From the day I arrived, I’ve been compiling a growing list of cultural differences. I have separated my list into bonus, bummer, both, and neither (sorry, I wasn’t about to make it bneither). It’s fairly self-explanatory. And before you say anything, yes, I know that most of them are food-related. While I don’t consider myself a foodie, I do cook a lot. In fact, I cook almost all of my own meals. Because of this, I notice a lot of food-related differences, mainly when I’m grocery shopping. So, without further adieu, here is that list (in no particular order):
1. Bummer: BACON – Okay, so this is probably one of the most disappointing discoveries I’ve made so far. As you can see in the picture below, this imposter is just ham. HAM! On the other hand, I have finally realized why the rest of the world doesn’t understand our obsession with bacon.
2. Bonus: Weird animal noises – Looking back, I really should have seen this coming. I mean, I am over 10,500 miles from home. But I don’t think I’ve recognized a single animal noise since I’ve been here. Like the Australian Raven seen in this video. They’re everywhere. When I first arrived, this is the first wildlife I heard. For a while, I thought it might be a goat or a dying cat. Now, I realize they sound more like a broken kazoo.
3. Bummer: Good cheese that is also reasonably priced – It seems like the cheese I find is either made from unicorn milk (this is the only possible explanation as to why it’s so expensive) or recycled plastic (even then, this cheese is only slightly less expensive). Why can’t I find decent, affordable cheese that melts properly and doesn’t taste like a shredded plastic bag?
4. Bummer: My baking/cooking supplies – Okay, so this one was more of a space issue. While the house I’m living in has some baking supplies (like six skillets. Seriously, who needs six skillets?), I miss having my mixer and blender on hand. Beating batters by hand just doesn’t cut it for every recipe. Also, it’s nearly impossible to make smoothies with a hand stick blender. The good news is we have somewhere around 50 plates and bowls.* Since we wash the dishes as we use them, I don’t think any of the plates or bowls beyond the top five or six have been touched.
*This may or may not be an exaggeration. I didn’t feel like counting, but if you are procrastinating/ridiculously bored, be my guest.
5. Bummer: Good BBQ – Living in Kansas has its perks, like really good barbecue. Everywhere. For those of you who don’t know, barbecue flavors and sauces change from region to region. For example, Memphis specializes in dry rubs while Texas leans more toward tomato-based flavors. Kansas City is known for sweet barbecue (K.C. Masterpiece, anyone?). You can’t find really good barbecue sauce here. It’s mostly Heinz brand. No, thank you. I’ve heard that grilling is popular though. One of the most common Aussie phrases known to the U.S. is “Put a shrimp on the barbie”. It’s talking about grilling shrimp.
6. Neither: “I Reckon…” – To be honest, I haven’t heard this phrase used so much since I visited my family in Oklahoma. I didn’t know it was a saying that is used beyond the southern U.S. states.
7. Both: Canned/frozen food – Apparently, canned food isn’t as popular in other countries. I’m fairly certain America’s obsession with shelf-stable food in convenient metal cylinders was spawned from WWI when soldiers needed food to still be edible when it arrived. Ever since then, we can’t get enough of the stuff. I also have difficulty finding frozen food. If I find said canned or frozen food, it’s usually cheaper to buy fresh anyway (which is definitely not the case in the U.S.). Preserving food is not a high priority for other countries, which is understandable. Fresh is better anyway. But I miss the certain conveniences like canned pumpkin, canned biscuits, canned beans, frozen chicken… the list could go on and on. There are also times when my food goes bad faster than I can eat it because it lacks the preservatives found in most American foods. I’ve learned to keep my bread in the fridge for this very reason.
8. Bummer: Beans, or lack thereof – For a while, I was lamenting that the closest I came to finding canned beans (see #7) was dried lentils. As of Friday, I have officially found Great Northern Beans. It makes me kind of nervous that they’re in a very large, very exposed bucket at the market. Who knows what those beans have come in contact with? Eventually, though, I’ll probably come around and buy some because they’re ridiculously cheap. Now I just need to get my mom’s recipe for ham and beans. Yummy. And who knows, maybe I can use some bacon in place of ham. Oh, who am I kidding, THEY‘RE THE SAME THING.
9. Neither: Grand Final – I keep hearing this on t.v. commercials. Instead of “grand finale”, it’s called “grand final”. It sounds more informal to me, but I think informal is the style around here. Speaking of informal…
10. Both: Addressing professors – This was quite a shock to me. It’s expected to call professors by their first name. Yeah, I thought it was weird too. I’m used to “Dr. Miller” or “Professor Smith”. So, when one of my professors said on the first day, “You will call me Jamie”, I was slightly confused. Sometimes, simply by habit, I still type Dr. ________ in my emails. It just feels weird to me to call my professors by their first name.
11. Both: Natural/fresh is cheaper – This is actually probably a good thing. I’ve found that shopping for produce at the local markets (which, by the way, are EVERYWHERE) is significantly cheaper than buying it at the grocery store, frozen or otherwise. For example, I went to one of the markets last Friday and bought a head of cabbage, a dozen eggs, and eight huge Pink Lady apples. My total came to $5.50. For that same price at the local grocery store, I might have been able to buy a dozen eggs and two small apples. As a side note, a dozen eggs in the grocery store can range from $3.50 to $8.00 (depending on if you buy cage eggs, free range or organic). Yeah… So needless to say, I’ll be shopping at the markets from now on.
