In June 2001, Garibaldi moved from the comparative safety of Australia to brave a new life in the USA. For the next few weeks we will feature excerpts from his diary.
The Little Things in Life
Some people don't know it, but the hardest thing to deal with when you relocate to another country is not the people, but the little things in life that you were so used to. The comforts of home
so to speak. Here is a list of things that I miss, or find different compared to Australia.
Wildlife - I miss not being able to go see a kangaroo, a koala, a wombat, a platypus, or anything else Australian. What really ticks me off is the fact they still say 'Koala Bear'. For crying out loud people, they are not even related to bears, just like Pandas are not bears (they are of the raccoon family).
The light/power switches - Believe it or not, the switches work the opposite way over here then they do back in Oz. Every so often I make the mistake of turning on lights when I should turn
The taste of corn - Over here in the US, they use corn syrup in everything. However in Australia we don't, and as a result, most of the processed food tastes like corn. Got to love corn
flavoured ice cream though.
Chocolate - Though I am not a huge fan of chocolate, I am definitely not a fan of the chocolate in America. I have recently found out that one of the main differences is that in America
they put flour in the chocolate.
Lighting - It was weird to walk into my apartment to find that the lounge room and bedroom had no lighting. Over here, if you want lighting in either room, you go out and buy some lamps; I get enough light from the kitchen and the 'dining room'. In Australia you get lighting as standard in these places.
KFC Fries - There are none. :-( The thing I loved the most about KFC in Australia was the fries, the closest you get over here are potato wedges.
Macca's - For my American friends, I mean McDonalds. Firstly there are lot less of them in Atlanta than Melbourne. Secondly, the stores look horrible and unclean compared to the ones back in Australia.
Tipping - We don't tip in Australia, so coming over here it seemed weird. The weirdest thing is tipping drag queens, in Oz they are lucky to get a free drink from the bar but here they can make about $20 a song.
Aussie Accents and Slang - I miss them. I hang around with my work mates and I find it hard trying to explain to my American friends what 'root' means, or what 'SFA' means. (Note if you
want to know, email or chat to me online).
Lamb - After all the fuss about Australia wanting America to lower the tariffs on lamb, you can't find a good piece of lamb. You're lucky if a supermarket will stock lamb loin chops.
Pork - It's everywhere, they even put it in their baked beans. Also southern style food puts pork bits in all the veggies just to add flavour, since they boil the crap out of the food. I also noticed that the pork is a lot darker, closer to being a 'red meat'.
Sports - You know how self-centred Americans are, when their baseball competition is called 'World Series' and only one or two teams are Canadian. Because of this, one does not get to
hear much about other sports from around the world and more importantly back from home. I really miss my Rugby League, Rugby Union, and Aussie Rules.
Driving - Okay this is an obvious one, and not really the culture shock since we all know that Americans drive on the wrong side of the road. However here in Georgia you can turn right on a
red light and it seems, for a city where you have to drive everywhere, the people don't know how to drive.
Give Way Signs - There are none, they have 'Yield' signs. This was weird to get used to for a while.
Squirrels - They are everywhere. Unlike the rumours of 'kangaroos in every street of Australia', the squirrel can be found almost everywhere in Atlanta.
Aussie and British TV - Even with cable, I can't get any Aussie shows unless I want to watch 'The Crocodile Hunter'. I am on the wrong service to get BBC America. The best thing is that the new series of Ab Fab has started to air on a channel I can get.
Humour - This sort of relates to the Aussie and British TV. The comedy over here is very sitcom, and well, I feel it is spoon fed. It seems that they have to explain the punch line or actually
show what is happening. Most of my American friends don't like British comedy as they 'don't understand it'.
South East Asian food - I am a huge fan of South East Asian food, but there are very few, and even less 'good' South East Asian restaurants. This goes the same for the supermarkets not stocking the ingredients so I can cook it myself. I have found some Thai restaurants *drool*
Greek food - Another of my favourite foods is Greek. I guess I was spoiled in Melbourne due to the large Greek population.
Fish and Chips - Where the hell are the Fish and Chip stores? I want a good piece of flake, barramundi or even mackerel. Where are the fried dim sims, potato cakes/scallops? None, zip, not a
thing. Apparently they tried to have them here, but in the 'All American way' they tried to turn them into a chain of stores, and well that it just not right.
Chips and Fries - The fried potatoes are fries (even if oven cooked). Chips are for a packet of chips. I still get confused, and when they bring out a plate of corn chips I look all embarrassed and say I meant fries. To add to this, I bought some oven fries, they tasted awful, they were very oily, I looked at the ingredients to find it full of oil and some really weird sounding chemicals plus caramel (for colour).
Cheese - It's either a bright yellow or orange and it tastes different. Can't explain it any other way. However they seem to put cheese on everything and you can even get cheese in a can.
Toilets - Apparently it's rude to ask 'Where are the toilets?'. Well they are not going to get me to change. Also the toilets work differently here, the bowl is half full of water and it
uses suction rather than pressure.
