The overall feel of Australia (or at least my small corner of it) is so vastly different than America that it’s truly hard to even describe. Sure, there’s the stereotypical bit about how they are more laid back and easy-going, etc, but it goes even beyond that. There’s something deeper amiss here and I’m finding it terribly hard to succinctly express it. So maybe it’s best to just give some examples of my experiences and you can form your own opinions.
Here you don’t really split bills. Restaurants don’t allow for it (good on them, less work), and the culture seems to just accept it. So this automatically promotes this sense of “no worries, you get the next round.” So whenever you go up for drinks, you are hardly ever paying for just your own, and no one here even gives it a second thought. There’s no mental tally of ‘you spent $10 and I spent $15’. You just assume, as friends, eventually everything works out about right and if it doesn’t, no problems.
The other weekend I was in china town with some friends and we went to this upscale restaurant. While each of the individual meals would have been quite pricey, we ended up just ordering a round of dishes for the table and everyone had a taste of everything. When the bill came, we all had cash and paid out our share. It was so simple, and yet so foreign to me. Maybe I’d have done that “family style” dining with my FAMILY back home (even then maybe not, we like having our own plates), but outside of potlucks where we are making the food, I’ve never had an experience like that.
One thing that’s taken some getting used to is the need for cash. You always have to be carrying a fair amount of bills around because a lot of restaurants and bars will have a minimum spend for a credit card. I’ve been to a couple places in the states like that, but here they are the norm, not the exception. Since restaurants won’t split bills between credit cards, once you all order on the same tab, you all throw in some cash to cover it. Back in the states I never had cash on me because there’s just no need for it. Here, on any given day I’ve probably got a 50, a few 20s, 10s etc. Always be prepared.
I heard before I came here that Australians are all really friendly on the surface, but just because they are nicer, doesn’t mean they think of you as a friend. They are just that nice to anyone. This intrigued me. In America I wouldn’t say everyone is friendly or not friendly (though most of our American cities adorn the top 10 list of least friendly cities), but it’s pretty easy to tell if you’ve got a friend in someone or not. Overall, I’m going to have to disagree with this stereotype of australians as I haven’t seen much evidence for it. I’m still under two months here (not near enough time to truly feel settled in a new world), but I already feel like I’m meeting really genuine people. You can’t expect to have an entire social network built up in a matter of months, but if you have a couple good people willing for you to tag along with them, you can start to grow your social group.
Every day I feel a bit more settled here. I look around some mornings and still can’t believe I’m here. For the last 17 years I lived in a 30 mile radius in North Carolina, and just under 2 months ago I packed my life away and moved as far away as physically possible. I look around here and still can’t quite believe it’s Australia. Maybe when I fly back to the states in May, it’ll hit me that I really am a day away from my other world, but for now it just feels like this is my world. It is not my Australian holiday, it’s my Australian life.
This post was a bit more loosely put together than mine usually are, and I apologise for that. I think it’s a direct reflection on what is happening in my head right now. I’m taking in so many new experiences, people, cultures, etc that it’s hard to pinpoint one or two things to share.
I’ll leave you with a fun side story. A cabby who drove me back from the city this weekend couldn’t place my accent and asked if I had lived in the US for a bit. I laughed and explained of course I’m American and I’d only been in Australia for 7 weeks and he was shocked! He thought I was an Aussie who had just lived in the states for a bit. Really?? Well, after being called a yank multiple times at the bar this weekend, I’m going to take my semi-Aussie status as a compliment and call it a wrap for this weekend. Cheers!