Category Archives: Uncategorized

Do you believe in signs?

When it comes to job hunting, I always tell people there’s no harm in trying. What’s the worst that could happen? You get ignored, like you almost always do anyway? You’ve got to be in to win, and there’s absolutely nothing to lose by sending your application out to a faceless (and often nameless) person.

Yet I almost didn’t take my own advice. When I first came across the listing for my new job, I shook my head and sighed. It sounded like the perfect role in every way … but the timing wasn’t right. I wasn’t planning on leaving until later in the year! I know positions like this don’t come along everyday, but I decided to shelve it anyway and put it out of my mind.

And then …

Without going into any detail, let’s just say something happened to remind me that business is business. Your only loyalty should be to yourself, first and foremost. Never forget that. —-> SIGN 1

I decided to do a little more research and put in an application. And what do you know: a Google search revealed that the position would be reporting to someone who worked at my previous employer, who I had actually had a couple of dealings with. —-> SIGN 2

They called me right away, and although I’d just had my wisdom teeth out and was a bit sore, I wasn’t in too much pain and didn’t want to put off the interview. It went well, and I had a second interview a week later.

A few days after that, my (super awesome) boss announced her resignation. —-> SIGN 3

Handily, this also freed me up to ask her for a reference, and in keeping with the theme so far, that very same day I was asked for reference contacts by the HR consultant.

In a strange twist, as it turns out, we both ended up joining and leaving the company at almost exactly the same time.

I am a bit bummed to bail out before winning an industry award. But then again, I was sad to leave my last job before getting assigned a travel feature – and then I got to do a couple of sweet trips at this one.

Because of the way Easter and Anzac holidays shook down this year, I wound up with 10 days off in between. Add in the fact T didn’t have work to go to either, after getting very close to a very cool sounding job (final 2 candidates) and I took this as a sign that we should make the most of this time and take a trip somewhere. Call it an early anniversary celebration.

So we took off to the Great Barrier Reef for a few days of relaxation. (Recaps to come.)

And funnily enough, on our last night over there I learned through Twitter that my bank’s social media team will soon be hiring – another ideal opportunity that I had been hoping might manifest. It’s still on my career bucket list.

Quintessentially NZ things I still haven’t done

What do you think of when you hear ‘New Zealand’? Probably Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit - majestic, untouched landscapes, that kind of thing.

We’ve ridden this Middle-earth wave for a decade, and while we locals may be well and truly over it, the rest of the world is not. Everywhere we went, that’s what people associated with New Zealand.

Sometimes people assume I was an extra in the movies, or that I’ve bungied AT LEAST once. Nope and nope.

Thrillseekers Canyon Bungy, Hanmer Springs

By: Aidan

Bungy jumping

We may be the home of bungy but I have to admit this is one activity I never, ever plan to do. I’ve skydived as part of a media trip, and that is enough for me. Voluntarily leaping off a bridge is too extreme for my blood.

Swimming with dolphins

I’m a bit torn on this one. I really love the idea of swimming amongst dolphins, but I don’t do well in deep water and I suspect I might freak out a little (or a lot) if I was actually out the in the ocean surrounded by creatures, no matter how cute they were. And that would be a terrible situation to panic in.

Glow worm caves

Not a big fan of small dark spaces either, but I think I could probably handle it just to see the spectacle of glow worms at Waitomo.

Hot air ballooning

Hot air ballooning would be pretty neat – granted, I’m a wuss when it comes to heights, but this would be a pretty gentle way to get airborne. Oddly, I never really had any interest in this at all until I saw something online about ballooning over the Bagan temples in Myanmar (it wasn’t that particular link; I can’t remember where the original was). Seriously, how cool would that be? I kinda want to visit Myanmar now and see it from the air.

