Wednesday, December 9, 2009

An Americans’ observations about Australia

I’m a travel-junkie plain and simple. One of the things I love about international travel is seeing how people live in other parts of the world, because as large and different as the U.S. is, we are a homogenous country.  Life and attitudes in Boston do not differ that much from Boise. If you don’t believe me, check out life in another country (sorry Canada doesn’t count). It is precisely these differences which can cause consternation for American travelers and it is always interesting to witness this firsthand.

The most common frustration I saw on this trip did not revolve around politics, protocol or even language; rather it revolved around coffee. In the U.S. we are accustomed to filtered coffee – whether that is Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks or your local café – coffee shops all make coffee pretty much the same way. In Australia, coffee is from a French Press or espresso machine with hot water added; Australians call this a Long Black (not Tall Black as I incorrectly requested repeatedly).

Without waxing on endlessly, there were other observations which I found both funny and interesting and if you’ve ever been to Australia, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts – please feel free to share a comment.
1) If going to Australia increase the amount you plan on spending for food. I found it hard to have a meal for less than $25-30 per person - this was especially true in Sydney. Of course if you love junk food you can get a fast food value meal for about $8-10.00 per person.

2) Despite being an English speaking nation, the Australian accent and propensity for slang left me baffled more often then not. This is a country that refers to red heads as “blueys”; Arugula or lettuce as “rocket” and coffee as “long black”. Never has a common language caused such a divide. However, I will admit I did fall for the accent and despite nearly continual confusion I was able to pick up most of the slang.

3) If you are staying in Sydney – beware those large black birds blotting out the setting sun each evening are actually bats (fruit bats I think to be exact) and while they are harmless; several hours after the sun sets and their bellies are full you need to beware of two things 1- bat poop falling on you as you walk under trees; it is truly sickening how much a bat can poop. 2- freshly fallen bat poop, which can result in horrible if not comical slipping, sliding and potential falling. While none of this actually happened to me there were several close calls. Never has Joseph Conrad’s words “The horror… the horror” rang so true.

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