12. Bonus: Infomercials – I’ve always been an infomercial nut. (I actually rewind the DVR to watch new ones. Yeah, yeah, I’m weird, I get it.) These are probably the only commercials I enjoy watching, mostly because they’re so comical. I mean, come on, is it really that difficult to use a normal blanket? We haven’t had blankets with sleeves for hundreds of years and somehow, we’ve survived so far. Anyway, I’ve noticed that some of the actors in the infomercials have almost-American accents. Like, you can tell they are Australian but they’re trying really hard to use a neutral accent. It’s probably not noticeable to most people here, but I think it’s quite humorous.
13. Neither: Hungry Jack’s – It turns out that when Burger King was expanding to Australia, the name “Burger King” was already taken. And so, Hungry Jack’s was born. Hey, whaddayaknow, you learn something new every day.
14. Neither: Completely different cars – I keep seeing commercials for cars I’ve never heard of before. (Well, this isn’t a huge leap considering cars are not my specialty). There are brands that are specific to Australia like Holden. And then, there are models of cars that may or may not have an equivalent in other countries. I don’t think I’ve recognized a single car model on a commercial yet.
15. Neither: Housing – I actually noticed this when I was scouting out a room to rent. I kept seeing listings with “4×2” or “3×1” listed. Although I haven’t verified this, I’m pretty sure that it refers to the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in the property. The house I’m living in was listed as a 4×2 and sure enough, it has four bedrooms and two bathrooms. I think my assumption is a safe one.
16. Bonus: Neighborhood watch – The neighborhood watch signs bear a strong resemblance to the Girl Scout logo. Is there something the Girl Scouts aren’t telling us?
17. Bonus: “Early” classes – This could totally be a personal thing, but I’m used to having 8:00 am or 8:30 am classes just about every day. In fact, I had a 7:30 am class last semester. It was hard enough getting the motivation to brave the -15°F winter weather for a class I didn’t even enjoy (*cough cough physics cough cough*), let alone at 7:30 in the morning. Talk about cruel. I was surprised to learn that classes at 9:00 am are considered tortuous. This just seems weird to me. However, I do look super committed to school.
19. Neither: No school loans – I was told that the cost of attending college in Australia is covered by the government while you’re in school and they take it out of your taxes later in life. I’m still not sure if this is a better alternative or not to government loans.
20. Neither: College is not what you think it is – I was in Target the other day and when I told the cashier I was here attending college, she looked confused and asked if I was in the 12th grade. It turns out college is high school and uni is college. Confusing, I know.
21. Both: A4 paper is normal – I don’t know why this is. Maybe it’s more efficient?
22. Both: Acronyms aplenty – Australia sure loves their acronyms. And sure, they’re helpful…as long as you know what they mean. I think it’s gotten to the point where there are so many acronyms, people have a hard time keeping them straight. One of my friends works at a place that has changed their name (which is an acronym) so many times that people can’t remember what the letters stand for anymore. If you’re going to use acronyms, at least keep them consistent.
23. Both: Small appliances – This is a European trend that is clearly catching on in other countries. I only brought a half a backpack of clothing and I have to split my laundry into two loads to get them to fit in the washer and dryer, especially if I include my hoodie. I guess I’m used to the “Bigger is Better” mentality.
24. Bonus: Light switches and outlets – Besides the obvious difference of plug type, the light switches look different. Also, every outlet has an on/off switch, which is very handy.
25. Bonus: Cheers – This is the most common Aussie phrase I’ve heard so far. It can mean hello, goodbye, thank you, you’re welcome, etc. The possibilities are endless! I imagine it’s equivalent to aloha in Hawaii. Fun fact: I haven’t heard g’day from an Aussie yet. It must be a Crocodile Dundee thing.
26. Bonus: Z – This letter doesn’t exist here. Let me rephrase that, you don’t say “zee” when pronouncing the last letter of the alphabet. It’s called “zed”. So, if you want to spell zebra, you would say, “Zed Ee Bee Ar Ay”. I didn’t know this until just recently. Spelling out words over the phone has just become a little easier.
27. Bummer: Unnecessary letters – A’s and E’s and O’s, oh my! Just when you thought the English language couldn’t get any trickier, they decided to throw in letters that make no sense. It could be due to the fact that I’m taking courses that use funky science words. Some of these words include: manoeuvre (maneuver), foetus (fetus), oesophagus (esophagus), and paediatric (pediatric). It gets kind of confusing if you read the words phonetically, especially foetus.
28. Neither: First in, best dressed – While this phrase may not be unique to Australia, it’s used often. Basically, it means first come, first served.
29. Neither: What’s on – You typically see this phrase used when someone is talking about upcoming events. It appears on websites a lot. This phrase confused me for a while, probably because I kept thinking literally and asking, “What’s on what?”
While there are things that I miss (oddly, like the canned food), some of these differences are really perks (like fresh food being cheaper than preserved food). And then, there are things that I just find humorous (like the Australian Raven). I’ll keep a running list of differences as I trek through the semester. After all, it’s the little things that make all the difference.