Baring it or not?

Since returning to an office job, in Sydney, Mum has been faced with some unexpected dilemmas that readers might be able to help with.

Having worked in an corporate environment for years in London, when I initially returned to work in Sydney it felt like home from home. The working environment and culture seemed to be very similar. However, now that I’ve been working for six months I have been faced with several dilemmas that specifically relate to my new work-life in Sydney. Here are three of my dilemmas;

1. Vocabulary and pronunciation

Not for the first time since living in Australia, I have been struck by the differences between Australian English and British English.

We have been in Australia for nearly three years and in our home life we have gradually adopted Australian vocabulary for a number of things. These days you will hear Family Mum’s gone 2 Aus talking about a trip to the “servo” or “bottle-o” and when the kids talk about footy and soccer, thongs and singlets, it doesn’t sound foreign.

Being back in a corporate IT environment Mum has had to rediscover many terms buried in the depths of my pre-children brain; but as well as recalling terms I had long forgotten I have been negotiating different pronunciation for many words.

Most days I have a conversation about “darta”, and I respond by talking about data. The conversations usually relate to “pro-jects”, but in my world that’s a project. At the moment, although I feel I ought to blend in I’m struggling to change my ways.

My reluctance to adopt local pronunciation means that I often feel like a parent correcting a child’s speech – you know when you don’t actually say “you said that wrong” but you infer it by repeating the child’s sentence, using the correct pronunciation. I have caught myself a number of times wondering what colleagues make of my British accent and I’ve wondered whether I should be trying harder to fit it.

What do you think? Should we adopt Australian English terms and pronunciation as quickly as possible, or is it okay to keep hold of our most natural terms and phrases when living and working in Australia?

2. Pantyhose, tights, stockings – a must in the office or not?

My second dilemma is something I have struggled with as the weather has warmed up in Sydney. For several weeks I have been asking anyone and everyone…is it okay for women to go to work without pantyhose \ tights \ stockings?

In the UK there were a few weeks during the year when it was warm enough to worry about this. In Sydney, a few weeks into Spring, it was already too warm to wear trousers. Now I’m wearing skirts most of the time, I’ve been conscious that I don’t want to show too much leg!

I’ve gradually taken the lead from colleagues, who don’t wear panty-hose \ tights \ stockings, but it has taken some time to get used to the idea. Perhaps part of the dilemma is that I’m also not getting any younger so I’m concerned that having bare legs isn’t age-appropriate!

I have spoken to a number of people about the dress code in Sydney and most say it gets too hot to wear tights all year round. A colleague also commented that corporate dress in warmer Australian states (Queensland, for example) has to be more laid back, because of the heat.

Cautiously, I have been baring my legs, but my skirts are getting longer and I’m hoping to invest in some light-weight trousers.

If you’ve had this dilemma, or similar issues with work clothing in Australia, we’d love to hear your tips and experiences. Do you think it’s okay for women to be bare legged at work? Do you have a favourite place to buy light-weight work clothes? Thank you.

3. What to have for lunch?

You might find Mum’s final dilemma a little surprising, but I have been surprised by the number of people who agree with my thoughts on lunch-time food options in Sydney.

Perhaps I have the wrong expectations but, when I’m at work, lunch has to meet two important criteria; it needs to be quick to buy and non-messy to eat. I often eat at my desk and I have limited time out of the office to pick something up.

Yes, I can already hear organised (and wise) readers asking why I don’t take my own lunch; sometimes I do, but often we’ve run out of what I need or fancy and buying something on the day is the only option.

Other Sydneysiders are probably thinking, “But there are food courts everywhere?!” and there are if you fancy fish and chips, pasta, pizza, noodles, rice, sushi, a burger etc.

I am not used to having a hot lunch – a salad or a sandwich is all I fancy, and once I’ve found somewhere that offers these options I invariably have to queue to be served and then wait for my salad or sandwich to be made.

British readers will relate to the type of service and food I am missing…

All I want when I pop out for ten minutes to grab some lunch is a Pret à manger, Boots or Marks and Spencer’s pre-packed sandwich or salad – selected in a few seconds, paid for in a few minutes and back at my desk within no time.

I’ve wondered whether I’m overwhelmed by all the options in Sydney food courts, and maybe I’ll get used to having rice or noodles instead; but I think I’m set in my sandwich loving ways. If you’re listening Mr Pret à manger, please bring your stores to Australia! If you agree with Mum’s request, there’s even a Facebook page about this: Please bring Pret A Manger to Australia.

If you’ve recently relocated to Australia, what do you think of the lunch time food options and food courts where you live? Are there any shops that you miss from your country of origin?

If you can offer any tips on quick lunch time food options in Sydney, I would love some advice. Thank you.

That covers Mum’s three “back to work in Sydney” dilemmas. If you’re a mum (or dad) who has recently returned to work, what dilemmas have you been faced with – maybe we can help…

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