Scenic flights

When we were tossing around booking a trip to Queenstown, T suggested doing a scenic helicopter ride. The prices for scenic flights can be pretty obscene, but I reckon in the right area it could be well worth it – I’m thinking over glacier country…

Random stuff I’ve gotten through work over the past few months (aka what I’ll miss)

  • Books (so many books)
  • Wine (given to friends)
  • Pot plant (wilting in a corner behind the front door because I haven’t seen my mum, who I wanted to give it to, in ages)
  • Mexican blanket (currently doubling as a rug in the living room)
  • Tequila (consumed by T and friends)
  • Wrestling mask (decorating our TV cabinet)
  • Olive oils (almost used up)
  • More pairs of 3D glasses than I’ll ever need (still in their box)

This is my roundabout way of announcing that today is my last day at my job. It’s been almost three years (minus six months off to travel) and it’s been fantastic. But somehow, I’ve managed to score dream job number three. Pinch me.

I am only partly kidding, by the way. Freebies are one of the best perks in media (the best goodies I’ve snagged to date would probably be a roll of the dice between Coldplay tickets, a bright blue vacuum, or a generous voucher that stretched to a new coffee table and a few other kitchen items) but there are a lot of other things I’ll miss. I’ve worked with some great people, enjoyed a lot of flexibility and of course the actual work.

But an opportunity too good not to seize presented itself, and I think it’s going to be a great move. Expect some reflective posts further down the track on that front.

Happy Easter!

Travel snobbery I’m so over

 

Travellers are generally pretty cool. It goes with the territory – chilled, open-minded, etc.

But this is the internet, and it brings out the judgemental worst in us all.  

At risk of biting the hand that feeds (see also: Personal finance topics I’m so over), today’s rant is about the superior mentality some travel blogs like to take.

‘That cost you how much?! We spent way less than that…’

If you want to survive on as little as humanly possible, that’s your prerogative. If you can afford to travel in luxury and that’s the way you want to go, enjoy it. If you are mostly frugal but splash out on food, who are we to judge? Just because it’s possible to spend as little as $10 or 20 a day in some countries doesn’t mean you’re ‘doing it wrong’ if you choose to splurge some days. Even the cheapest countries cost money and I’m inclined to agree with Adam Seper on this one: “You can’t do/see anything on $10/day, no matter where you are.”

Being on the road for six months, we occupied a strange middle ground – one that fell somewhere between normal people who couldn’t fathom how we spent so little, and long-term (often permanent) travellers who berate me for spending so much.

Six months worked in well with legalities (visas and such) for the destinations we wanted to visit and our finances, among other things. It did mean we moved at a fast pace by RTW standards and therefore jacked up daily average spend but it was the perfect length for us.

(Also, the US is not the only country in the world. There are travel bloggers from other countries, who deal in currencies other than the greenback.)

Anyone with a bag bigger than a 25L backpack is doing it wrong

I liked the idea of travelling with only a carry-on, I really did. Then I learned just how tiny the dimensions are for carry-on luggage with some of the budget airlines. There was no way that was going to happen. Plus, our RTW flights (for all the long-haul journeys) included checked baggage anyway – it was only the shorter European flights we had to worry about. So I sucked it up and paid extra for baggage on those flights.

I wouldn’t consider myself high maintenance; I only had a couple pairs of shoes and a handful of pieces of clothing for six months – one of the benefits of travelling in warmer weather. But we did have a few other things like electronics and a sleeping bag to contend with, and I am a lazy, untrained packer who likes to haphazardly squash things in. Oh, and yes, I packed jeans, and yes, I wore them a ton!

We could certainly have bought smaller packs (ours were never completely full until towards the end, when we did all our shopping in the States) and learned how to use packing cubes and the like if needed, but I figured I would rather have the option of more room in case I needed it (this definitely came in handy at times).

Props to the super minimalists and pro packers. Travel is always easier with less stuff to transport – but different strokes for different folks. My 9kgs may seem excessive to seasoned nomads, although non-travellers always balked at how little we apparently had.

The ‘right’ way to travel

Like most things in life, travel is intensely personal. I was itching to get out of the Louvre after an hour; some people dream of visiting it their whole lives. I adore Venice, but plenty of people decry it as a tourist trap.

So-called ‘real travellers’ occasionally astound me with their close-minded snobbery. How about we let people experience travel however the hell they want? Not everyone has the luxury of slow travel – the ability or the DESIRE to travel for long periods – so let’s not give them shit for trying to get the most out of their time. We only had 3 months in Europe as per Schengen visa rules so yes, we were kinda speed-freak backpackers  over there as we wanted to fit as much in as we could – and it was a blast. When you’re from NZ,  Europe is a long and expensive journey away, so this was a one-off/rare shot for us.

