I’ve had a request to make some comparisons between living in the US and living in Australia. There are many and they are varied so I will pick the most obvious and crazy.

First of all let me clarify that New York isn’t really the US, it’s has a whole other set of rules. However in saying that it is still nothing like Australia.

Then I shall point out the obvious by saying you get in the other side of the car and drive it on the other side of the road……. but if you’re like me you just flip the whole experience in your brain. This caused no end of trouble when navigating. In Oz our left hand turns are a quick turn around the corner from the side of the road your driving on. In the US that’s a right turn. The centre (center) turn to go right in OZ is to go left in the states….SOOOOO, when I said turn left, what I meant was turn right because my brain said the turn I will be making is just a slip around the corner turn and not a move to the centre (center) of the road turn. I was directionally challenged for about 6 months. I had to just point the way because I would mess it up every time. It was pretty funny but also quite frustrating for the King. We all had to relearn walking down the footpath (sidewalk) too because it works the same as driving. People tend to walk on the right and if someone is coming toward you then you move right when our natural instinct is to go left. There were a lot of excuse me’s and sorry’s in the early days walking down the street.

Driving in carparks (parking lots) is also a little odd because there’s no traffic to remind you where you are and so you revert back to learned behaviour (behavior) which for me was driving on the left, lucky it was only a carpark and we were going slow. There have been some horrific accidents that I’ve heard of involving foreign drivers forgetting where they were and having head on collisions and it’s really so easy to do.

You can’t ask someone “How are you going?” because they take it literally and answer with the type of transportation they’re using, what you need to say is “How are you doing?”and “Do you have sugar?” when asking about coffee needs to be “do you take sugar?” Have and take don’t seem to be interchangeable here…have sugar, take sugar. ‘Yes I have sugar but I don’t take it in my coffee.’  have a bath, take a bath. ‘Yes I have a bath, would you like to use it to take a bath?’

Those are just funny little things that can make a conversation entirely strange to the other person. There are other examples but I can’t quite bring them to mind.

Then of course you have to learn an entirely new measuring system by going back to the dark ages, where they use miles, feet, inches, fahrenheit, ounces, pints, gallons etc. I heard they tried to convert to metric in the 60’s but it was all just too much to handle. Leader of the free world? Ha, Sure as long as it’s not measuring anything other than money!

Don’t even get me started on the bastardisation of the Queen’s English,
paediatrician, gynaecologist, encyclopaedia, behaviour, harbour, labour, theatre, centre, litre, realised, organise, recognise defence, pretence, licence the list is endless. I use what I grew up with and always show the children there’s another way to spell some words. Throughout the article I have put both spellings and different names, where relevant, just as a comparison.

You can buy both cilantro and coriander over here. Cilantro is the fresh herb and coriander is the powdered ground seeds in the spice rack. It’s the same thing, from the same plant, it’s so confusing.
It took me about 2 weeks to find out that chilli flakes are crushed red peppers. I asked people and nobody could help me. The thing that confused me most about that one was capsicums are peppers and not spicy chilli (chili) at all. Butternut pumpkins are squash here, so are zucchinis. So you eat butternut squash soup, not pumpkin.

Don’t even try asking for cordial for the kids.. I did that in a supermarket in Indianapolis and the poor mum couldn’t get away fast enough. Cordial in the US is liqueur, an alcoholic mixer for cocktails….. oops! She must have thought I was crazy. Especially as I had Miss Gremlin 18mths  in the trolley (shopping cart) and Grand Master D 5 in tow.

