We are only a few weeks into living in Australia so we certainly haven't experienced everything the country has to offer just yet. But the more we get out and explore and learn about our new country, the more we realize that while some of it is new to us, some of it feels strangely familiar. After living in the US for most of our lives, and in the UK for almost six months last year, here in Australia, we keep spotting things that remind us of both places. I have decided that a lot of Australia is a strange US/UK mash-up! Let's explore what I mean!
Like the US:
- Wide Open Spaces (anyone else singing that Dixie Chicks song now?)
Like the USA (and unlike the small isle of Britain) Australia has plenty of land on which to build and expand. This means that the roads are wide, the sidewalks are wide, and in general everything feels more roomy. In the UK, roads are narrow (to the point of "two lane" roads really only having room for one car at a time) and hedges tend to, well, hedge everything in. Another difference we have noticed when it comes to this is that more places we go here have free parking (like places outside of major cities in the US) whereas in the UK we could be in the middle of nowhere in an empty parking lot and still have to pay. Even the beach has free parking here!
- Urban/Suburban Sprawl (little boxes on the hillside...)
This could just be our experience in the urban sprawl of Perth, but there are a lot of planned neighborhoods with cookie cutter houses at least around where we are. The house we are in is only three years old, and there are still tons of houses popping up in similar neighborhoods nearby. You can't really go anywhere without seeing homes under construction! Again, I think this is because the land space is available here. In the UK there's a lot less land so even new homes are built much smaller and closer together.
- Everything's Bigger in
After spending time in the UK (and really, most places we went in Europe) when we returned to the US I was surprised at how BIG everything was. Shopping centers, strip malls, stores in general are much bigger in the US and we have noticed that trend in Australia as well. A charity shop in the UK might be a tiny little store front on the High Street, here it's more like the size of a big warehouse! Because the stores are bigger everything is more spread out and for the most part you have to drive between places - just like the US.
- Houses Are Bigger, Too!
In this post I talked about some of the differences between US and UK homes. In our (admittedly limited) experience in Australia so far, homes are much more similar to the US than to the UK. Homes are much larger, single family homes are more common (as opposed to the townhome/row-home style that is common in the UK) and open layouts are actually a thing here. (Even brand new houses in the UK didn't do open layouts!)
- A Relatively Young Country
The idea of the US as a young country has really hit home for me the more we have traveled abroad. It always blows my mind to visit a place or building that is older than our country! (Especially when it's a random place like a pub, it makes more sense when it's something awesome like a cathedral.) The US dates back to 1776. Australia only became a country (rather than just British colonies) when the states united in 1901 and they weren't officially independent from the UK until 1986! That's the year I was born, so Australia and I are the same age! (Insert mind blown emoji)
- History of Poor Treatment of Native Populations
The US has some dark spots in its history, including our treatment of the Native American populations. Australia has a similar dark history when it comes to the treatment of the Aboriginal people. Like in the US, this is still a controversial and difficult topic politically, with some people arguing that the government has taken steps to treat the native population better, and others arguing that they have not done nearly enough. From what I can tell, they are on a better track than the US, but still have a ways to go.
- They Call Soccer "Soccer"
It's well known that what the USA calls "soccer" is known as "football" to the rest of the world (whereas what we call "football" for the most part doesn't exist anywhere else in the world.) But we learned that Australians do call it soccer! And what they call football is something entirely different! (More on that later.)
Like the UK:
- Free Healthcare
Okay, not really "free" as your taxes pay for it, but Australia (like most countries in the world) has healthcare provided by the government. This is, quite obviously, something similar to the UK, and pretty much the complete opposite of the US.
- Sensible Gun Control
It's no secret that the US is one of the only countries in the world that deals with mass shootings on an almost daily basis. Our politicians respond with "thoughts and prayers" and sometimes "mental healthcare should be a thing" (conveniently ignoring that we don't even care about providing regular healthcare to most of our population) and do little to nothing else. Australia, on the other hand, had one mass shooting in 1996, promptly banned semi-automatic and other military style weapons as well as implementing other sensible gun laws, and hasn't had a mass shooting since.
