Question and answer time………

Americans love an Australian accent.  Personally, I don’t believe we have an accent however the Americans, well they are definitely the ones with the accents!  And American accents differ from state to state.  You can tell a Southern accent from say, someone who comes from Jersey or Brooklyn just as you can spot a Texan accent from a Milwaukee accent.  And just as they love the Australian accent they also love Australians………..which I have to say is very fortunate given we live here now.

Americans also have an almost insatiable quest for knowledge about Australia and you will be asked many random questions about it.  Such as:

  • ‘Did you have a koala or kangaroo as a pet?’
  • ‘Your wildlife is really dangerous!’ (statement).  ‘Pretty much everything there will kill you right!’ (another statement).  ‘I want to go there but you have really poisonous animals there and the shit in the water will kill you then eat you right?’ (question and statement).
  • ‘What is the one best thing to see in Australia if I go there?’ – far too difficult a question to answer.
  • ‘Do they drink coffee in Australia?’   ‘Yes’ is the answer and try not to look puzzled by the question however continue with the reply ‘but not as much filtered or drip coffee as you drink here in the states’. 
  • ‘Can you buy instant?’ (coffee)  ‘Yes’ is the answer along with ‘And the instant coffee is very good in Australia unless the label reads Pablo or International Roast!   If someone tries to serve you either of those brands throw down the gauntlet as a challenge to this lack of hospitality’………..its the Australian thing to do.
  • ‘How come ya’ll don’t get tips in Australia?’
  • ‘I loved my visit there but it was very expensive and the food is minimal when served.  How do you live in such an expensive country?’ 

Whilst skulking about in a second hand book shop yesterday the owner struck up a conversation and therein asked a couple of questions such as ‘what is the main thing you found different between the two countries and what has been the hardest thing to adjust to’.  My answer wasn’t very interesting or well thought out however it was quick.  ‘Driving!’  He laughed then said ‘yeah, ya’all drive on the wrong side of the road down there’.   

His questions and our conversation got me to later thinking about the many differences we have encountered since moving here so I have listed a few:

1)  Gun ownership:  I have never believed that guns kill people.  Usually very stupid or completely deranged people with guns kill people!  The gun figures in America are startling.  There is no gun register to speak of here so it is almost impossible to pin point how many guns there actually are but estimates put it at around 270 million.  That figure would probably make America the best armed civilian population in the world.  Does that make me feel safe?  Absolutely not!  Every year just over 39,000 people die from gunshot wounds and over 200 people per week attend a medical facility with non fatal gunshot wounds.  Almost everyone carries a gun and you can buy them in the most obscure places such as Wal-Mart, pawn shops etc.  There are guns for children, pink or purple guns for women and crazy guns for everyone else.  And did you know that ‘during your driving test no firearms are permitted in the vehicle’.  I like our Australian gun laws and I thank you former Prime Minister Howard for your strong stance and foresight on the issue.

2)  Drive thru’s:  America has an awful lot of drive thru’s and I’m not just talking take-away food.  There are drive thru’s for banks and atm’s, drive thru’s for chemists/pharmacy’s (drug stores), drive thru goodwill/op shop drop off centres.  Drive thru coffee/bread/milk etc……..almost everything has a drive thru therein, once in your vehicle you never have to get out again during your journey.

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Drive thru bank and ATM’s

3)  Clipping coupons:  A national pastime.

4)  People:  The people are incredibly friendly.  In America people talk to you and they want to talk to you.  They are open and friendly and are great to be around.  Sure, occasionally (and this is rare) you will run into the stereotypical brash outspoken yank but the rest of the population more than make up for those small few.

5)  Cheques:  Americans still use cheques (they spell it checks).  And the cheques are required to be written in a certain way otherwise they are invalid.  For example: a cheque for $25.22 is written like this – twenty five dollars and 22/100.  Dates are also different: today it is the 11th of February which in Australia we would write as 11/02/2014 however here it will be written 02/11/2014.  We haven’t had a cheque book for about 20 years in Australia but here cheques are currency.  You buy your groceries, pay bills such as rent and utilities and buy clothing etc. with cheques.  Most companies such as real estates and utility companies only take cash or cheques and most times you are required to mail the cheques.  Internet banking is pretty much obsolete here.  For a country with such seemingly high tech expertise (this is the country that bought you the ipad and iphone) their banking practises seem a little archaic.

6)  Driving: see previous blog!

7)  Wall Switches:  The light switches etc. are upside down and power points are completely different.  You will also find that in some rooms there is no over-head lighting at all as lamps (lots and lots of lamps) are used.