There are some pretty cool things though. The cost of living is way cheaper in regard to food, clothing and appliances. Larger consumer base I guess.
We are in the land that invented Walmart (which I love). Costco and other big box stores like Sam’s Club and BJ’s sell you more stuff and bigger than you can possibly imagine. They’re a little like Campbell’s Cash n Carry. Have you ever seen a 5kg (10lb) can of baked beans? I sure hadn’t. Unfortunately it’s always expensive because there’s so much to buy! Who doesn’t need 3 x 2litre bottles of tomato sauce (ketchup) in their groceries? We used to call it the $1000 shop because every time we went it would be $1000. We had to learn to curb that, now it’s about $300-$400. One particular trip, The King came home with enough groceries to feed 20 people for a month, 3 bicycles and a 50″ plasma tv. He forgot the lemonade and iron though.
There is actually not much you can’t get at Costco, food, clothing, paper goods, plastic goods, outdoor furniture, indoor furniture, electronics, jewellery (jewelry) office supplies, car tyres (tires), enough ice cream to make you obese in one sitting :).
We plan our trips and go less often just because there is so much to buy and honestly, not everything is better in bulk. The other problem is where to store it all. No problem for those with country houses or those who live in the suburbs but living in a New York apartment is not conducive to purchasing regularly in bulk stores. Just sayin’

If fashion is your passion, there are great stores like Marshall’s, TJ Maxx and Burlington Coat Factory among others which sell designer clothing, shoes and handbags at very discounted rates. I love going there.There’s great deals to be had. Even the Goodwill (second hand store chain) has all sorts of really cool stuff in it. If you pick the right area in the City, like Lower East Side, you can get real Prada for $5 if you’re lucky. I have become a total convert to Goodwill shopping. You often find things brand new still with tags on.

I’ve touched on the prescription medication advertising in previous posts but when we arrived here The King was a bit anxious, to be expected, and the Lunesta butterfly ads were all over the tv. I guess Lunesta was a new sleep aid on the market. I’d also run out of phenergan for the kids. Lord knows you need that when you travel across the other side of the world with little people. Jetlag so exists. So I walked into the rite-aid pharmacy which is more like a supermarket for personal product that also sells food, than a chemist. I looked around and not finding what I wanted I went to the counter and asked for lunesta and phenergan, well, let’s just say I walked out empty handed. I was very strongly informed that those items were prescription only and I should go and see my doctor. I had no idea. It seemed so odd to us that companies could advertise those products directly to consumers but a doctor needed to write you a prescription to buy it. It made no sense, still doesn’t and the advertising is out of control. Phenergan is an over the counter sedative/motion sickness preparation for children in Australia.

Everywhere we go people love Australians, they all wanna go there some day. Awesome, there’s a plane leaving everyday 🙂 Oh but it’s so far! Well sure but it’s not like you have to flap your arms, they feed you, give you beer and movies to watch. Then you sleep and wake up in Australia. Duh.
Some can’t distinguish where we’re from, I’ve been called, British , New Zealand even South African…. Huh?  I’m not Sewth Efrekun, sheesh.
People just want you to talk cos they love the accent. It’s quite strange. I have learned in my interactions to always say something like “Hi, how are you?” before I ask for what I want in stores because otherwise people concentrate on how you sound rather than what you say and they’ll say ‘what?’ or ‘pardon’ or ‘sorry?’ and I hate repeating myself. Because we look like the average white American, people aren’t expecting us to sound different and it throws them off.  It’s little things like that you learn along that way which help to make life a little easier.

It’s a different place, the pace is faster, the people are different but just as nice, although there seems to be a lot more sharks circling these waters, especially in business.
The adjustment took time but we figured out things along the way and when we couldn’t we asked. I don’t import many things anymore, I can find a similar product here, except painkillers and vegemite. Those, I still have to import. You can’t buy any product with codeine in it over the counter, so I’m still bringing in nurofen plus.
You can even buy timtams in target these days, Pepperidge Farm has licensed them, repackaged in their own packaging and selling them as Australia’s favorite (favourite) cookie (biscuit)… Yes I cringed but hey I can buy them for $1.99 and that eases the pain.

referenced material:

English vs American English


Comments 2

  1. What a great blog! “Totally” makes me miss my College (university) days back in California in the 90’s! I always struggled between asking for lollies and candy. Had an interesting experience when I asked for bacon (biken) pieces in Stater Bros Ca. And how about the entree at dinner?! Love it, miss it…a little.

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