Urinals - Each are a private little spot, not like the good old troughs back in Australia. No wonder there is a queue to go to the toilets over here. At least we can pack in at least twice as many people to take a p**s.
Footpaths - Firstly they call them sidewalks, and also there are none (well very few). There are all these lovely nature strips, but if you want to walk near a busy road, forget it.
Bike paths - Just like footpaths there are no designated paths for cyclist and this has turned me off buying a bike. I am not going to buy one just to have to put it on my car and drive to a park to use it. I am only five minutes drive from work, so I would prefer to ride, but not with the roads like they are.
Sales Tax - At least back in Oz, the GST, and before that WST, were calculated into the price. Over here you have to remember that there is tax to add on to it, in my county it is 7% but it
could be something else in another county. On top of this you have to tip!!
Metric System - Most stuff is sold with metric and the American imperial system. However when buying petrol you only get it in gallons. The temperature is probably the only thing that you have to learn to calculate on the fly.
International News - There is little, you're lucky to hear about what is happening in Canada. You definitely hear about the countries that the US is at war with. Thank god for the internet so I can get my daily news from Australia.
Aussie Wines - They think Rosemont Estate or Jacob's Creek is really good stuff. I have tried a few local wines and well they are not up to par as the Aussie wines. I did find a place that had Penfolds (Now we're talking). My friends are surprised that Australia produces some of the world's best wines.
Snail Mail - The postie delivers on a Saturday. Just when you thought you got through the week without a bill, you find that on Saturday arvo, the postie left you a nice surprise. Also the postie doesn't ride around on a scooter (for my American friends, I am talking about something along the lines of a Vespa), the postie drives this weird looking van.
Censorship - Lets say I tried to watch the movie 'Boogie Nights' when it was on TV. Since the story was about a guy getting involved in the porn world, there was going to be sex. My god try
to watch a movie where they have put big coloured spots over a guy's naked bum. Also they are uptight about gay guys kissing on TV, especially on the non cable TV stations.
Muesli - One of my favourite breakfast cereals is muesli (toasted or not). This is a problem over here, as the only museli I found was in the health isle of a shop, and I have not seen that
muesli since. I stick with corn flakes (at least they are supposed to taste like corn).
Cereals - Generally all the cereals are just sugar, no wonder why they have hyperactive kids over here. There is a thing called 'grits'. I haven't tried it, but well I am going for the safe
Petrol - You have to pay before putting 'gas' into your car. This is fine if you know how much you want to put in it. However I pay by card which you can do at the bowser. Also Americans complain that the price of fuel is just about $1US/gallon. Which if my calculations are right, makes it about 50 cents AU/litre.
Medicine - They are allowed to advertise legally prescribed drugs on TV and I am not sure that this is good thing. I do believe people should be informed, but heck, to have the ads on TV or in
magazines is just going overboard. I think it should be up to the doctors to be informed. To me it is more the drug companies trying to push their product rather than look after the safety of others.
Lawyers and Litigation - Don't have an accident over here or you're in trouble. Also if you do something stupid that leads to you being hurt or having your house burn down, don't worry just go
to your lawyer and get them to put the blame on someone else. Not too long after coming over here I heard about a lady who sued a company that made a bread toaster, she left it on and went out and her house burnt down, she won. You can find a lawyer for everything.
Financial Difficulties - It amazes me to hear on the TV and radio ads about companies that are set up to help people sort out their financial problems. It's sad to hear this.
Buildings - There is no 'Ground Floor' or 'Lobby' level, they all start at 'Level 1'. Also don't try to find Level 13'.
Car Registration - The rego plate of your car is actually assigned to you and you only. If you buy a second hand car, you have to go change the plates before you can drive the car. The rego is actually due on your birthday (what a lovely gift that is). A car doesn't have to go through a road worthy test to be registered, only an emissions test (which can be fudged anyway).
License Plate - Over here in Atlanta you only need the rear number plate (or tag as they say). So on the front of the care people get special plates. I finally got myself an Aussie Flag plate.
Colour of Money - It's green damn it. They are all the same size and colour (and the back is green), you have to be very very careful not to give the wrong note when tipping. I had a friend who said that they finally have a watermark system on their notes. Most Americans are surprised to find out that Australian money is like Monopoly money, colourful, plastic, and different sizes. (Most can handle the colour and plastic, but the size difference for each notes is a hard thing for them).
Showers - Back home, when a shower recess and a bath tub are combined, there are still two sets of taps. Over here they are combined into one, and some are just a 'mixer' for the
temperature of the water. To get the water to come out of the shower rose, one has to do something like pull a lever or turn another tap.
Cops - There are police for everything. Each county has their own force and they can't get you if you get over the county line. The city of Atlanta has cops, and the public transport has their own cops, and the state had their own cops. Also a guy that works in my building is in fact a part time sheriff.
There are many more, and well, some things you get used to, some you don't. A few things make me home sick, some I think 'I wish we had this back in Oz'. Well I hope you have gotten to know a bit about what I like, dislike or find weird over here. However like any western civilised country, the broader picture is very much the same, and you can fit in quite well wherever you go.