Not everyone wants to stay in gritty guesthouses and hostels, no matter how authentic that might be, or volunteer on a farm, or teach English abroad. (We did all these things ourselves and had a blast … but they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.)

Also, not everyone wants to spend months or years in developing nations no matter how cheap they are. After six weeks in southeast Asia we’d just about hit our limit in regards to heat and the environment in general. We spent too much on foreign food when we could no longer tolerate local food for every meal and found ourselves lingering longer in our air-conditioned rooms in the mornings as time went on. It was a grand adventure and amazing experience, but too far out of our comfort zone to spend months in.

I will wrap up with this:  “You can indeed have a narrow mind and a thick passport.” (Borrowed from William Chalmers, whose excellent list of 22 examples of travel snobbery is here.)

The day I first realised I was expensive

NZMUSE THE DAY I FIRST REALISED I WAS EXPENSIVE

They say kids cost about $250,000 each to raise. I have no idea how accurate that figure has been for my parents, but I can tell you that now I’m grown, I no longer resent my parents for not taking us travelling (airfares are bloody expensive and they did a lot of their travel pre-kids), buying secondhand clothes and only ever shopping supermarket specials.

Through braces, swimming and tennis lessons, music classes, library fines and more, they spent thousands on non-essentials for me. I have to say, though, they got lucky: I was never a kid who nagged for stuff. I simply don’t like asking for things, and for some reason I was always a little bit scared of my parents somehow. I can only think of one instance in which I sort of pushed to buy a pair of orange boardshorts (they were like $10 at The Warehouse) when I was younger, and I got my way. Thing is, they were on the small side to start with, I was a growing kid, and they only lasted a summer. Fail.

But the day I truly, honest-to-God realised I was expensive for my parents was the day I told them not to send me to One Day School. It was a programme for ‘gifted’ kids who weren’t necessarily being challenged at normal school. We went to see the place – I vaguely remember it looking somewhat uninspiring, to be honest – and then came the big question: did I actually want to go?

I can’t remember if I asked, or if they randomly disclosed to me how much it cost, but either way, the financial aspect came up. The details are a bit hazy to me today, but I’m pretty sure I worked out that one day there would be the equivalent of one or two hours’ pay for my dad. (Ah, ye olde hours-worked formula! Keeping us in check since the beginning of capitalism!) Of course, today that seems quite reasonable to the adult me, but to the 8-year-old me that seemed an outrageous expenditure. What a heinous waste of money, I reasoned – there was no good justification for it. I hadn’t been all that taken by my first impressions of ODS anyway, so I said we should forget the whole thing. And we did.

Don’t for a moment think I missed out on anything. I was perfectly happy in mainstream school, reading years ahead of my age level in my spare time and agonising over my social awkwardness. Really, English was the only thing I was advanced in – I was most definitely average in all other subjects. (And being less than totally exceptional is something I’m more than okay with. Genius is a burden, and often the greats among us are deeply tortured souls. RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman.)

For a kid who really just wanted to fit in – who still had a slight accent, wore weird clothes and wasn’t sporty – going to a special school one day a week would probably have been the worst way to prove I was just like everyone else. I’m sure a much more deserving and needy kid would have filled my spot.

(This post was inspired by Young Adult Money!)

Did you ever have a similar epiphany as a kid?

Link love (Powered by hashtags and heights)

nzmuse blog link love

Highlights of my week included:

  • Organising the perfect farewell gift for my boss and seeing her reaction
  • Pushing myself to the limit and fighting my fear of heights at Tree Adventures

 

The low of my week was: 

Trying to make a booking at a lodge/backpackers via Airbnb. Their response: we don’t accept payment through Airbnb yet, please Google us and book through our site. I almost don’t want to book with them at all on principle now. And I’ll be reporting them to Airbnb.

