Search results for 'tampons'

(The Lack of) Tampons in Australia

6 Mar

One constant source of frustration when traveling or living abroad is being unable to find products you are used to back home or even an acceptable substitute. It might be a favourite food or your favourite shampoo or a preferred OTC painkiller or jeans that fit as nice as the kind you are used to getting back home.

I’ve experienced a lot of little frustrations like this on a near daily basis over the years, and I can usually cope, but today, I’m going to go on a hormonally inspired rant about the lack of tampon selection in Australia.

You heard me right. Tampons. Men, feel free to stop reading now. 😉

When it comes to having a period, it sucks bad enough without having to stress out about finding the right sanitary product. When that time of the month rolls around, you just want to be able to go to the store and get what you need without thinking too much about it or having a PMS-induced psychotic breakdown in aisle 3.

I’m partial to the Tampax Pearl line myself. They come with nice little plastic applicators that make the entire disgusting job relatively neat and pain free. Failing that, a cardboard applicator is acceptable, though less desirable, and Tampax tampons expand into a nice shape that prevents any kind of leakage, which is always a plus.

So now that I’ve run out of my stash that I brought from America, I’ve had a chance to explore the feminine hygiene aisle here in Australia. (Travel tip #1787630: Always bring a “stash” of essentials from your home country to buy you plenty of time to find an acceptable local substitute or until you can get back to your home country to restock.)

Let me just say that I am less than impressed with the female sanitary products on offer. Every store I have been to has had shelf upon shelf upon shelf of sanitary pads and the tampons are confined to a small corner of a bottom shelf somewhere.

Upon crouching down to the ground and getting on my hands and knees just to inspect the selection of tampons, I realised it hadn’t even been worth the effort. Nothing to see here, people! Move along!

A typical non-descript box of Australian tampons. Kind of hard to tell what you’re getting in this box.

In this country, tampons are packaged in non-descript little boxes. You really don’t know what you’re going to get when you open the up the box. It may have an applicator… or not. It may be unscented… or not. It may be flushable… or not. Hmm. What to do? Discreetly open up every package to see what’s inside or buy a few different kinds and see what surprise is in store for me in the privacy of my own home? Despite not being rich, I opted for door #2.

I almost didn’t even recognise these as Tampax. And they were the only ones in the store that specifically said “applicator tampons”.

I saw they had Tampax of some kind, so I got one of those. And then I got some kind called Libra which I’d never heard of, but occupied the most shelf space, so I figured it must be popular. Having never seen Australian TV in my life, I couldn’t refer back to any commercials for advice.

I passed over most options because the packages were so tiny it was clear to me that they did not come with applicators and were the disgusting kind that you have to shove inside yourself with your finger. Can I just say how gross I think that is?

First of all, there’s disgusting stuff up inside there during menstruation that I’m not particularly interested in touching. Second of all, my finger is probably not always totally sterile, being a finger and all, and I don’t really want to stick it up there and give myself an infection.

You can sort of get around some of the ew-factor in your own bathroom at home, but let’s say you have to do this in a public restroom. I don’t want to put the same fingers I’ve used to touch the bathroom stall door up inside an infection-prone part of my body. I know that some women probably do this anyway and it disgusts me nearly to the point of vomiting to think of them doing that and then touching the handle on the stall door afterwards. GROSS!!!!! Now all their menstrual germs are all over the handle! Even more disgusting is the number of women who don’t wash their hands at all.

I wonder how many STIs have been transmitted through public bathrooms in Australia for this very reason? Fortunately, I’m such a germophobe that I always use a paper towel or tissue of some kind to manipulate the handle if I absolutely must use a public restroom. If you ever see a blonde girl doing this in a public restroom, it’s probably me. Feel free to say hello.

So yeah. Tampons without applicators are just a no-go. That is so beyond disgusting that it doesn’t even bear thinking of.

And what’s up with the row upon row of sanitary pads? While we’re on the subject of disgusting, let’s talk about that. I cannot for the life of me understand why someone would prefer a pad to a tampon, especially in such a warm climate. Walking around with a veritable diaper between one’s legs while soaking it through with blood is very uncomfortable.

When I was a teenager, my mother wouldn’t let me use tampons, so it was pads only. I remember that it was awful. They smell. They leak everywhere. You constantly have to be on the lookout for a bathroom so you can change it every few hours. Gym class with a pad was a nightmare.

Tampons basically changed my life. No smell, no leaks, and lasts for up to eight hours, so you can go out during the day or sleep through the night without needing a replacement. And in public facilities, having something that is flushable is a major bonus. It’s also useful when hanging out with guy friends who may not be thrilled about having used feminine products turning up in their waste bins. It’s a lot easier to dispose of a tampon discreetly.

No one will ever be able to convince me that wearing something like this in my underwear is comfortable or sanitary.

