So Australia was surprisingly like the U.S. in a lot of ways. But every one of those similarities was just a little off for some reason. Here’s a list of ten things that were just weird:
1. _________ (insert iconic snack food here) “Classic”:
So I thought to myself in the airport newsstand at LAX “I bet Meredith misses American junk food. I’ll bring some Oreos® along!” Good thing, too, because in Australia, they don’t have Oreos®. The have Oreos® Classic.
The ingredients are different, the packaging is muted and faded compared to the bright, bold blue of our Oreos©, and the taste…well, let’s just say the closest comparison I can think of is along the lines of “stale Hydrox”. And this wasn’t just limited to the cookies—5 Chewing Gum® (the one with the Matrix-y commercials) just tastes WRONG over there.
2. The Royal w/ Cheese (AKA, the f#$king metric system):
They use the same road sign set-up that we do on their highways—kelly green field with white border and text, in the same font. But my ability to determine how soon we would arrive at a destination was thrown by the fact that all of the distances were in kilometers, as was the speedometer in our rental. This confusion extended to filling up at gas stations—sold by the liter, not the gallon, and rather than stating that regular unleaded was $1.45 per liter, it just said “145.8” on the signs. So the cost of gas (and only gas) was expressed in hundreds of cents.
3. Alcohol Serving and Cost:
If you’re a cocktail and/or beer drinker and you’re in Australia, I hope you’re either loaded or OK with subsisting on wine. It’s easily the cheapest of their adult beverages. The average cost of cocktails in Melbourne is $18. Decent craft beers aren’t much less expensive, selling for between $8 and $12 a pint. Also, beers are served in one of three sizes: pots, pints, and jugs. Pints are like they are throughout the rest of the world (roughly 20 fluid oz.), but pots are half that size, and jugs are roughly equal to two pints (40 fluid oz.) Depending on the strength of the brew, you’ll want to adjust the size of your glass accordingly.
4. “Am I driving drunk, or just in Australia?”
They drive on the left side of the road, and the driver sits on the right side of the car. The toughest aspect of this? Remembering to use the lever on the right side of the steering column to signal turns and lane changes; the left side lever will (naturally) turn on your wipers. It’s very disorienting the first couple of days.
5. There are only white people in Australia.
Not really, but you’d certainly be forgiven for assuming that based on the television programming, especially the commercials. I think there may have been an islander in one of them, but that particular commercial was in black & white—almost as if they were trying to obscure the fact that there was a non-white actor involved. Now, our apartment had VERY basic channel offerings, but it was still noticeable enough that Meredith and I both commented on it.
6. Soccer is football. Football is GRIDIRON!
This was admittedly hilarious and awesome. They were actually airing commercials advertising open tryouts for refs, coaches AND players, and the clips of Australian “gridiron” they were showing throughout were so poorly-attended and sad-looking; you’d probably find more fans at a pee-wee football game for under-10’s here than the number that were watching the games in Australia.
7. They really love art:
Melbourne in particular was just COVERED in cool street art and graffiti, and that’s b/c it’s considered a valid form of artistic expression (as it should be). We walked by a couple of guys working on a mural in an alley off a main street at TWO IN THE AFTERNOON. The U.S. really needs to get on board with this.
8. Pumpkin, pumpkin everywhere, but not a pie to eat:
Basically, every restaurant had a pumpkin-centric item on the menu, but barring one establishment that offered a pumpkin pie ice cream sundae, they don’t seem to use pumpkin for sweet applications. They’re missing out!
9. They have a really vibrant music scene that is surprisingly (and wonderfully) not U.S.-centric.
We heard a lot of great indie-rock and pop music on the radio that just hasn’t broken through stateside, and it was pretty revelatory to find an entire continent with a rich pop musical history that I’ve only as yet scratched the surface of.
10. Wi-Fi = Dial-Up:
Seriously, the most frustrating aspect of being in Australia is the painfully slow internet speed. Even wired “high-speed” connections weren’t much better, with most browser windows freezing if more than two tabs were opened at one time. Maybe Al Gore was telling the truth when he claimed he invented the thing.