This week’s links

MONEY

An interesting perspective on finding the joy in spending, via See Debt Run

How to save by bartering your services, via Making Sense of Cents

TRAVEL

Ashley basically sums up all my feelings about documenting travel

We have some totally wacky birdlife in NZ, as Young Adventuress documents

Rachel Hills reflects on what living in London has taught her

FOOD

All you ever needed to know about the different kinds of Thai curry, via Traveling 9 to 5

Landing Standing suggests a novel way to order when dining out in pairs at a new restaurant

LIFE

Funnily enough, in the same week that I wrote about our unromantic relationship, Married with Luggage blogged about unconventional romance

Tiny Apartment lists the 5 stages of wedding planning

Makeup and Mirtazapine voices a painful truth: at some point or other, everyone you love will hurt you

Like whoa. This woman wasn’t a Sheryl Sandberg fan – until she couldn’t find a job

Finally, I do like Emily Nussbaum’s writing, and this interview in which she explains  how she lucked into her New Yorker job and how much tougher things are today is a revealing one.

I literally feel like I cannot give advice on how to get [my] job, because the obvious ways that the journalistic economy has collapsed and the role specifically for culture analysts within that make it very, very hard to make a living. The clear paths even for people who are already privileged are no longer there. I don’t want to BS people. I feel like I was super lucky—I aged in at a point where when a really desirable job became available that I was actually suited for, I had enough experience to already have the clips in place. But how often does the television critic for The New Yorker step down?

The situation now is biased against newcomers. That’s factual. And I don’t think people should beat themselves up for not being able to make headway in that kind of situation. I feel like young people who get online writing jobs are forced to write a million things with no editing for a small amount of money—that’s not an ideal situation. Sometimes people can become very good writers that way, but it’s not a situation where you are nurtured and brought to the best level of your writing.

I hate that there are unpaid internships, because it means that the only people who can afford to take the gigs are already privileged, but it’s undeniable that once you’re at a place, you can ask to do more, because you’re not a stranger. I’m also seriously worried about what it does to people to get trapped in the low-paid blog mines, but that doesn’t mean that those gigs can’t get you to a better place. Also, while there’s nothing wrong with writing for free early on, the goal is always to get paid. Ask for more, politely. Also, push for more-ambitious assignments—editors want responsible writers, but they also want ambitious ones who have ideas of their own. The worst they can do is say no, and if you don’t ask, you’ll get a no anyway. Might as well go for it.

(It’s true: we editors love writers with ideas. Another reason I would suck at freelancing; I’m not much of an ideas generator. Also, I have never really benefited from much editing guidance myself, having worked almost exclusively online. Nurturing? Definitely not a word that describes this field.)

Three Thing Thursday: Incy wincy travel regrets

travel regrets - nyc architecture skyline

Happily, I don’t have any major regrets. But when I do think back, these are the little things that niggle!

1. I wish we’d had more time in NYC. We’ll have to go back and explore north of Central Park, for starters – we only got to see small parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.

Technically, I guess we could have ventured up there on the Sunday – our last full day there – but we were zonked after Saturday night out (karaoke and drinks for T’s birthday with our New York friends whom we met in Halong Bay). That was followed by a long walk home when we realised our train wasn’t running and had to catch a different one. We got back to our apartment about 2 or 3am and spent most of Sunday recovering (you’d honestly think we were middle aged or something).

I wouldn’t have minded longer on the East Coast overall, or in SF, but in order to meet some people in particular cities (of COURSE they would be planning to leave town round about when we were coming!) we had to move through some areas a little faster than I’d hoped.

2. I wish I’d tried to talk to the man at that restaurant in Naples, the restaurant that might or might not have been the one we’d been looking for, but I chickened out. He was yammering away at me in Italian, and instead of using my very limited Italian to explain I didn’t understand and did he speak English? I just froze. Then I walked away. I have a feeling that restaurant had been just about to open up for dinner, though not quite yet at that moment, but now I’ll never know – and I bet it would’ve been amazing, because it was tiny and totally untouristy.

3. I wish I’d been quicker off the mark with that word puzzle. On the train from Rome to Salerno, we were seated in a cabin in the middle of a raucous Italian family. Only one of them spoke English with any fluency at all. She and one of the other passengers were playing Guess the City on their iPads – a word scramble with a travel theme. Whenever they had trouble, they would ask me and T if we knew the answer. We were all stuck on one question in particular for the longest time, and we got off before it was solved. I was close – I could see that ‘Iguazu’ was one of the words – but just couldn’t decipher the rest of the letters. Not till about an hour or two later did it strike me – Puerto Iguazu. I wonder if they ever did figure it out.

