How can another English-speaking country be so different?
While I’m sure there are more onion-like layers of US culture we are yet to peel back, I’ve already gleaned a better perspective what makes the United States tick.
Like Santa, I’ve been keeping a list of naughty, nice and weird things that may freak out fellow Australians. Hopefully this cultural education can prevent other Aussies from looking like fools or even getting themselves into trouble.
Sit back, relax and have a laugh at the differences between the US and Australia.
1. Thongs are not shoes.
2. Everything is big in the US - cars are all big, you can buy a pizza slice bigger than your head, and even the meals at McDonald’s are big. If you order a “medium” it comes out as an Australian “large” size. “Small” does not even exist.
3. Talking about big – Walmart is insane! They have everything including a double isle of breakfast cereals. And everything inside is huge too like “family size” chip packets and m&ms. You can’t even buy less than 12 rolls of toilet paper at a time!
4. Chicken and waffles is a thing. I mean, what is that?
5. Coke is so sweet. There is a noticeable difference since they don’t use sugar, rather high fructose corn syrup.
6. Most restaurants give free refills, hence why you can get fat so easily in the US.
7. Olive Garden is amazing and you can feed a family for $24 without a coupon.
8. There is a coupon for everything.
9. You can also go through drive-thru for anything. Of course there are all types of fast foods from tacos to burgers, but why stop there? Drive thru pharmacies, drive thru ATMs. I mean, why waste time getting out of your car to do those things? No, but really, why doesn’t every country do drive-thru ATMs?
10. They have cream in their coffee. Some hotels don’t have any milk at all, just cream.
11. They serve iced tea everywhere, although I’m not sure how much of it is actually tea.
12. A main course is called an “entrée”. When I first started watching Masterchef US I was so confused. Contestants were asked to make entrees and they were huge. Then I understood. So confusing since an entrée is actually the start of the meal in most other countries. A better name – “appetizer”.
13. There are so many Mexican restaurants, yum. But where are all the Chinese ones?
14. Everybody wants a tip – taxi drivers, hairdressers, hotel staff, and waitresses. It’s really confusing for an Australian from a non-tipping country. Why can’t they just pay everyone a decent amount for their jobs?
15. They have squirrels and they are so adorable. I love watching squirrels, chipmunks and racoons.
16. Even though they have bears, cougars and moose they are still afraid of Australia’s sharks, snakes and spiders.
17. They sound like Canadians without the "eh" (or vice versa). But don’t tell the Canadians or the Americans this, it’s highly offensive. Kind of like getting the British, Kiwis and Aussies confused.
18. In the US they drive on the wrong side of the road or rather the right. There are few round-abouts and they are allowed to turn right at red stoplights, unless otherwise advised. The number of honks I have received for stopping at a red light!
19. You can drive down the highway and for the most part never be very far away from any type of amenity at any time - gas, food and accommodation.
20. You can stay in hotels for less than $60 per night. Or for more than $6000 per night.
21. People stress out about being sued. My daughter stubbed her toe outside an American Girl store in Chicago and started crying. We were ushered inside, offered bandages, free shoes and had to fill in two forms.
22. They still use cheques! Or “checks” as they call them. And only just started putting chips on their credit cards.
23. Internet is fast. Like really fast. Like my high speed Internet in Australia was 10Mbps (if I was lucky), and we’ve soared way above 100Mbps in some places.
24. You can buy anything online and even have it arrive the same day if you want. Oh, and it’s really cheap. I bought Caius’ first pair of glasses for US$30 including shipping to Canada, would have been even cheaper if I had it shipped to the US.
25. They move out of home to go to college (university). Far away from home, in other states.
26. They love sports but not like Australians love sports. They love sports nicely; they attend high school games and cheer on college matches. They don’t try to kill each other because of sports (usually).
27. They don’t say “arvo”. Or “uni”. Or any other shortened words for ease and comfort. Here’s a few others they could really benefit from: Salvo (Salvation Army), pressie (presents), Chrissie (Christmas), Sunnies (sunglasses), snags (sausages), loo (restroom), Maccas (McDonald’s) – in fact around Melbourne McDonald’s have changed the majority of their signs to “Maccas”.
28. They all have dryers and use them. I don’t think I even used a dryer before I got to the US. Or maybe once to warm towels up for my husband as a nice surprise when he got out of the shower. But we didn’t even have one for the first 6 years of our marriage.
29. Light switches are backwards. I can never get the lights on.
30. They don’t have bogans, but they do have rednecks apparently.
31. There are American flags everywhere. In Australia you fly your flags proudly for Australia Day, one day per year, then take it down.
The Bottom Line
I really had to keep things succinct on this list – it could have gone on forever. For 2 countries that share a common ancestry, there’s so much a few hundred years of isolation (and a bit of beer) can change.
Of course all this is in good humour, no offence intended. If you can think of more US oddities, share them in the comments below.