• Susan

It's the Little Things

Updated: Jan 27

Visiting a new country we always find cultural differences and shouldn't expect or want to find everything the same as home.

That being said, I just thought I would share with you some of the things I have learned in my experience that are different (than in the US) here in Australia. They may save you from some embarrassing moments when the person you are speaking with clearly has no idea what you are talking about.

The first time I recognized that look was when I was ordering a coffee.

First thing you should know is that there is no such thing as "regular" coffee. I read the menu and had no idea of what many of the choices meant and since it wasn't busy the barista was kind enough to explain:

  • Flat white = espresso with milk which is a mix of liquid and froth. The photo below is a flat white and always is served with complementary art on top. Not sure why but it just feels like a special cup of coffee.

  • Short black = espresso

  • Long black = espresso over some hot water

  • Cappuccino = espresso with steamed milk and a thick layer of froth

  • Latte = espresso topped with steamed milk with a bit of milk froth on top usually served in a glass

If you are planning on staying long term, there are certain food items that you will not find at least in the area where I live (suburb northwest of Sydney) but I suspect most anywhere here. If there's anything on this list or anything at all not perishable that you can't live without, I suggest you ask family or friends to send you a care package so you can stock up:

  • fruit roll ups (if you have kids this may be important)

  • graham crackers

  • wheat thins/triscuits

  • apple cider

  • gravy master

  • breakfast cereal (it's here but very limited choices)

Some things you will find here but are not the same:

  • Meat - cuts of meat are different so be sure and ask the butcher and be specific about what you are looking for. I searched everywhere recently for a picnic ham shoulder but all I could find was a pork shoulder - definitely not the same. They also had no eye of the round beef roasts (my favorite). We had pasta that night :)

  • Fish - you also won't find the usual fish such as haddock, swordfish, halibut, cod, mahi mahi. It's difficult to choose when you are not familiar with the fish so once again, best to ask.

A few miscellaneous things to mention:

  • You may already know this but french fries are called "chips".

  • Take out/to go is called take away.

  • Australians do not tip mainly because wages for servers are much higher than in the States, for example, where tipping is customary.

  • One very important note especially if you are Italian like me, if you are dining out and are served your pasta, if you ask for extra sauce, you will get ketchup. When this happened to me and I explained that I meant more of the red stuff covering the pasta, I received a huge bowl of sauce rather than a small dish - not sure if there was a message there.

Some more important things you should know:

  • Most visitors are already aware that Australian drivers sit on the right side of the car and drive on the left side of the road but you should also be very aware when you are walking. If you are accustomed to traffic coming on the right and you step out.....well you know the rest.

  • Also I should mention, cars typically don't really slow down to let you pass and if you are at a crosswalk and have the signal to cross, know that cars will start coming when you are half way across.

  • Australian emergency number is 000.

  • Oh yes, when you are walking on a sidewalk, also keep to the left. You will naturally gravitate to the right but try if you want to avoid feeling invisible.

  • Remember that the sun in Australia is much stronger than many places and you will definitely need sunscreen always along with sunglasses and a hat.

Lastly although Australians speak English, it is known as "Australian English" and you may find some Australians more difficult to understand in general partly because they pronounce some English words differently, use slang words and phrases, and abbreviations frequently.

I do still enjoy the accent though and I have found most Australians to be patient and usually not minding having to repeat themselves occasionally.

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