A day in my life (one of the more interesting ones)

A Day in the Life: A Linkup by Break the Sky

 

Honestly, a typical day in my life would be pretty boring. Get up, go to work, sit at my desk for 8 hours writing and editing, maybe a short break for cakes and other goodies from the ladies on our food mag, come home, blog/read/watch TV and sleep.

Some days are a bit more interesting. Behold:

7.30:  Up early  as I actually have to be at work at 9am today, so no catching the later bus as I usually do. Wolf down a bowl of cereal. Get dressed and head to the bus stop about 8.

a day in the life nzmuse

It’s cold and windy – almost coat weather! I regret not taking my outfit photo indoors. This is one of my favourite dresses, I believe it was a Target find in the US – and my power shoes. This is about as dressy as I get, but because I have a fancy lunch to go to I’m making the effort.

a day in the life nzmuse

I’m glad I stashed tissues in my bag before leaving; with the drop in temperatures my nose is dripping like a leaking tap. But we’ll wait and see – the sun might come out and turn the day sweltering (by Auckland standards) in minutes, like it has the last few afternoons.

8.45am: Traffic is horrendous. Finally get off the bus, commence walk to the office. This is my favourite part of the journey.

a day in the life nzmuse

8.50am: Deal to important emails. Check scheduled tweets for the day, and check site traffic. We had a big story preset to publish first thing this morning. Embargoes are a pain but this company wanted Techcrunch to break their news in US time. It’s happening more often – NZ tech startups that are truly international are giving stories to Silicon Valley media first, which I understand even if I don’t like it.

a day in the life nzmuse

9am: Down to the photography studio to assist on this photo shoot. Turns out I didn’t have to worry about being on time, since our art director doesn’t turn up for a little while. I notice one designer still hasn’t sent stuff over as he promised (sigh) but it’s okay, we have plenty of stuff to work with anyway. I had a feeling about him!

a day in the life nzmuse

Between 9am and 11.30am: Bounce back and forth between studio and my desk upstairs – fetching stuff, packing and unpacking stuff, checking emails, etc.

a day in the life nzmuse

11.45am: Hop in a taxi and head into the CBD. Have an interesting chat with the driver about our experiences of racism in NZ.

Noon: Arrive at the Hilton for lunch. It’s mainly accounting types, and mostly pale males in suits. Sigh. It gets a little more interesting when somebody I interviewed last week arrives and we get to meet in person for the first time (Auckland is a sprawling city geographically but it’s tiny in that sense).

The dude across from me (from one of the Big 4 firms) actually utters the words “post-acquisition synergies” at one point. Take that corporate bullshit and choke on it. That moment aside though, lunch isn’t too bad overall – three course meal with decent food and amazing dessert, plus interesting speakers.

a day in the life nzmuse a day in the life nzmuse

The bathroom is nice, too.

a day in the life nzmuse

3pm: I’m back in the office. Dash to check on emails and site traffic, then back down to see how the rest of the shoot went. Pack everything back up and lug the boxes over to dispatch to be returned. Photographer praises me for taking care of a thankless task – which it is, but it’s gotta be done, and that someone should probably be me since I’m responsible for coordinating the whole thing (and am the one who’ll be in trouble if anything happens to the products). If only we had any interns right now …

4pm: Clear emails, take care of some admin. Make sure things are lined up for two interviews I’m doing tomorrow. Publish a couple of stories (preloaded interview, a couple of syndicated posts).

5.15pm: Leave work and head to the bus stop. Go back and forth about my plan to go donate blood for the first time – I just had a flu shot this week, will that matter? Decide even if I get turned away, I only have a 15 minute walk home from the venue.

6pm: Find a whole ton of people at the church where NZ Blood has set up for the day. Fill in some forms and wait. They eventually test me for iron levels (I was a bit worried about this – mine have always been low, but apparently I pass muster) and ask if I’m over 50kg (I was at the time of my last medical appointment – I don’t own a scale).

