When relocating your family across the world, there are a lot of little things you notice in your new country that are different from your original country. Some things are quirky; some things are awesome; some thing are downright irritating. Now that we’ve been in the US for a few months, I am in a position to elaborate on some of my observations.
[I tried to make this post a list of 10 things, but got stuck at 8. If you have any of your own to add, I’d love to hear them! Just let me know in the comments at the bottom.]
1. Everything is not as it seems (pricing, that is)
Coming from Australia, I’m used to paying the price I see on a price tag. The menu says $3 for a coffee. Oh look! I have $3 in change in my pocket, I think I’ll buy that. Or when browsing websites looking for a hotel room, if the price is listed at $80 a night, I expect to pay $80 a night. It’s just the way the Australian system works, and I’m used to it. American pricing systems are wired differently. If the website says $80 a night, they actually mean $80 + 7% state tax, 5% county tax, a $20 per day site use fee, a few dollar employment bonus that magically makes its way onto your bill (still haven’t worked out what this is and what it’s for) plus a $2 tip for the young guy who takes your bag to your room, even though you only have one bag that you’re perfectly capable of carrying yourself. That fabulous deal you thought you landed turns out to be not that fabulous after all. It takes some getting used to.
2. Big cars
In December, we landed in DFW (Texas) where we had a day and a half layover en route to Nebraska. To fill the time, we hired a car and drove around. We needed something big enough to fit all our suitcases and the rental company recommended a Tahoe. OMG. The thing was the size of a tank. And not a small tank either. We spent ages oogling the thing trying to work out if it was a transformer in disguise. I think I might be starting to acclimatise here, because just the other day I saw a Tahoe drive past me, and it seemed like a reasonable sized vehicle.
3. Big houses
I am in love with our house. Seriously. My current kitchen is as big as my entire lounge room back in Australia. I am actually able to keep my gorgeous Kitchen Aid on the counter and still have room for meal preparation. We have two lounge rooms, each with a TV. Two! And they both have open fire places. I swear there is nothing more relaxing than sitting back with a glass of something in front of an open fire, watching the snow fall outside (and having the kids watching “Frozen” in a completely separate lounge room). I’m really going to miss it when we leave.
4. Colours and flavours everywhere
OK maybe this one is actually wrong (and unfortunately not so different). US food is chock full of artificial this, that and the other thing. Particularly colours and flavours. Unfortunately it’s slowly becoming way of life in Australia too. And yep,it’s wrong. I cried the first time I went to a grocery store here. Having a child who reacts to certain chemicals, I am fastidious at reading labels. And then I learned that companies have ways of loopholing the labelling laws and not declaring every ingredient they use. Pumping so many chemicals in their food, it’s no wonder such a large percentage of children start bouncing off the walls and are then medicated for ODD and ADHD (but that’s a whooooooole new rant for another time).
5. Kids menus
I love love LOVE having kids menus available at restaurants. Especially the ones that come with crayons and games to keep the kids occupied while waiting for their meal to arrive. I’m not so fond of the choices that most establishments around here offer their youngest guests. Anyone for chicken nuggets (aka mystery meat), mac & cheese, or cheese pizza (um, that’s not pizza – that’s bread dripping in oil with way too much melted cheese on top)? When we first arrived, we ordered kids meals with an additional garden salad for the girls to share. That worked a few times due to the novelty factor, but their stomachs eventually saw sense and now we just order them a meal from the adult menu and split it in half.
Everyone loves a bargain, and there is something about the US culture that really makes this phrase come to life. The Sunday paper plays host to junk mail chock full of coupons. Save 25c off this. Save $1 off that. Combine a store coupon with a manufacturers coupon. Then scan your receipt and get an additional discount. There are even whole websites dedicated to paying the minimum amount possible for your purchases. It’s great (and quite overwhelming)! Unfortunately the majority of food based coupons are for stuff that we won’t eat (see point #5 above). However there are some great deals on other things like household supplies. When we first arrived, at the top of my wish-list was a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. The good ones in Australia sell for just under AU$1000, so there was no way I could afford one. There is a Bed, Bath & Beyond store near me, and they send out 20% off coupons. And the Kitchen Aid company was doing a $50 cashback offer. The mixer ended up costing me less than US$300 and it’s a better model than the one I was looking at in Australia. I nearly died and went to heaven. Now if only I could take it back with me…
7. Self flushing toilets
OK, we do have some of these in Australia. Mostly in airports, major shopping centres, and other places that hoards of people congregate. The problem with the self flushing toilet occurs when your 4 year old sits on it. She’s not tall enough for the sensor to detect that someone’s bare bum is sitting on the seat. So it will flush… splashing water all over the aforementioned bare bum, resulting in one dripping wet petrified preschooler with her pants around her ankles running out of the loo screaming. If anyone has a solution to this, please please please comment below. We’re to the point of Miss 4 not wanting to go to school because of the self flushing toilets…
8. The gap
Whilst on the subject of loos – what is the deal with the gap between the doors and the cubicle wall? Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not a huge fan of sitting on the loo and having people able to see into my stall. Especially at busy places that like to have only one loo available, meaning everyone in line can check out the person sitting there. Maybe it’s their way of stopping loo procrastination?
So there you have it. My top 10 (-2) “not wrong just different” observations about America from the eyes of an Australian.