Friday, July 3, 2009

You say tomato...

When I first moved to the US from Australia and noticed the scarcity of 2-ply toilet paper, I intended to start a blog where I could log the everyday differences I came across as I settled in. (I never did get around to it.) I did not suffer a huge culture shock - it's the little differences that jump out at me. The following list is based on my personal experiences with living in the state of Arizona. Note: this is not a list of complaints, just differences. Other than the Vegemite issue, I love living here.

  1. Let's start with the obvious: Americans drive on the other side of the road. This isn't has hard to get used to as it sounds. What's hard is remembering to approach my car from the other side every time I get in it. 
  2. Americans have a quarter instead of a 20-cent coin, one-dollar notes (bills) not coins, and no two-dollar denomination. After 4 years, I still dread having to count change in public. For someone who didn't grow up with the coins, in addition to the 20/25-cent difference, it's somehow a much bigger problem than it should be to deal with the US dime (10c) being smaller than the nickel (5c), which is almost identical in size to the quarter. 
  3. The US mail comes on Saturday. This is a good thing. A fantastic thing is that you can leave outgoing mail in your mailbox, and like magic it gets picked up! But it's illegal to put mail into, or even touch, someone else's mailbox. I think they are booby-trapped. 
  4. US fruit yogurt is much too sweet. US cream is white instead of cream-colored. There are no brown eggs at my store. There is no custard powder anywhere. (This was the tragedy of two Christmasses ago, when I had to serve 16 people peach cobbler [crumble] with no hot custard.) 
  5. Milk and gas (petrol) come in gallons; fruit, veg and sugar come in pounds; make-up comes in ounces; maps come in miles. 
  6. Restaurant servings are huge, often coming with free biscuits, breadsticks or corn chips, and usually you don't have to ask to get water on the table. On the other hand, I once asked for water at Red Lobster and got a tiny, expensive bottle of Perrier (which I sent back). 
  7. Could these be the only three American things that are smaller than their Australian counterparts?—"large" eggs (which are tiny), dress sizes (yay!) and the chocolate biscuit section of the supermarket (criminal!). 
  8. US tampon technology sucks (sorry, it had to be said), while toilet-flushing technology rocks. (I'm referring to the noisy suck that completely clears out the bowl with 100% effectiveness, as compared to the random swishy business that goes on in an Australian toilet. However, half-flushes here are rare, which is a pity considering I live in a desert.) 
  9. You have to carry your registration and proof of insurance (two old-fashioned bits of paper) in the car with you, and when you buy a second-hand car you have to wait all morning at the DMV to register it and get a new licence (license) plate. Speaking of which, most cars don't even have licence plates on the front. 
  10. If you donate to charity or buy something online, you'll thereafter be inundated with free mailing labels, credit card offers, magazines (at least six a week) and even a free blankie for your dog. 
  11. You have to allow for sales tax at the register when purchasing from a store, as it isn't included in the listed price. In Tucson, state plus city sales tax is 8.1%. 
  12. Aussie cutlery is US flatware, manchester is linen, petrol is gas, jam is jelly, jelly is jell-o, mousse is pudding, biscuits are cookies, scones are biscuits, cheese biscuits are crackers, the main course is the entree, the entree is the appetizer, gravy is often white, and there is no Vegemite.


Anonymous said...

At least we have real pudding!!!

Tez Miller said...

NO FREAKING CUSTARD POWDER?! Now this is a disappointment - I thought Americans understood the all-conquering awesome of foodstuffs. Now I don't know what to believe ;-)

US tampon technology sucks? And here I thought when it comes to red-carpet arrivals, they'd be on top ;-)

I'm so going to link to this blog post - the people need to know! ;-)

Aedriane said...

Now that you've gotten me curious as to what custard powder is, I've looked it up. Amongst the ingredients and other info, I've found a note that says that said ingredients are very similar to North American vanilla pudding mix.

Also, you might be able to find custard powder(as well as Vegemite) at a world foods store, but those are usually a little out of the way.

Sara Creasy said...

Aedriane, vanilla pudding could be the alternative, although I think pudding is set, and custard (served hot) is supposed to be fairly runny. (I don't like pudding so I don't actually know...) And, of course, it will need some yellow food coloring. My sister makes custard from scratch with eggs - haven't attempted that yet.

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