When I finally hop into the chair, they have some trouble finding my vein. That initial prick of the needle is sharp but bearable, no worse than the anaesthetic injection I had when I got my wisdom teeth out.

a day in the life nzmuse

7pm: After some water and chocolate biscuits, I’m off. As I walk through New Lynn, a guy calls out my name. I think fast – I don’t recognise him, but upon a second look (I’m terrible with faces) thankfully I remember who is he, despite his totally new hair.  We used to work at the same company and  always got along well. We talked for probably at least 15 minutes on the footpath and could’ve gone longer. 

8pm: Home! T’s still out (we talked briefly on the phone earlier) but thanks to my huge lunch and the biscuits I’m not ravenous like I normally am. Have a quick shower then call him again. Turns out he already made dinner and it’s in the microwave. Score. It’s almost 9pm by now, which is insanely late to eat, but it’s actually  the second day in a row this has happened – yesterday I was in town catching up with a friend over drinks and nibbles.

10pm:  Catch up on some blogs in Feedly and some of my regular reads through Flipboard. Start a new book and get through a couple of chapters.

a day in the life nzmuse

11pm: Lights out.

Romance is overrated: Why we suck at romantic gestures

romance is overrated why we suck at romantic gestures

One of the (many) things I hate about pop culture is how it sets up expectations for grand, sweeping romantic gestures from our significant others.

That’s why I really liked the fact that in the Big Bang Theory, they don’t stop at Howard serenading Bernadette with a song he wrote himself, but show Penny’s blundering attempts at romancing Leonard only to realise that the fact she has a shoebox in which she’d saved all sorts of mementoes from their time together speaks loudest of all.

Sure, there are people out there who go BIG. My boss bought his wife a car for her 40th birthday. My friend’s husband proposed after a skydive.

But that’s not us at all. I think you might stump us if you were to ask either of us about the most romantic thing we’d ever done for each other.

For me, it’s all about the small, everyday things.

I will save half my burrito to take home for him to share.  Sew up holes in his pants and handwash his good shirts. Buy Mallow Puffs on solo trips to the supermarket even though I think they’re disgusting and won’t touch them myself (I feed the people I love).

And in turn, the ultimate token of appreciation from my perspective would be simply doing things around the house. Proactively taking care of chores. Oh, and not drinking the last of the milk.

Alas, while my love language is ‘acts of service’, his are ‘physical touch’ and ‘receiving gifts’. And thus, real romantic gestures – the kind the other person truly appreciates – take a lot of work in this household.

Class, race, and money: My response to Rookie mag

class race and money - nzmuse

Every once in while you stumble across something online that just sparks SO MANY FEELINGS that you have to respond in some way. For me, this discussion piece on Rookie covering class, race and money ticked all the boxes.

‘Class rage’

“I had/have an ingrained prejudice against people who grow up wealthy that I am trying to work past. Like all prejudices, this one is based more on my own insecurity about money, class, and my worthiness/abilities than on anything real, and I often catch myself trying to invalidate the achievements of people who grew up with privilege (“Yeah, of course you’re an editor at the Paris Review, YOUR PARENTS STILL PAY FOR YOUR APARTMENT PROBABLY” or “I grew up with what you did, I’d have SO MUCH MORE to show for it”). It would be a lot easier to get over my unfair attitude if it didn’t contain at least a little bit of truth: I mean, growing up privileged does make it easier to get into a good college and get jobs and stuff.” 

 

Oh, man. I can’t tell you how hard this resonates. I have had a lot of luck in my life so far professionally, but also a whole lot of shit happen, and because I was fully independent from a very young age, I admit I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder.

 

 “One thing I’ve noticed is that people who are quite poor tend to think of themselves as richer than they really are and people who are quite rich think of themselves as less well off than they are.”

 

Also very true in my experience. I’ve also noticed that those who are less well off are often looser with the money they DO have (and whether that’s because of a lack of money management skills, desire for pleasures in an otherwise grim existence, etc is another subject altogether).

Class shame 

“My mom’s personal class shame was also tied up with the racism she experienced when she was young. She often acted like she was ashamed to be Mexican. She was never racist against other races or other Mexicans, but she definitely hid her culture and did not speak Spanish at home with me.”

