one that's caused me headaches is ordering lemony drinks. When I order 'lemon squash', that means a yellow, fizzy, very lemony drink, frequently 'Solo' here. 'Lemonade' would mean a clear, fizzy, slightly lemony drink such as 'Sprite' or '7-Up' (also, I believe some US speakers use '7-Up' as a generic term?).

Re: Soft drinks (not 'soda' or 'pop' or...

Date: 2013-07-03 08:52 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] iosef
Also, particularly for soft drinks but effects everything: sweetening is done with cane sugar, not corn syrup. This effects both the flavour profile and the sweetness intensity. The big soft drink producers make locally and use cane sugar so there will be a noticeable difference.

Re: Soft drinks (not 'soda' or 'pop' or...

Date: 2013-07-05 02:32 pm (UTC)
eleanorjane: The one, the only, Harley Quinn. (Default)
From: [personal profile] eleanorjane
Yes, this, a lot.

Also, far fewer non-cola drinks in Australia have caffeine. They've only just - as in, within the last 12 months - started adding caffeine to Mountain Dew, and most soft drinks do not have a caffeinated version unless they're a cola.

Re: Soft drinks (not 'soda' or 'pop' or...

Date: 2013-07-03 05:22 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy looking to the side in black and white (Default)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
depends which part of the US you come from

ha, ha, yes. When I moved from New Mexico to the Seattle area some time ago, I was shocked when, upon ordering a Coke, I was served a Coca-Cola. Rather than being asked, "what kind", as I would have in New Mexico. In most parts of the US it's "soda" or "pop" -- and people from other parts of the country never seem to tire of mocking Pacific Northwesterners for using the latter -- but in the Southwest the generic term is Coke. Heh.

Yeah, 7-Up is used generically, at least sometimes. If I was sick and asked for a 7-Up, I wouldn't think twice if someone brought me a Sprite.

How sweet is a lemon squash? I love lemonade in the US if it's nice and lemony and tart and not overly sweet.

Though, generally speaking I probably won't do much soft-drink ordering at all in Australia. I have terrible teeth so I avoid them as much as possible. I can't resist the occasional lemonade in summer, though.

Re: Soft drinks (not 'soda' or 'pop' or...

Date: 2013-07-05 02:33 pm (UTC)
eleanorjane: The one, the only, Harley Quinn. (Default)
From: [personal profile] eleanorjane
Lemon squash is pretty sweet - it has as much sugar as any other normal soft drink.

Date: 2013-07-03 05:05 am (UTC)
vass: A sepia-toned line-drawing of a man in naval uniform dancing a hornpipe, his crotch prominent (Default)
From: [personal profile] vass
(Once saw a yank take a swig of full-strength cordial, before gagging in horror. I can't imagine...)

*grimly* I can imagine.

The roleplaying club at Melbourne Uni sometimes held non-alcoholic events with sugar highs taking the place of getting drunk. I took part in a cordial boat race once. Only once.

Date: 2013-07-03 05:38 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
Melbourne's water is actually quite nice, and well worth drinking.

This is completely true. It tastes wonderful. Unfortunately, this is not the case in any rural area because our water mostly comes from bores so that all the nice water can go to Melbourne. So if you go anywhere outside Melbourne, they may give you filtered water (perfectly nice) or a glass of oddly coloured poolwater (makes you thirsty). Ask first.

Date: 2013-07-03 05:33 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy looking to the side in black and white (Default)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Good to know! Are bores the same as wells? I grew up on well-water and it was nasty. Smelled of rotten eggs, yellowed our white clothes and even our toilet bowl. Ugh.

Does "rural areas" include outer suburbs? Or are you talking well outside the Melbourne metropolitan area?

Oh, this reminds me. Clearly the US and Australian useage of the word "suburb" is different. As I'm sure you know, in the US people use the word suburb to mean the smallish-large towns that are typically 10-50 miles outside the city. The word "suburban" is pretty much synonymous with residential, car-oriented, single-family-homes places that tend to lack things to do besides hitting the shopping mall or driving to and from work, the grocery store etc. They are also generally seen as white and middle class, though that's not always actually true: many suburbs of Seattle are not only less affluent than the city but also are just as racially diverse, if not more so, as a result of gentrification in the city.

So, what word or words would Australians use to describe such places?

Date: 2013-07-03 10:36 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy looking to the side in black and white (Default)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Oh, interesting. So "the suburbs" means the same thing as in the US.

Melbourne's suburbs seem much more analogous to Seattle's neighborhoods. Though those don't have their own council, so it's not quite the same.

Date: 2013-07-04 11:03 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
Melbourne is a huge collection of suburbs for about 50-60km from the city centre. I live in a tiny town of 800 people about four hours south-west, and grew up in a different small town about two hours east. There's different ethnic mixes all over the place but it's much more about wealth than about race (with some overlap, of course!) The wealthiest areas are primary white and Chinese, the poorest areas white and African. Outside Melbourne, it's 95% white with small groups of various other people like Iraqis in Shepparton, Nepalese in Morwell and Sudanese in Warrnambool (near me).

Date: 2013-07-03 07:27 am (UTC)
octavia_b: (Default)
From: [personal profile] octavia_b
Don't forget about the 40km school zones that only operate at particular times of the days during school terms *grin*. My kids' primary school is on a main road and the police park just over the crest of the hill with their radar gun and make a frigging FORTUNE from it.

Date: 2013-07-03 08:07 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Also, any licensed venue (byo included) must give you free (tap) water if you request it. This includes as much of it as you want, but i'm not sure if you have to be buying anything else there... I do know that the nightclubs cannot require you to buy anything else inside, but i assume you pay to get into them all.


deird1: Fred looking pretty and thoughful (Default)

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