- Drive on the
WrongLeft Side of the Road
Driving takes place on the left side of the road here! Also, there are tons and tons of roundabouts, making driving feel very British indeed. I drove on the left for the first time ever this week because we finally have an automatic here (every car we drove in the UK was a manual and I have never driven a manual in my life!)
- Cuppa Culture
Just like in the UK, you can't spend much time with an Australian without getting offered a cup of tea. Electric kettles are everywhere, high tea is a thing you can go to at restaurants, and everybody loves to have a good old cuppa.
- Governmental System
I don't fully understand the Australian governmental system (I just did a quick Google search) but I can tell you it's much more similar to the UK than the US. There are states with their own governance and then a federal government which is parliamentarian. But Queen Elizabeth II is still their head of state, she is on their money, and they are a part of the Commonwealth (which I legit did not know was a thing until earlier this year.)
- They Participate in Eurovision!
Despite the name of Eurovision implying that it should include only European countries, Australia has been allowed to compete since 2015. Not sure what Eurovision is? Don't worry, I wrote a post all about my new favorite singing competition! If you like American Idol, The Voice, or any music in general, you do not want to miss out on Eurovision. Australia's 2019 entry was particularly awesome!
When it comes to sports Australia is more similar to the UK than the US, playing cricket, rugby, soccer, and avoiding American classics like football and baseball.
All three countries - US, UK, Australia - speak English as their main language. We have discussed on the blog some of the fun differences between American and British English. Here in Australia they have their own unique accent, and they tend to use a mix of American and British words (see: soccer.) I'm sure there are some that are unique to Australia as well, I will try to notice them and do a post in the future!
In all three countries, people eat food! What a crazy coincidence! All kidding aside, we have noticed that food choices here seem to be a mix of classic British and American foods and brands - although with slightly more British things than American. I hope to discover some truly unique Australian foods as well but haven't come across anything yet...
I mentioned above that the roads feel American because they are huge, but driving, in general, feels British because it's on the left and there are a ton of roundabouts. This makes driving in general feel like a weird mash-up. Often the scenery and the style of the road feels like it could be right out of rural Iowa (or Florida when we are by the beach), but the fact that we are on the left makes it feel like we are back in England!
Australia has dolla dolla bills y'all! But they are Australian Dollars which are different from US Dollars in look, feel, and worth. Right now 1 Australian Dollar is worth about 69 US cents. This exchange rate makes things cheaper for us here but we still find it very expensive! (Recall this $8 ice cream.) The money is kind of a mash-up because while it is called dollars, it looks a lot more like British pounds - they even have the Queen on the five! And yet, it's kind of it's own thing too because the money is brightly colored (purple money is my new fave!) and it's even waterproof! (Check out a picture of Australian money in this post.)
If Australia is famous for anything it is for having a ton of animals that can kill you. Also, kangaroos are as common as deer and we often see brightly colored parrots just flying around like a bluebird would back home!
- Ozzy Rules Football
I wanted to put this under the "mash-up" category but Joel argued that it is a truly uniquely Australian sport. You might have heard something referred to as "footy" before and if you are like me you thought it was just a cute nickname for soccer. Turns out footy or Ozzy rules football is its own game that is sort of a mash-up of rugby, soccer, American football, basketball, and more. Sound confusing? Joel is going to do a post all about it soon!
- Southern Hemisphere
Don't worry, I know that Australia isn't the only country in the southern hemisphere. I included it here because it is something that makes it unlike either the US or the UK. Winter is ending here, we are heading into Spring and then Summer, and we plan to still be here for Christmas when it will be "bloody hot!" to quote some Australian friends I made at church last week. Joel just declared today that he wants to swim in the ocean on Christmas day.
- Turn Signal on the Wrong Side of the Wheel
Joel wanted to make sure I included this little tidbit because it keeps tripping him up when he drives. Even in British cars, where the steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car than we are used to, the signals on the wheel are still the same. Here, they are switched! Which means that every time Joel goes to signal he turns on the windshield wipers instead. It's pretty hilarious and certainly takes some getting used to.
I'm sure the more time we spend here the more observations we will make that will either confirm or contradict what we have stated here, but for now, this is our first impression of Australia as a crazy US/UK mash-up!