How can another English-speaking country be so different?
While I’m sure there are more onion-like layers of US culture to peel back, after 2 years of road-tripping through 48 states I feel like I’ve garnered some perspective on what makes the United States tick.
And during that two years, I found myself making mental notes, a list of weird things about the US that may freak out fellow Australians. Hopefully, this cultural education can prevent other Aussies from looking like fools or getting themselves into a spot of trouble.
Sit back, relax and have a laugh at the differences I discovered between the US and Australia.
1. Thongs are not shoes. While I am wearing my thongs daily in Australia, they go between my toes. In the US they go between your cheeks (bottom cheeks).
2. Everything is big in the US – the cars are all big SUVs and Jeep Wranglers, you can buy a pizza slice bigger than your head, and even the meals at Burger King are big. If you order a “medium” it comes out as an Australian “large” size. “Small” does not even exist.
3. Talk about big – Walmart is insane! They have everything including a double aisle 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. Walking into a Walmart and having the option to buy a gun. Guns alone is a whole argument since they were outlawed in Australia back in the ’90s, but buying them in the local supermarket?!
5. It’s not only fast food that’s convenient. Supermarkets sell bags of baby carrots ready to eat, individual cheese cubes, pepperoni, etc.
6. Chicken and waffles are a thing. I mean, what is that? And I’m going to also ask what the heck is a biscuit? Because we sure don’t have them.
7. Turkey legs at theme parks – what is with the giant size turkey leg? Very prehistoric cavemen move.
8. Coke is so sweet. There is a noticeable difference since they don’t use sugar, rather high fructose corn syrup. We always endeavored to buy Mexican Coke, which is made with sugar.
9. Most restaurants give free refills, hence why you can gain weight so easily in the US.
10. Olive Garden is amazing and you can feed a family for $24 without a coupon.
11. They have cream in their coffee. Some hotels don’t have any milk at all, just cream.
12. They serve iced tea everywhere, although I’m not sure how much of it is actually tea.
13. Lemonade is like lemon and sugar in water. Lemonade in Australia is like Sprite or Mountain Dew.
14. They love ice. All glasses are filled with ice. I find I’m often asked if I want ice in Australia, but it’s assumed in the US.
15. The bread is sweet. I had to carefully study all the loaves of bread to find one without it.
16. The 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.
17. There are so many Mexican restaurants, yum. But where are all the Chinese ones?
18. There is a coupon for everything. And if those TV shows are to be believed the supermarket can end up owing you money!
19. You can go through the 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?
20. 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 wage?
21. The US has squirrels and they are so adorable. I love watching squirrels, chipmunks, and raccoons.
22. Even though they have bears, cougars, and moose they are still afraid of Australia’s sharks, snakes, and spiders. Tiny creatures compared to their giant wildlife.
23. 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.
24. In the US they drive on the wrong side of the road or rather the right. There are few roundabouts 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! This weird thing about the US I would actually like to see in Australia.
25. 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.
26. You can stay in hotels for less than $60 per night. Or for more than $6,000 per night.
27. 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. This includes the insurmountable signs plastered everywhere for lawyer advertisements.
28. They still use cheques! Or “checks” as they call them. And only just started putting chips on their credit cards.
29. Internet is fast. Like really fast. Like my high-speed Internet in Australia is currently just under 50 Mbps (if I was lucky), and in the US I was often soaring above 100 Mbps.
30. 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 prescription glasses for US$30 including shipping to Canada, which would have been even cheaper if it had been shipped to the US.
31. They move out of home to go to college (university). Far away from home, in other states. And they pay masses amount to do it leaving whopping debts to start adult life.
32. 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).
33. In the US they don’t say “arvo” or “uni”. Or any other shortened words for ease and comfort. Here are a few words they could really benefit from Salvo (Salvation Army), pressie (presents), Chrissie (Christmas), sunnies (sunglasses), snags (sausages), loo (restroom), Maccas (McDonald’s) – in fact, there is a McDonald’s in Melbourne that has officially changed its signage to read “Maccas”.
34. They all have dryers and use them. I don’t think I even used a dryer before I got to the US. When I moved out of home I didn’t even have one for the first 6 years.
35. Light switches are backward. I can never get the lights on.
36. They don’t have bogans, but they do have rednecks apparently.
37. There are American flags everywhere. In Australia, you fly your flags proudly for Australia Day, one day per year, then take it down.
38. Why did they take the ‘u’ out of all the words? Color, flavor, honor…
39. Door gaps in toilets. Did they build these so people can peep? I mean seriously.
40. They say Australia is big, but the US is just as big. It’s just they have more stuff in between Los Angeles and New York City, compared to nothing between Perth and Sydney.
41. Why do they say the date backward? The number of times I’ve been caught out wondering what the heck is the 23rd month of the year. The date is day, month, year… it makes no sense to put the month first.
42. The money is paper. Our money became plastic a long time ago so it can be put in the washing machine and not fall apart. It’s even pretty impossible to tear. Paper money seems so… monopoly.
43. On top of that the money is also all the same color. If money flies out of your wallet down the street you don’t know whether to go chasing a $20 or you’re letting $100 fly. Australian money is color-coded, no mistaking that green bill flying away is worth catching.
44. What do they use pennies for? We got rid of 1 cent and 2 cent pennies a long time ago, and even though I have a bucket load of them at home they can’t be used. I am not sure what is the point of pennies – those little brown coins are downright annoying.
45. The US is one of only 3 countries that still use the imperial system, instead of metric. I still have no idea what a mile is or how long a block is.
46. Toilets don’t have a half flush button. Why ya’ll waste so much water for a tiny pee?
47. The final price of a product doesn’t seem to matter. Everything is plus tax. Really sux when you’re down to your last buck. And it’s $1.08
48. Now wait is this just me or when I was house sitting throughout the US most people didn’t own a kettle, they just microwaved their cup of water?
49. The 21 year age limit on alcohol. With an 18 year age limit on fighting in wars and killing people.
50. Vacation time is a standard 2 weeks. In Australia, it is 4 weeks, plus sick leave. I feel for Americans that is a fair amount of work-life over leisure.
EWE Wrap UP
Could I have kept going? Yes, I could have! For 2 countries that share a common ancestry, there’s so much a few hundred miles and years can change.
I hope you are not offended by my list, it’s all in good humor. And please, if you can think of any other US oddities, please do share them in the comments below. I’d love to laugh 50 times more.
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