Welcome to Australia, land of kangaroos, didgeridoos, vegemite and toilets that flush backward.
This isn’t my first visit to the Land Down Under.
I was here almost 30 years ago so I knew — at least I thought I knew — exactly what to expect upon my arrival.
For starters, don’t look shocked when a complete stranger calls you mate.
Also, don’t come down too hard on cricket, even if you think it pales in comparison to baseball.
And if you’re driving a car, for God’s sake keep it on the left hand side of the road and watch out for wallabies.
I’ll admit right now that I was not expecting many surprises on my second visit to the Land of Oz.
But there was one thing that jumped up and bit me in the backside. Bloody ‘ell mate, the Australian cost of living is higher than a koala bear that’s buzzed up on eucalyptus.
Aussie farmers grow heaps of the best malting barley in the world, but a schooner of Toohey’s in this country will set you back an arm and a leg.
Beef farmers here are as ubiquitous as broken stubbies at an Aussie bush party, but try finding a restaurant that serves a basic burger or chook on a bun for less than $25.
Petrol for the ute? That’ll cost you almost a buck and a half a litre.
And how about free wi-fi in your hotel room? Not likely, mate. That’s another $25 a night.
I love Australia.
It’s a big, awe-inspiring country with loads of natural beauty.
It’s people — known here as blokes and sheilas — are carefree, open, genuine and always willing to help a foreigner with directions or advice, regardless of how absurd his questions may be.
But at $35 or $40 for a no-frills meal, it didn’t take me long to realize that Australia could break my budget in two flicks of dingo’s tail.
Tomorrow’s lunch spot?
The Golden Arches, an icon of American affordability.
I’m not sure how Ronald McDonald has fared since his arrival in Australia, but I’m hoping he’s held firm to his values of inexpensive food for the masses.
Deliver me, Ronnie, from but budgetary nightmare — and supersize my french fries.