As I’ve blogged before, I used to be painfully aware that I was different and hideously ashamed of the fact. Right after we moved to New Zealand I wanted nothing more than to lose my accent and distance myself from my ‘weird’ parents (they were highly educated professional immigrants, but still immigrants, and I just wanted to be white like most of the other kids at my upper middle-class school). It’s not a part of my past I’m proud of.

 

 Class and food

 

“Food was one of the big eye-openers for me in terms of privilege. When I was in grade school, most of my friends got free school lunches (and I was actually jealous because I had to bring a bagged lunch). At my new, wealthier school, everyone went out to lunch at this hot dog stand around the corner at least twice a week; I could only afford to join them about once a month. Then when I was a teenage punk and beginning to go vegan, one of my friends who had grown up in a poor family went on this rant about how being vegan was a sign of privilege. At first I was like, “But if you don’t shop at Whole Foods and get the fancy fake-meat products, vegetables are cheaper than steak, and you can make a giant stir-fry for like nothing.” And she said, “Stephanie, vegetables are not cheaper than like the cheapest brand of lunch meat, and they go bad.”

 

From my observations of one family close to us: when you don’t have a car, don’t live near transport and the supermarket/butcher/fruit shop are too far away to walk to easily, fast food from the takeaway around the corner is the way to go. Cheap and filling. It’s hard to beat that kind of bulk value with produce that is 90% water and goes bad easily. 

I once took them supermarket shopping and it broke my heart a little to see them buying a huge roll of what I think was luncheon meat for the week – which isn’t really food, let’s face it. I bought the kids some chocolate for a treat. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do.

Speaking of food – shortly after we moved here, I was invited to a sleepover with a group of other girls. They were a lot posher than us and had a huge spread at breakfast, including boiled eggs. I seriously had no idea what they were or what to do with them. The mother saw I was the only one who hadn’t taken one and insisted Katherine, her daughter, give me one of hers. Luckily, she had already peeled one – and that’s the one I got given.

 

 Class and career

 

“They never question my credentials because I went to good schools, and they “like” me because I know how to talk to such people, because I am comfortable with them, because of my privilege.”

 

I’m from a very middle-of-the-road suburb and went to a high school that doesn’t have a particularly great reputation. That doesn’t really matter these days and it doesn’t often come up, but I often feel a pang of shame if it does. I felt this most acutely when I first hit university; my course was overflowing with wealthy white girls from the central, eastern and northern suburbs. In response, I kind of retreated into myself a little bit and focused on working two jobs to support myself.

I still feel wayyyy out of place when I go to events or fancy lunches or black tie dinners, but at least I have done it enough to be able to fake my way through now. My upbringing did not prepare me for any of this kind of stuff.  

T has always worked very blue collar jobs, but recently has ventured further into the white collar world, which is not necessarily an easy transition to make. He doesn’t really have any role models in this regard; I’m the only person really placed to be any sort of guide at all.

 

Class markers

 

“Obvious ones: education and membership in any of the networks of rich white people who enjoy perpetuating themselves. (There is some overlap between these two things.)”

“CREDIT.”

“BRACES.”

“The way people speak is a huge indicator. Also cultural references. Also personal style.”

 

Oooh, this is a goodie.

I definitely think the way people talk is a dead giveaway. I also have seen firsthand how poverty can start to breed racism. I recently heard someone (who is now technically related to me, alas) say something along the lines of: we may be poor and breed like rabbits but we’re still better than (insert derogatory term that rhymes with ‘triggers’). It was rather worrying; it felt like I had suddenly stepped onto the set of American History X or something.

For me growing up, one big marker was whether kids and their families went away on holiday. It’s common around here to have a bach (holiday house)  in a beach town, but I also knew a lot of kids who would go on overseas holidays every year. (We never went anywhere. We stayed home every summer.)

 

One last anecdote: when I was maybe 5 or so we did an assignment at kindy/school where we wrote about our families. One of the questions was ‘do you live in a small or big house’? I honestly didn’t know, as I didn’t really have anything to compare our house with, and went back and forth in my mind about how to answer that. We had a pretty nice house but I settled on ‘small’ – apparently I’ve erred on the side of modesty ever since I was born. When I came home and showed my mum, she was definitely surprised and corrected me on that.