In my experience, going to a westernized English speaking country is like going to a slightly different version of the US. I mean, when you get right down to it, Canada is really US North, only in metric with a funny accent. But Australia was certainly very different, or at least as different as a westernized English speaking country can be.
First up, as I’m sure you all know, they drive on the left side of the road. Even after a week as a passenger I just couldn’t get my brain around this. It was just too weird. The most dangerous part for us was trying to remember what direction to look when crossing the street. I couldn’t remember which way, so I’d just look both ways regardless of what side we were heading towards.
The beer there is fantastic. I don’t think I had anything at all that I didn’t like. And, no, Fosters is not available anywhere as best as I can tell – it’s simply a cruel trick they play on us Yankees.
One thing that Australia/New Zealand does very well is make wine. Trying to stay local we always had a wine from one of those two countries, and really didn’t find a bad bottle. They all come in screw cap bottles, which I’m still trying to get used to.
There isn’t a such thing as all-you-can-eat Internet access in Australia. Thus it’s high near impossible to find an open wireless access point, although McDonald’s does have them. Of course, ironically enough, my iPhone refused to connect to any cell towers out there but Karin’s worked just fine.
The sport situation is just weird. I understand Australian rules football because of the early days of ESPN, but I’m not sure that I understand rugby – they just throw around the ball and pound each other. Cricket is a complete mystery to me. They also have this thing called net ball, which, as best as I can tell, is simply an excuse to broadcast hot girls wearing tight outfits playing something that resembles basketball.
Language is a funny thing. Getting used to the local accent was fairly straight forward, although there were more than a couple of times where my brain took a good 10 seconds trying to process what was just said to me. They do have a good handful of colloquialisms, though:
- They say “mate” as often as you’d think
- They don’t ever say “throw a shrimp on the barbie”. In fact, they don’t call prawns shrimp, they call them prawns.
- Chockers means packed or stuffed.
- Stuffed means tired.
- They pronounce the “h” in herb.
- Appetizers are called entrees.
US chains are everywhere. We generally avoided them, but there are times when you just need something quick to eat and there’s not much else you can do. The local slang term for McDonald’s is Mackers. Burger King is known as Hungry Jack’s, and I can tell you a Whopper is a Whopper the world around. And yes, you can find a Starbucks.
They’ve got their currency done (almost) right. They’ve eliminated the penny rounding everything off to the nickel. They have one and two dollar coins (no bills for those). Their paper money is different colors, different sizes, and made of plastic. Yes – plastic. Makes it near impossible to tear and washable giving it a longer lifespan. It’s also much harder to forge. The one thing that did get me though was the coins. They have a 20 cent piece (not a quarter), and their sizes are off (the dollar and two dollar are the smallest of the bunch).
 I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing.
 Because there’s a flippin “h” in it. (Yeah, I’m censoring that joke)