Being Foreign


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There is no doubt that Australia is one of the most similar countries to the United States in regards to pop culture and customs (second to Canada maybe), however there are undeniably many differences. In fact, if you leave America and go almost anywhere else in the world, you can bet that at some point you will think to yourself regrettably – I am so American. For me, the biggest adjustment has been that I have little to no experience with Celsius and metric systems. I came prepared to expect kilometers instead of miles, meters instead of feet, and kilos instead of pounds, however, I didn’t realize that I’d have to decipher kilojoules instead of calories as well… Scary. I now see why everyone says they gained weight when they traveled here. That, and the fact that they call cookies biscuits. I have embraced them as a regular afternoon snack. Uh oh.

After being here for 3 months now,  I’ve realized there are many other ‘only in America’ euphemisms besides using the Imperial systems. Sports, for one. We play a sport which is played very few other places in the world and call it world series. I never second guessed it until someone here asked me what I thought of it. Um, no comment? In addition, we call the most widely known and played sport in the world a different name than the rest – soccer. What’s up with that? We also spell English words with “Z” in them rather than “S”, as another person pointed out to me, as well as pronouncing the letter completely differently (zee) than they do in several other countries (zed). Oddly, this came as a bigger shock to me than anything else! Another great example of a communication breakdown. The list goes on; We write our dates with the month first rather than the date…. Which confuses every foreigner I’ve met traveling to the US. And I will also just add that they watch a lot of American television and movies and will likely know more about our country than you know about theirs. That’s unfortunately another reality of being American.

From an attitude and behavioral standpoint, life in Australia is always all right. Or at least it eventually will be. Coming from Park City, Utah, the land of ‘no worries’, it was not too difficult to adjust to the laid-back, easy as culture, but I will say that Americans do tend to stand out here. As a bus driver and receptionist for the hostel, I can easily spot an American at the airport by their footwear and passport pouch. My findings are typically confirmed when I am greeted with a skeptical seriousness and several questions. Oddly, several Americans have mistaken me for Australian… Seriously?? I sound just like you! I do still have a tender place for these travelers, for they are typically on an epic 2 week vacation of their lifetimes with an agenda so compactly planned that they are out of their element and have no time to relax and loosen up. I get it. Our culture is powered by deadlines and political correctness. {Disclaimer – I am making broad generalizations from a common trend I’ve experienced, but I have also met and know several easy-going, friendly Americans that are awesome} *cheeky*

Despite the many nuances of being foreign, they have accepted our American oddities with kindness and humor.  I am absolutely proud to be from our great country and have been enjoying the challenge of being out of element at times. An excellent introduction to our eventual travels through South East Asia where we will be in for our real culture shock.  Can’t wait!

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Categories: Australia

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