Now back to my rant about the lack of selection in Australia and the abundance of pads. I’m convinced they are trying to force women to use pads at least some of the time. I have been unable to find tampons for light flow days in any store, except for one brand that only came in a non-applicator version. You can get super and regular and that’s it. So what do you do on days when your period is winding down or if you’re like me and just have a light flow the entire time? Well, you can either risk a yeast infection by using an absorbency that is too high or use pads. Pick your poison.

I considered trying to order my preferred tampons from America, but I couldn’t find anyone who would ship them to Australia. My Plan B is to bring an entire stash of them from America next time I go back and then hoard them. When I told H about my plan, he offered what he thought was a better suggestion: “Or you could just be pregnant all the time. I’d like that.” Gee, what a charming alternative!

Fortunately, I’ll be back on my birth control soon and then I’ll be a lot less narky and won’t get so stressed out about minor inconveniences like not being able to find the right tampons. (Did I mention that I got four months of birth control for only $14? The same drug in America used to cost me $135 for four months! How cool is that?) Once I’m less hormonal, I’ll go back to complaining about more practical things, like reusable shopping bags and feminism. 🙂

Update (22 Jan 2013) : A lot of people find this article from searching on Google for Tampax Pearl tampons in Australia. Sorry to say, there are still no Tampax Pearl tampons in Australia. As of yet, the only Tampax tampons in Australia are the kind I mentioned above. If Pearls ever do make an appearance, you can bet that I’ll be making a huge celebratory post about it. Procter & Gamble, the company that owns Tampax, doesn’t seem to be all that interested in building the brand here, even though I’m convinced Tampax Pearls would be a big hit here. You can always email them to let them know you’d like to see a better Tampax selection in Australia or ask USA Foods to start importing them.

Update (27 Feb 2013): When I wrote to Proctor & Gamble to ask about Tampax Pearl and also whether or not they might ever offer tampons for ultra lite or ultra heavy flows, they ignored the latter question completely, but they did say they do have Tampax Pearl tampons in Australia and provided me with a list of stockists (see below). When I checked online, I could not find any evidence that any of these places stock Tampax Pearl, although some commenters have said they have found them occasionally in their local stores, which is great for them but isn’t so good for those of us who can’t find them in our local stores and were hoping to order online. Priceline Pharmacy, however, does currently offer one variety of Tampax Compak online, saying that it comes with a plastic applicator, though it is not advertised as a Pearl applicator. I haven’t tried these, but if you have, please leave a comment and let me know how they compare.

List of stockists:

Big W                         1800 251 311
Chemist Warehouse 1300 367 283
Coles                         1800 656 055
Franklins                    1800 004 844
K Mart                        1800 051 800
Target                        1800 814 788
Terry White                1800 653 662
Woolworths               1300 767 969

Update (28 Feb 2013): Please see my post about ordering Tampax Pearl online from Australian retailer, Fishpond. As of today, they have all varieties of Tampax Pearl in stock!!!

Tampax Pearl in Australia!

28 Feb

I normally wouldn’t make a post like this one, but about a year ago I made a post bemoaning the lack of tampon selection in Australia, specifically my preferred brand, Tampax Pearl. That post has been one of my most viewed posts (usually from people googling how to find Tampax Pearl in Australia) and recently some commenters have said they have started seeing them in local stores.

That’s great, but I have even better news: You can now get them online!

I just got an email this morning from Fishpond alerting me that they now have Tampax Pearls in stock. They are a bit pricey by my American standards, but tampons aren’t that cheap here anyways, and I guess if you’re desperate… well, beggars can’t be choosers. And they do currently have a wide variety of absorbencies, including ultra, super plus and lite, which are extremely hard to find here in any brand, let alone the coveted Tampax Pearl. Hooray!

They ship from a USA supplier, so I have no idea how long it would take to arrive by mail, but since Amazon US won’t ship them overseas and I haven’t found any US drugstore that will ship overseas, it’s definitely an improvement.

I have no idea how long they will keep these in stock (I’ve been on their list to be notified for months) or if they will be a permanent fixture, so if you need them, if it might be wise to stock up. Plus, if they sell a lot of them, they’ll be more likely to keep them in stock.

Update- 17 May 2013: Amy from Proctor & Gamble’s marketing agency very kindly got in touch with me about this blog and arranged to send me some samples of the new Australian Tampax Pearls. Thanks, Amy! Check out what she sent me!

That's a lot of samples! :-D

That’s a lot of samples! 😀

As you can see from the packaging, they are pretty much identical to the American variety.

As you can see from the packaging, they are pretty much identical to the American variety.

She sent me four boxes of the new tampons, which is pretty awesome because within the last two months, all the stores near me have stopped carrying any kind of Tampax and my stash was starting to run low.

Now, a lot of people have commented that they have been able to find Pearls in their local stores, so I’m hoping that eventually they will start to become easier for everyone to find, no matter where they live. If you’ve seen them near you, please post where you saw them.

My Tampax posts are both still among my top viewed posts and I get a lot of traffic every day from other women looking for Tampax tampons in Australia, so it would be great if they could be directed to specific shops that carry them. Besides, the more that get sold, the more likely it will be that other shops will start carrying them, too!

