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15 American Habits I Lost When I Moved to Australia

Australia United States
by Kellie Donnelly Feb 9, 2015

1. Using a clothes dryer.

Yes, it helps that it’s pretty much sunny and hot every day in Australia’s Gold Coast, but rarely did I use a dryer for my clothes while living there. We hung our clothes out to dry on these convenient foldaway clothes hangers instead. The few times it did rain, we would simply move them indoors to dry. In America, I can count on one hand the number of times I hung my clothes to dry outside in the summer versus tossing them in the dryer.

2. Drinking bottled water.

Really, what is the point? If you live in a developed country with clean drinking water, why are we too good to drink from the tap? It saves money and the environment. I, and many of my Australian friends, kept a large jug of tap water in our refrigerators. As an environmentally conscious country, it made sense to take advantage of the fact that you live in a place with clean drinking water and to carry your own reusable water bottle with you.

3. Disregarding loose change.

Oh, do the coins add up in Australia. Since $5 is the smallest paper bill, your loose change is mostly $1 and $2 dollar coins. That pile of little golden nuggets adds up to a case of beer in just a few short weeks of saving. In the States, we throw pennies away because they are worth so little. (Side note — why do we still have pennies? Every price in Australia was rounded, thus eliminating pennies.)

4. Never carrying cash.

I can’t think of one place outside of the occasional mom-and-pop stores that don’t accept credit or debit cards in the States. I never carried cash in America. In Australia, many places were cash-only, or would have a $10 minimum on credit or debit. At the pub, it was more troublesome for bartenders to run a card versus take cash and move on to the next customer. Although inconvenient if you want to make a quick purchase and have no cash on you, you form a habit of always stopping by the ATM before $3 beers on Sundays at Waxy’s Irish Pub. This is where I used the majority of my coins.

5. Splitting bills at restaurants.

Not an option. You will simply be told no. If you need to figure out who spent how much on what meal, then it’s on your time, not the server’s. They aren’t working for tips (see #6), so don’t expect them to spend time organizing your bill for you. When I went out to dinner with a big group of friends to celebrate a birthday, the expectation was to bring cash to cover your portion of the bill.

6. Working for tips.

I know this had been reiterated to Americans hundreds of times, but tipping isn’t standard or expected in Australia. As a waitress, this changed a lot of habits for me. In the States, customers expect you to anticipate their every need, and for the most part, kiss their ass. I quickly discovered working in a restaurant in Surfers Paradise that customers don’t want you constantly checking on them and topping off their drinks — they get quite annoyed. You aren’t an important part of their dining experience so unless they’re asking for something, leave them alone.

7. Ordering sugary and complicated cocktails or shots.

Americans always want their Girl Scout Cookies, Sex on the Beach, Buttery Nipples, Vegas Bombs, and all the other ridiculously fruity and sugary shots and cocktails to cover up the taste of alcohol. But once again, bartenders aren’t working for your tip — so don’t waste their time on a complicated shot at a busy bar when they have 15 other drunk people waiting to be served a beer. Order a cranberry vodka and call it a day. Australians spend such little time mixing drinks that they actually sell pre-bottled Jack Daniels and cokes called “stubbies.”

8. Getting frustrated with customers with heavy accents.

Americans consider it inconvenient when someone doesn’t speak decent English very well in customer service situations. In Australia, if I were to voice my annoyance about struggling to understand a patron with a heavy accent, it was considered rude and judgmental. I quickly learned to listen better and try to help in any way I could instead of giving attitude.

9. Expecting free and unlimited Wi-Fi.

It is not normal in other countries to have free and unlimited Wi-Fi all the time, even in your own home. It requires a data package just like a cell phone plan — so cut back that phone (and Netflix!) time. Starbucks is one of my favorite places to order a coffee, hunker down, and spend hours blogging and reflecting; however, I soon learned that in order to connect to their Wi-Fi, you had to order a drink and receive a passcode on your receipt — that had a 30-minute time limit. Want 30 more minutes? Order another drink.

10. Expecting the air conditioning on full blast at all times.

It’s hot in Australia. But that doesn’t mean the air-con is on. Restaurants, malls, offices, and hotels adjusted temperatures so they were comfortable, not cold. Our apartment had one small air conditioning unit we used only on the really hot days — as in topping 100-degrees Fahrenheit. You learn to live in the heat.

11. Freaking out about cockroaches.

It’s gross, I know, but cockroaches are part of everyday life in Australia. It’s a common part of your side work in a restaurant to check for cockroaches under the salt and pepper shakers. They’re EVERYWHERE.

12. Brewing fresh coffee in the morning.

Unless you have a fancy espresso machine that steams milk for your lattes, bring on the freeze-dried coffee. This was in every house and every apartment I visited in Australia. Boil some water, mix in the freeze-dried coffee grounds with a spoon, and — boom! — instant coffee.

13. Expecting a staggering variety of fast-food restaurants.

Have a brutal hangover and craving fast food? Grab some McDonald’s, Burger King, or KFC. Those are pretty much your only fast-food choices in Australia. Because there is less fast food, the majority of restaurants are serving healthier and higher quality food, so it isn’t cheaper to eat out versus cooking at home. Quick, cheap, and easy becomes throwing something together in your kitchen, not passing a drive through.

14. Thinking the rest of the world cares about the NFL and religiously watching games.

The New England Patriots are in the Superbowl! Yet nobody else in the world really cares — the NFL is an American thing. In fact, Australians consider it a pretty weak sport compared to rugby, where they forego the padding and helmets.

15. Looking left when crossing the street.

I’m telling you, this is the hardest habit to break. You don’t even realize you do it until you go to cross the street and almost get nailed by a car to your right. For the most part, I ended up looking in every direction about three times before crossing the street just to make sure. It scares the crap out of you at first and you feel like an idiot.

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