Thoughts of An American Visiting Australia

Australia-spider-webs“OMG SPIDER”
The untrained eyes become wary of anything that crawls, slithers or swims with that “everything can kill you in Australia” mentality. Because suddenly every spider scurries like a Funnel Web, any reptile/amphibian coils like a brown snake and every crested wave appears as a shark fin. However, in 2 weeks, our closest deadly creature encounter was a croc… on a crocodile boat tour.

Australia-Flat-Room“Flat what? Flat white? I’ll just take a black coffee. A long black? Is that just a coffee?”
For the American who needs his daily injection of caffeine (hi, Eric!), the common coffee culture took a minute (or 4 days) to understand. What we’d consider a standard black coffee in the US is our essential “coffee-flavored water” or “filtered coffee” down under. After several failed attempts of ordering a “black coffee” and receiving an unbearably bitter “long black,” we cracked the code that what we consider a standard coffee is not the Australian standard. I have to admit, I grew quite fond of the flat white.

Long black = espresso shot topped with hot water
Flat white = espresso topped with steamed milk
P.S… You can now find flat whites in the U.S. [PRAISE YOU, ALMIGHTY STARBUCKS!]

Australia-Beer“Maybe this bar has cheap beer…”
Though naming conventions like “schooner” and “pot” rolled off the tongue as easily as “tall” and “short”, the PRICE caused a strange tongue-tied-babbling-choking sound. Most of the bar beer prices seemed to rest over the $8 range for a standard run of the mill, watered-down beer. I would cry if I had to pay $8 for a tall Miller Lite at home.

“Tax & Tips included?! High five!”
With Aussie pricing, what you see is what you get. Tax and “tip” are included in the price presented. There’s neither guesswork in the final bill nor math in determining tip. It is what it is. So maybe that beer wasn’t as expensive after all…?

Australia-toilet-funny“Wait a sec. How do I flush?”
While most northern hemisphere dwellers curiously ask “which direction does the water flush in Australia?” I inquired with puzzlement, “Wait, HOW do I flush the toilet?” On my first toilet experience, I was presented with 2 buttons. Two? Buttons? Where’s the handle? Cue porcelain perplexity. The discovery: button 1 = half flush = good for #1; button 2 = full flush = good for #2. This toilet design significantly reduces water usage and energy, making it environmentally friendlier to do your business.

“How are you going?”
Huh? Wait, do you mean “Where are you going?’ Or “How are you doing?” How do I answer a question like that? Perhaps my answer should be, “I am well and heading west.” Really, this Aussie expression asks “how are you” (in American terms) but it still sounds awkward when the word “going” hits the ear.

Australia-night“Left. Left. Left. Left.”
There’ll never be a “first moment” I’ll remember more about Australia than when Eric leaned in to peer out the window as our flight descended into Sydney. I expected a statement of adoration as the pink sunrise burst over the coast, but instead, the first thing he articulated after a moment of intense observation was complete bewilderment: “Uhhhh…. are they driving on the wrong side of the road?!” The entirety of the trip (especially in Sydney) required complete concentration as we trained our bodies to stay to the left. And eat with our utensils and cups to the left.

Australia-walkabout-tea“It’s tea time… again?”
I know about the Brits and their love affair with tea, but the Aussie love story with their tea was a new one for me. I mean, it makes sense as a former British colony. But every tour we booked had “tea & damper” scheduled into the itinerary. And damper? What the heck is that?

Rockets belong in space… not on my plate.
Nearly every dish had rocket in it. Turns out rocket is just a less fancy-sounding, more Australian way of saying “arugula.” I still wonder why it’s called rocket.

Speaking of words… AUSSIE SLANG!!
Of course I’d get giddy when the expressions “G’day” or “mate” or “barbie” were used in conversation, but when NEW unheard slang was introduced to my vocabulary, it was equally as thrilling. Some of my favorites from the trip: takeaway = carryout; greenies = hippies; smash repair = collision shop; jetty = pier; heaps = lots/loads

And speaking of speaking… Pronunciation!
Of course that Australian accent is both swoon-worthy and entertaining, but nothing made the sounds of a record ripping than hearing an Aussie say “tomato” or “fillet.”
To-may-toe became Toe-MAH-toe and fill-ay transformed to fill-IT. That silent “t” found it’s place downunder. We could never bring ourselves to say it the Australian way. It was just… impossible for my brain to let go.

Flames-of-the-Forest-2“IS THAT A DIDGERIDOO?!”
There’s no mistaking that earthly and distinct noise that resonates from Australia’s aboriginal instrument, the didgeridoo. And it was a complete tourist-Amanda-magnet. Every time I heard one playing in the distance, my excitement overflowed and I NEEDED to find it. It’s not every day that I hear a didgeridoo in the streets.

Australia-SushiAsian Persuasion Invasion
Though I see many cultures in the Metro-Detroit area, the Asian diversity was very refreshing to experience. I never associated much of Australia with Asia, even with it’s proximity, but there’s no denying the Asian presence with the people and influence in food and culture. There’s a reason I had a craving for sushi every day.

“Why is everyone so… nice?”
And everything so clean? And life seemingly perfect? Of course there is no perfect destination, but walking around Darling Harbour or Circular Quay gave us an unbelievable sense of utopia. No, these areas didn’t feel touristy, most people we encountered were locals. We felt safe and comfortable. Every one was dressed nicely and acted friendly. There was no litter trashing the area. Even construction sites were thoughtfully beautified as we “pardoned their dust.” Why are people smiling and saying hello? Where are the sagging pants and riffraff? Why am I not clutching my purse securely with both hands like I do back home?

Hamilton Island Sunset“When can I come back?”
The saddest thought about being a visitor in Australia is just that – being simply a visitor. It is a shame that such amazing country is on the other side of the world and takes more time and money than many can manage. Since we’ve been home, a weekly topic of discussion has been, “How can we get back down under, mate?”

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