It’s the Small Stuff

23 Oct

Isn’t there a book called “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… And It’s All Small Stuff”? I’ve never read it, but I’m betting the author never lived abroad.

Why? Because when you live abroad, it’s the small stuff that wears you down the most.

It’s having to remember to say “lolly” instead of “candy”. It’s having to think twice about which lane you’re turning into because you’re driving on the wrong side of the road. It’s having to strain to understand what people around you are saying because their accents are so thick they don’t even sound like they are speaking English.

I was talking with another expat recently, Stacey from South Africa, and we’ve both found that there seems to be this perception that if you, as an immigrant, speak the language of your host country, then integrating shouldn’t be a problem for you, that feeling at home should come easily.

Yeah… right… That couldn’t be further from the truth.

While I can imagine how much more difficult it is to move to a country where you don’t speak the language and are from a radically different background. the truth is that even expats who speak the language and share a similar culture to their host country also face plenty of challenges. In some ways, I think it might even be harder.

Take for example, the refugee or asylum seeker from a third world country. Everyone knows he has come from a disadvantaged background and that he’s probably led a pretty crappy life without many opportunities. It’s taken for granted that he will have a hard time as a new immigrant and as such, people will cut him some slack and expect less of him. Furthermore, he’ll be given loads of help by various charitable and governmental organisations to help him get settled. Of course it will still be hard for him, but everyone else understands that and treats him accordingly.

For the English-speaking expat to Australia, the assumption is that Australia can’t be too different from where we came from, so there should be no problems whatsoever. Sure, we don’t face the same challenges that the refugee does, but that doesn’t make us any less prone to feelings of isolation and depression. That’s something I don’t think people who haven’t been there can understand. Even my own husband doesn’t get it.

I’ve written before about my difficulty in making new friends and general feelings of loneliness, and recently another blogger did as well. Stacey told me that she spent the entire first year in Melbourne living on South African time, trying to keep up with her old life there, and almost never leaving the house. Like many of us, she wasn’t immediately eligible to work or study and found it hard to make new friends. Six years later, Stacey says she still feels like an outsider, as most of her friends are native Australians who have no concept of what it is like to move abroad.

So while the challenges an English speaking expat to Australia may face aren’t as glaringly obvious as the challenges other newcomers may face, they are still there.

They’re all little things, small stuff. But after awhile, it wears you down psychologically. Everything that was easy and automatic before now becomes something you have to think about.

Ordering a side of fries becomes a conscious effort as you remind yourself to order “chips” instead and then find yourself hoping they will actually bring you “fries” and not “crisps”.

It takes you forever to cross the street because you have to stand there and figure out which direction you should be looking for traffic or you creep through every intersection because you can’t remember how hook turns work.

You’re constantly trying to convert the weather report into Fahrenheit so you know if you should bring a sweater or not. Oh, sorry… I mean a “windcheater”.

And you make your husband call to order a pizza because you get embarrassed that the pizza people can’t understand a thing you say on the phone and you can’t understand them, either.

Or, if you are from South Africa, like Stacey, you might suffer extreme guilt from causing your friend to miss a turn by telling her to turn right at the “robot”, instead of at the “traffic light”, and wasting valuable time explaining what you meant by that strange turn of phrase.

They are things that, as a short term visitor, would be only mild annoyances and inconveniences, with perhaps one or two major faux pas thrown in for good measure. But when you’re staying for the longer term, those constant frustrations start to wear you down and make you feel depressed because all of it is a reminder that this isn’t home and might never feel like home.

Because while America might have the same green coloured street signs, they’re not surrounded by eucalypt trees. Nothing looks the same, feels the same, smells the same. The only part of home you have with you is what fit into your suitcase; maybe a favourite outfit or some small heirloom, if you’re sentimental.

But your family and friends don’t fit into a suitcase. Neither does your comfy bed. Or that oak tree that provides such nice shade in the summer. Your hometown definitely won’t fit, along with all of your memories from your “old life” that you had there. And if you try to pack snow to save for Christmas, it will either melt or be confiscated by customs.

No, you pack your suitcase with your “essentials”- some clothes, some applicator tampons, a laptop- and off you go. You take the small stuff, things with minimal power to make you happy, and you leave behind all the big, important stuff that you love. All in the name of adventure, of a better future.

I think a big reason why expats tend to form their own communities and cluster together the way that they do is because it’s so much easier to cope with the challenges of living abroad when you know there are other people who feel the same way you do, who talk the same way you do, who are going through the same things, and who understand what you love “back home” and why it was worth leaving behind. Another expat will always understand what it’s like to miss the things you left behind and also why you don’t “just go back home if you don’t like it here”.

After several years (like 10 or 20), I’m told you don’t sweat the small stuff anymore and you only sweat because the summers are so stinking hot. Eventually all those things that frustrated you in the beginning because they were different just become normal and you make your peace with the small stuff. Here’s hoping!