Becoming American… (what 2 weeks in the US of A has done to this Australian…)

I’ve been here 2 weeks now. Two weeks can seem like a long time – just trying to figure out how long I’ve been here I was guessing 3 or 4 weeks, and then realized that it’s only been 2. I feel like I’ve jumped out of the Australian fishbowl and been thrown into the American pond from the high dive. I guess I assimilate Australia and American – we’re both first world countries with good economies, we both have English as a main language, and we are the 2 fattest countries in the world. You’d think that being here would just be like being at home, except for that whole 15,000km away thing.

But there are a LOT of things that are different, just take choice in breakfast food for example. At home I would NEVER consider eating a danish or a donut or a cinnabon (whatever that hell that is!) for breakfast. At home, it’s all about yoghurt and fruit and maybe a handful of crunchola or muesli. And a big glass of water.
This morning in the airport I declared I was starving, and Kath pointed out the options. Hotdogs. Cinnabon. Pizza Hut. Tacos. WHAT THE HECK? Seriously people. I looked at her like “WTF?” and she just kinda shrugged. That’s what they eat here I guess. I’m pretty sure that my digestive system would go into meltdown with the amount of processed food I’m shoving into my face here, but strangely it’s not. The good thing is that because I am here for a lot longer than I first anticipated, I don’t really have the urge to gorge myself on things that I can’t get back in Australia, because I know I have time to pace myself.

My speech is changing. I’ve started saying “bathroom” and “restroom” instead of toilet. I say trash instead of rubbish, candy instead of lollies. Lemonade means lemon cordial, not Sprite (and I order it everywhere I go). I’ve even been conditioned to use the term and understand that “singles” refers to dollar “bills” (not notes). “Have you got singles?” is a regular phrase used as Kathleen and I go about our day, tipping cab drivers and restaurant “servers” (not waiters).

But I’m still the token Australian. I still talk with my accent, strong as ever. I still get excited when we go out to dinner and can get both get drinks and “entrees” (mains) for a total bill (which when you ask for it is a “check”, not a bill) less than $20.00. I still get excited in Walgreens or CVS (massive convenience stores masquerading as “pharmacies” (chemists)) when I realize that you can get a HUGE box of candy for a dollar. I still have trouble counting American coins and get frustrated when I can’t easily distinguish between twenties and “singles” in my wallet. I still have to repeat myself three times because apparently I’m hard to understand, and I have to field numerous questions from people everyday about whether I’m Australian or British.

It’s hard getting used to being in a new place. Since I haven’t really been living anywhere other than in hotel rooms, I haven’t become used to day-to-day life in an American house, but I have become accustomed to needing to leave myself an extra 5 minutes before I shower to figure out how the thing actually works. And toilets. Gosh. The whole 3 gallons of water in the toilet bowl kinda scared me at first, but it’s one of those things I am getting used to. Something I am NOT getting used to, however, is automatic flushing toilets in public places – and how when you leave it flushes on it’s own (and sounds like it’s going to suck half the building away with it)!

Shopping is crazy different too. I nearly had a meltdown the other day when realizing that the 2 things I didn’t bring enough of are markedly different here (possible TMI information ahead!!!! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!)

Tampons and deodorant. Try buying tampons without an applicator and you’re basically screwed. You might have 2 choices if you are lucky. And deodorant. Apparently they don’t really believe in deodorant in an aerosol can (again, 2 choices if you are lucky in an 80’s looking spray can) – the other day (after spending half a morning mourning my empty Rexona can) I ended up in Walgreens staring at a wall of deodorant sticks. Sticks. It comes in gels, hard, invisible and about a million other varieties, but it’s a stick. I finally grabbed a Dove one, in fear of trying anything else (imagine having to ask Kath directions on how to use deodorant!). Things that don’t even really cross your mind at home become major dilemmas here. Whoever knew that deodorant and tampons would become my major concern over here!

Kathleen must be about ready to punch my head in whenever we go in public. Everywhere we go I see new stores, and demand an explanation of the kind of food they sell. Fast food is INSANE in this country – no matter where you are, there seems to be fast food on every corner, and it’s CHEAP. I could write another 4 or 5 blogs on “why American’s are fat” but I’ll leave it at one.

People are genuinely friendly here however. People are always happy to talk to you, especially when they hear my accent, and get excited when I tell them I’m from Sydney (because of course the large majority of American’s who have never been to Australia don’t know that any other Australian cities exsist). Sometimes too friendly, as we have witness in some of the airports we have been in!

Overall I’m enjoying myself here. Yesterday I hit a bit of a ditch where I spent a few hours crying over the non-event that my birthday was – it’s a bit of an “I miss home” moment when you don’t even get one present or card on your birthday, but I guess life goes on.

And thus continues my journey of becoming American. A lot of people at home say I won’t come back – I’ll find a way to stay and live the rest of my life in a ranch with a Texan husband or something, but I really don’t know. Every other day there are jokes about finding an American husband, buffered with the in-between days where I miss Australian food, humor and my friends.
Each and every day I try to listen to myself speaking, and a pick myself up on “American” things that I say, but it’s hard not to fall into it when you are emerged in it. It’s not like I’m just bumming around as a tourist, checking out the sights with other Australians. I am living it, travelling with an American, and being immersed into the culture like nothing I ever imagined. And so at some point, it just becomes easier to give in and start saying “trash can” and “bathroom” than have people give you strange looks when you yell out “I’m just going to the loo, love!” or as if anyone knows where the “rubbish bin” is.

Apparently I’m becoming American. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

(PS. As a totally unrelated side note, I just wanted to point out the fact that this blog was around 1,200 words. Why the hell can’t it be this easy to pen a 1,000 word university essay in half an hour? Maybe I should become a writer…)

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5 Responses to Becoming American… (what 2 weeks in the US of A has done to this Australian…)

  1. Kirsten says:

    You can’t write a uni essay in half an hour because of the terrible invention made to curse students the world over – referencing.

    Why do you have to back up your ideas with someone else’s? Annoying!

    [she types as she is supposed to be writing up a group presentation due tomorrow]

    *cough* procrastination queen *cough*

  2. Jadey says:

    Great post hun! I can’t believe how easily we are influenced when surrounded by different cultures. Have you started calling a mobile a cell yet?

    Can’t wait to hear more.

  3. Shiree says:

    I was only in Hawaii for a week but I automatically altered how I spoke when I was there! I also automatically adapt my accent when I’m with American or British people so they understand me! I don’t realise I’m doing it until someone else points out I’m speaking with an American accent 🙂

  4. Pingback: 10 reasons why I never want to leave the USA! | The other side of the world

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