10 things about America, by an Aussie

Here’s just a few observations from the first 3 weeks we spent in the USA back in 2015!

1. Tipping.

Yikes, I could write three separate posts on tipping, but I won’t, because most people have heard it all before. I don’t mind giving tips when deserved, but an incident at Newark airport left us scratching our heads… We stopped at a small restaurant right before our boarding gate and were led to a table where iPads were installed at each seat. We were quickly shown by the waitress(?) how to use the iPad to place our order and then how to swipe our credit card – this new-age restaurant didn’t accept cash. So we go through the selections and place our order. It didn’t work the first time. We had to place the order again. We swipe the credit card and get ready to pay.

Oops, hang on a second. The iPad asks how much tip we want to add.

I’m sorry what? A tip? For who? The iPad?? It didn’t even work the first time. We sucked it up and gave the standard 10% which it nudged us toward anyway, without knowing what sort of service, or food we were going to receive for the rest of the meal.

Paying a tip at the start? Absolutely ridiculous.

2. American pride.

It’s really out there and it’s impressive. The pride Americans have in their country, their flag, their national anthem, and their historical figures and history in general honestly makes me envious. Not everything in American history is something to be proud of, but Americans pay a lot of respect to people of previous eras and for previous achievements. It’s not something we do a lot of in Australia. We certainly don’t have monuments to the extent of those in Washington, nor do we look back on previous prime ministers with much fondness. Our history is there, but you really have to dig for it.

3. Simple things.

Philly cheesesteak, Mustangs & Cherry flavoured Dr. Pepper. Hey, I never admitted to being a complex person. These things rock.

4. Creamer.

Get rid of it! You have proper milk (we’ve witnessed it), yet still lean toward creamer in coffee. Hotels, I understand, but restaurants? On that note… coffee… you can do better!

5. Mike. Miiiiikkeee. Mark. Myyyy-k.

Nobody understood me when I said my name was Mike.

“Mark?”

“No, Mike.”

“Mark?”

“No, Myyyyyy-k.”

I’m quickly developing a specialised American accent just to pronounce my name, which obviously I can’t demonstrate here. Plan B is to change my name to Hank or Chuck.

6. Diners.

Simple, cheap food, all day/night, and usually with friendly staff. We don’t really have diners as such at home, at least not in Newcastle, but they’re cool. I’m also going to include those cafe/sandwich shop/eatery type places we saw in New York where they have several counters, and serve a mix of soups, pasta, subs, fresh sandwiches, hot meals, baked goods, fresh fruit, slushies and so on. They were fantastic. We could go to the same place 5 times a week and eat completely different stuff! We didn’t, but we could have…

7. Flushing toilets.

So I thought I’d solve the long-standing mystery of whether American toilets flush clockwise or anti-clockwise. Sorry to my Australian readers anxiously waiting for an answer. It was NEITHER! The water (& other contents) are sucked into a black hole a la aeroplane toilets. Just straight down the chute. Ain’t nobody got time for a slow, circular flush.

8. We’re from Australia. Oh really?

Americans cannot pick an Australian accent. At all. Quick tip: we aren’t British.

9. Politeness.

In Australia, a stereotype exists of Americans being loud, brash, arrogant & rude. We didn’t find that to be the case, and quite often it was the exact opposite. Sure there were people who were rude, or arrogant (as there is at home), but we generally encountered really polite people. Even to the point where you bump into someone and they really go out of their way to apologise. And while we only cover the smallest amount of ground as tourists, we have traveled across quite a few states.

10. Sport, sport, sport, sport.

Sport. ALL DAY, EVERY DAY. I’m in heaven. Several games and sports on TV at once, and that’s on regular TV, so I can only imagine there’s more when you start paying. Every city and town has some sort of homage to whoever their local team is, both national league and college, and the pride and support for these teams shows up everywhere. I’d move here just to become a full-time sports fan. I’m also going to add here that the English soccer is shown live at a normal time of day, as opposed to the ridiculous times of midnight to 3am in Australia. It probably also helps that I prefer ice hockey, basketball, American football, and baseball over the rubbish sports we get back home in Australia.

Part II still to come…

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