Anytime you visit a new country, there are bound to be differences both big and small. I remember having to learn to ask for still water across Europe, as the go-to was sparkling. In England, chips means fries and crisps are American chips. In Prague, you buy a ticket for the metro, but there isn’t anywhere to scan or show your ticket. (Or, if you’re me, you just don’t buy tickets and ride for free until you are headed to the airport and are detained by security and have your passport taken away… but that’s another story.) In Australia, a duvet is called a doona, which makes me laugh every time. Even in English-speaking countries there are many different customs, words, and methods of operating. And to that end, Australia is fascinating.
The following is a list of some of the major differences we’ve experienced between Aussie life and living in the US.
- “Instant Gratification” is not a priority.
Things move a bit slower down under. Almost all shops are only open from 9 am to 5 or 5:30 pm. For anyone with a job, this means you do your shopping on the weekend or on “late night” shopping day, which is Thursday in New South Wales. There are commercials boasting the fastest car repair time of “probably within 3 days IF you live in a capital city.” Delivery lead time on an online order averages 2-3 weeks, and then only if you are in Sydney or Melbourne. Suffice it to say that Amazon PrimeNow is not a thing here.
2. Bacon is not bacon.
Bacon, one of Donnie’s favorite foods, sadly does not really exist in Oz. What they call bacon is actually much more like ham, and “streaky bacon” which is more typical American bacon is not cured, so the flavor and texture are very different. You can see Aussie “bacon” compared to American bacon.
3. No one expects the worst from you.
Shops are not designed with “theft-prevention” in mind. The groceries are mostly self checkout, but alarms don’t go off if you move the bags of scanned items off the sensor. You only pay for gas after you fill up. One of Donnie’s friends asked a clerk if anyone ever stole gas, to which the man replied, “Why would anyone steal petrol, mate?” You tap on and off when riding public transport, but at times someone will forget their Opal card or won’t be able to find it, and the driver will wave them on with a “Don’t worry, mate!”
4. Meals are meant to be enjoyed.
In America, where servers are paid mostly by tips, it’s crucial to get as many patrons in and out of your section each night. Lingering is discouraged, and you get dirty looks for hanging around after your meal is finished. Here, everyone expects a meal to last for an hour and a half or longer. No one brings a check to your table unless you specifically ask for it, but they will continue to supply you endlessly with carafes of water and/or wine. Once, when trying to get a table in a crowded restaurant that had several reserved tables, the host told us we could have a table if we could possibly be done in an hour and fifteen minutes. We’re slowly but surely learning to take our time, and meals are much more enjoyable at a slowed pace.
There are also hundreds of small new words and systems that we are still learning each day.
The letter Z (zee) is pronounced “Zed” as in: The Sydney Swans aren’t playing their games at ANZ (A-N-Zed) stadium this year. Don’t call it ANZ (A-N-Zee) or everyone will laugh at you.
Ketchup is “tomato sauce” and tomato sauce (like on a pizza) is “tomato base.”
Mayonnaise is on everything (if you know me, you understand the horror) and also frequently paired with “aioli” which is really just more mayo with garlic in it.
Coffee is a whole different experience. No drip coffee, but you can order a “long black” a “flat white” or any number of lattes and cappuccinos. Aussies take their coffee seriously and do not even consider American coffee to be the same substance. It also costs roughly $4.50 for a tiny cup, but is more powerful (and delicious) than any Starbucks I’ve ever had.
Debit cards are all “pay pass” here which means you simply tap the card on the reader and your transaction is complete. This is awesome. Not as awesome- money comes in 1 and 2 dollar coins, 50 cent coins that are enormous, and 5, 10, 20, and 50 dollar bills. We’ve had to condition ourselves not to toss out coins like we did at home, because you typically are actually holding several dollars. Tax is included in all pricing, so totals come to nice round figures.
Sandwich toppings are very different. Sydneysiders love beetroot, carrots, avo (avocado), rocket, and mayonnaise on everything.
Celsius is hard to get used to. Temperatures currently range from 26 to 32 (79-90 degrees Fahrenheit) on most days. I thoroughly confused someone when I told them we were happy to leave winter and the 30-degree temps at home.
It’s fun learning so many new things, and also confusing at times, but we’re already starting to fit in a bit better already.