The differences are what you go to a different country to notice, enjoy, and consider. I did a lot of that in Australia and New Zealand the past couple weeks.
So, here are some of my observations, in no particular order:
- I was prepared for vehicles driving on the left (a k a the wrong – it must be the wrong side, since we drive on the right side in North America) side of the road. But what threw me were references to the south as being cold and the north as warm. When someone mentioned a southern breeze and shivered, it was a true disconnect.
- In general, people also walk on the left side of sidewalks. The period of adjustment meant definitely going against the flow – sorry, folks!
- The menus refer to appetizers as “entrees” and the main course as “mains.” This makes great sense. Our calling the main course an entrée, when entrée means opening makes no sense.
- I loved the soft water of Melbourne. More important, my hair and skin loved it. My water is hard, hard, and then some more hard. And then the locals put fluoride and chlorine in it.
- I have a new appreciation for Fahrenheit as a measure of temperature. I never really considered it before, but after struggling with 20 (68) being cool even for sleeping, but 21 (69.8) being a bit too warm, I really wanted 69 F.
- Individuals and TV commentators referred to my compatriots as “Americans.” Here we’ve been told that that word applies to the continents – North and South. So when asked where I was from, I’d say the U.S. or the United States, and I’d get “Oh, an American.”
- To my surprise, not everyone knew where I was from as soon as I opened my mouth. One person even guessed Perth! I maintain I have NO accent.
- I was asked for directions in Melbourne (three times) and Auckland (twice.) I’d like to think it’s because I look like I know where I’m going. I suspect it’s because I look non-threatening <wg>.
- Every person I ask for directions in both countries was kind and helpful. I was kind when I was asked for directions … no guarantee on the helpfulness ;-).
- I had pavlova in New Zealand. I refuse to take a stance on where it was created. It was delicious … but a little chocolate in it wouldn’t have gone amiss.
- The people of Melbourne were incredibly patient with a novice tram rider.
- The vast majority of people were friendly, kind, open to talking, and treated me as an individual. The exceptions were individuals whom I would never hold against their countries.
- In New Zealand, I found some lemon and menthol lozenges from Vicks that were terrific. Apparently they are not available in the U.S. – oh, nooooo.
- Also not available here, L&P the “lemonish” drink that’s “world famous in New Zealand.” I liked it.
- I do have a jar of Vegemite, thanks to the generous folks of the Romance Writers of Australia. I’m waiting for the right moment.
- “Shrimp” become “prawns” in that part of the world.
- The conferences have breaks for morning and afternoon tea, as well as lunch. You will never be hungry. Or dry.
- Asking for “lemonade” often resulted in Squirt.
- Loved the choices on most menus under “sparkling by the glass.” Had some lovely ones.
- I mostly tipped. Not universally, but some.
- New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, Australia, get some U.S. TV. … Not the good stuff. A lot of shows I’d never watched. For good reason. Sorry, guys!
- Between rugby and Australian Rules Football, rugby feels more like U.S. football. Australian Rules football – “footy” – felt more like a cross of soccer and hockey without the ice.
- My greatest regret: I was never called “mate.” 😉
- My greatest accomplishment: I made and deepened some wonderful friendships.