8)  Toilets (restrooms):  bare with me!  Firstly, don’t use the toilet here without having a dollar bill or three in your pocket.  The reason for this is often there will be a restroom attendant in there.  Once your job is done, theirs begins.  Once you wash your hands they will offer you a handtowel.    You may even be offered gum, mints, a squirt of perfume or hand lotion.  In some towns you may even be offered cigarettes.  When you leave, thank them and tip them.  Another thing with the toilets here is that they are full of water.  Really, really full of water but amazingly it all disappears in a huge swirling whirlpool when you flush.  It is quite fascinating.  Oh, and no push buttons here, it is all little handles for flushing too.

8)  Food:  I think America may have a food obsession.  Everything comes super-sized and there are no huge white plates with a tiny garnish sitting prettily in the centre which the waiter refers to as ‘your main meal’.   Nooooo  sir.  Here you get what you pay for and a whole lot more.  With your meal comes salads or soups and bread rolls or sticks all at no extra cost.  Iced tea/soft drink (soda’s) or iced water are constantly refilled – again at no extra cost although you really don’t need a refill as the first glass of your chosen beverage is HUGE.  And sure, there is some artery clogging food available (and the Americans do love to deep fry) but on the whole it has all been very good and very cheap.  You just need to be a bit adventurous.  All salads come with a huge selection of sauces too.  And just a tip: always ask for the dressing on the side otherwise your salad will be swimming. And marinara pasta sauce does not contain seafood – it is just a tomato based pasta sauce.  An entrée here is actually the main course, it is very hard to find bread without some sort of heavy sweetener added and they also manage to mix sweet cinnamon sugar into a main meal be it either sprinkled on top of a sweet potato or on savoury hush puppies.  It’s either that or the meal will come with marshmallows and caramel sauce.   You also get pickles with everything (as in a whole pickle) and at KFC, which does taste very different to Australian KFC, they will ask if you want dark or white meat!  And always ask for fries and not chips as you will actually be given a small packet of chips.

9)  Post:  Your letter box (post box) has a neat little red flag on it.  It is up when you have mail and down when you don’t.  You can also post mail from your letter box.  Before the delivery person comes, you can put your stamped letter into your letter box, put your red flag up and they will take your post away for you.  How’s that for service and they deliver on Saturdays as well as through snow, sleet, rain, hail and shine.

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10)  Deadly animals: Americans are infatuated with our seemingly deadly and dangerous species in Australia although I have never thought of them in that light.  Given Grizzly bears, mountain lions, cougars, coyotes, bobcats, killer bees, bears, deadly snakes, bison and white tail deer – deer kill about 130 Americans per year but don’t panic, it is due to the road accidents the deer cause and nothing else more sinister – roaming about I am charmed they are so obsessed with our ‘dangerous wildlife’.

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A beautiful Grizzly bear

11)  Dryers:  Almost every home has a dryer right next to the washing machine.  There is not a hills hoist, washing line or peg to be found.

12)  Tipping:  Tipping in the US is ‘compulsory’ and not that we mind given most people are on below minimum wages and tips are meant to make up the difference.  Such things as hairdressing, grocery bagging, wait staff, hotel staff, bar staff etc. etc. etc.  require tips. Generally it is $1 to $2 for skycaps, bellhops and valets.  Around $1 per grocery bag and around 15-20% of the total bill at restaurants or on bar tabs. I don’t like people who don’t tip especially when you are a guest in the US.  Its disrespectful and rude.  You may think it is un-Australian or un-British or un-where ever it is you come from, but your not in your home country now so when in Rome eat spaghetti and when in the USA tip!!!   Oh, and apart from tipping you also pay taxes on everything.  Here’s an example – a coffee will be advertised as $2.25 however when you pay for it, it will actually cost around $2.75.  Also don’t go to a ‘dollar store’ with only one dollar in your pocket because the item will cost you over a dollar due to the tax.

13)  Australia is completely metric.  We don’t use Farenheit for temperature, gallons, pounds, miles, yards etc.  It takes a little while to convert and sometimes my maths have been a little off in a recipe but all in all its quite good fun.

14)  Our seasons are opposite.  Winter in America officially starts December 21, Spring is March 21, Summer is June 21 and Fall (which is Autumn) starts September 21.  Your summer is our winter so when you are baking in the summer heat of December, January and February we are in much colder temperatures.  We are also due for another winter storm toward the end of this week and snow is expected………yipeeeee 🙂

15)  Americans dislike Vegemite IMMENSLY!!!!

Well, I guess these are but a few of the small differences that I can think of at present.  No doubt as time goes on I will think of and happily encounter many more differences.  I will close in saying, with hand on heart, that I love living in America.  I am so lucky and I thank you USA for having us in your home and for making us feel so welcome xx

 Australian gothic

Footnote:  updated 7 hours after posting – in number 14 (the seasons) I was happy another winter storm was brewing however the state has now been placed on a catastrophic weather alert.  This is due to the amount of damaging ice predicted to be received, so I will admit I may have been somewhat overzealous (okay, selfish) with the thought of more snow coming.  Fingers crossed all will be safe and well and that the beautiful state of Georgia comes through the storm with very little to no damage.

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