Friday, September 30, 2011


"What do you mean, we have no central heating?" I can still hear my question reverberating in my head as I ponder what once would have been an unimaginable question.

Growing up in the States where most homes have central heating, I just assumed that it was a normal thing.  It’s nothing that I ever thought about, really.  I guess when you grow up with things a certain way, you just assume everyone else has life similar to yours. Such is the fodder for my Blog.  So many things that once were normal are no longer.

Let’s face it, when I mention that I’m living in Australia, what kind of life do most NON-Aussies imagine? A life of endless days of sunshine, blue skies and surf, white sandy beaches, and hot, dry land?  What about living in this great Land of Oz in the winter? What images conjure up in your head?  More of the same, right?  If you find yourself nodding in the affirmative, you have so much to learn young whippersnapper, so keep reading!

Parka and Eskimo mukluks
Actually, the winters here are quite mild.  The problem is, when you live without central heating, the inside of your house tends to be about the same temperature as it is outside!  When we go to bed, the thermostat isn’t set to maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the house as we sleep.  Instead, the wall heater is turned off and the house temperature quickly drops.  So when we have a night that dips to 5 degrees Celsius (that’s 41 degrees Fahrenheit for my American/metrically-challenged readers!) I wake up to a house that’s so cold, that I find myself ice skating on my tile floors, doing a twirl and double Axel on my way to my coat closet to grab my parka and mukluks for warmth!

Falls Creek, finest ski resort in Victoria, Australia
You may think I’m exaggerating, but really I’m not far from the truth!  I used to wonder why Aussies invented the Ugg boot, (which, by the way look very similar to mukluks!)  I mean, why would they need such a warm boot made out of sheep skin when they live where it sunshine’s 365 days of the year?  Ahh….there’s where your imagination has led you astray!  You see, it isn’t sunny here 365 days of the year.  It’s not a land that never sees rain.  In fact, you might be surprised to learn that parts of Australia even have SNOW!  But I digress…

While house hunting recently, we found that most houses in our half-million-dollar-and-up price range had no central heating! Seriously, how is it that you can spend that much money on a house and not expect to heat your home efficiently? Of course it came to no surprise to my husband since he grew up here, but you had to practically pick me up off the floor as the reality of my situation began to sink in! I didn't know this was even possible in this day and age! I thought gone were the days that people had one heating source, (their fire place) to warm their house. Just where is Laura Ingalls when you need her?

I live in Adelaide, South Australia!
I recently found a statistic that in New Zealand, our neighbor to the south, only 5% of homes have central heat, and New Zealand is colder than Australia!   (I tried to find the same statistics for Australia without any luck, but included this information so you have an idea of what I’m dealing with. Do you feel sorry for me yet?) I guess it’s because houses are designed more to keep the heat out. They just don’t worry about the cold here. Not only are houses built without central heating, but most homes have single paned windows (I didn’t even know those existed any more!) and don’t have fireplaces! In fact, most Aussie homes have awnings and black-out curtains on every window to keep the sunshine out on hot days. See what I mean? They are more concerned about keeping houses cool to the detriment of keeping them warm in the winter.
My neighborhood in Tigard, Oregon, winter 2008
So here I am, spending my first winter in Australia and I never once imagined that the winters here would be colder than back home in Tigard, Oregon where temperatures often drop below zero Celsius for the day’s high! In order to keep warm at night in Oz, I have an electric blanket which is nothing like those back home.  Electric blankets don’t lie on top of you. Instead, they look like a huge heating pad that slips under your sheet and you lay on top. It takes a little getting used to, but they do work well which keeps me from complaining (Aussies would say, “grizzling”) about the cold at night. I know my husband appreciates that!

A very melted Frosty the Snowman...
When I wake up in the mornings, in order to avoid hypothermia I quickly throw on a turtle-neck (called a “skivvy” here), sweatshirt (Aussies call a “jumper”), jeans (they call them “jeans” here…sorry, that’s supposed to be funny) and my Ugg boots, throw some blankets over me and cozy up to my wall heater until the frost melts off my nose, much like Frosty the Snowman on a warm day!

One of two heaters for our 2-story home
Peering out from under my blankets at my husband in hopes of sympathy and compassion, I shiver with teeth chattering and say, “I’m fra-fra-fra-freezing!” Of course my Aussie husband, walking around in shorts and a t-shirt just to prove a point would respond, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s not cold at all!” He’s just saying that, so he doesn’t have to turn up the heat! I guess I should be thankful for running water and electricity!

This is soooooo my husband and I!