So we have been in the United States for nearly two months now and I must say that we’ve managed to get a good sense of American culture during this time.
Some parts of the country (like Traverse City) make me want to move here permanently, while other parts (like Detroit) make me glad it’s near impossible to get your hands on a Green Card.
So what have I noticed that’s different about the US when compared to my homeland of Australia?
I mean, we both speak English and Australia is becoming more Americanised by the day, so there couldn’t be too many differences, right?
Sign up to our monthly newsletter for more travel news!
The differences between the USA and Australia
The gun culture
We all know the stats for American gun crime are some of the worst in the world.
And for me, the gun culture in America is the biggest difference between the Aussies and the Yanks. I must admit, I prefer Australia’s attitude towards guns.
At the moment we’re housesitting in Wisconsin where it’s legal to conceal and carry a firearm on you whenever you like.
Indeed, the other day we were eating dinner in a very remote part of the state (where the nearest town was a 45 minute drive away and there were only the deers at our campsite to keep us company) and I saw a man carrying a gun.
He’d come outside to make a phone call while Dave and I were enjoying our dinner on the restaurant’s patio and I saw the gun shoved down the small of his back. He’d put his t-shirt back down over the top of the weapon, but it had got caught and you could see the metal gleaming against his skin.
Even as I write this, I can hear people shooting in the woods. Each shot, the dog (Buddy, the cutie we’re looking after) jumps up and barks.
The house where we’re housesitting is owned by keen hunters and on the lounge room wall hangs a deer head and many antlers. I keep staring up at the deer head and wondering how someone could put a bullet in the side of something so beautiful.
Today we went to the local flea market and they were selling tickets to a raffle where you could win a number of rifles.
It’s certainly different from Australia where the most harmful thing you’ll find at the local fair is a death-by-chocolate cake.
Another difference in the US, that is taking us a little while to get used to is the tipping culture.
In Australia, you only tip in restaurants and only if the service is worth tipping for. In the US, as most of you probably know, tipping is compulsory. And it’s only fair you do, as the waiters and waitresses get paid under the minimum wage because their tips are meant to make up the difference.
Apparently this is the rough tipping system:
10% dismal service
12% below average
15% average and the most common tip
20% very good
For a long time we kept tipping 20%, mainly because our math skills are so poor that we struggled to figure out 15% (embarrassing, I know).
But I think I’ve got tipping down pat now.
Although once I’ve got the ‘how much’ part covered, the other dilemma is the ‘when’.
For example, do we tip the mechanic who fixed our car? Do we tip the guy who bags our groceries? Do we tip if we buy ice cream from a corner store?
You get the picture… tipping can get confusing for us Aussies!
I’m getting my haircut on Wednesday – can someone please advise on what to do regarding the tip?!
Americans are by far the most patriotic nation I’ve ever seen. Before coming here, I knew I’d see a lot of American flags out the front of houses but what I wasn’t expecting was the other paraphernalia.
T-shirts, napkins, flags on cars – you name it, someone has produced it. (Ironically, probably made in China).
I even saw an American-branded picnic basket today.
And don’t think that these patriotic items are only used on the 4th of July. Oh no, they are proudly displayed all year round.
Some foreigners might find it all a little stifling but for me I think I prefer it to places like the UK where you hardly ever see the national flag on display. (Unless it’s a royal event or the Olympics.)
Food production methods
There are some ways of preparing food that Americans do differently.
They don’t tend to have toasters – instead they like to grill things in little ovens that plug in on top of their kitchen benchtops.
This is great if you’re longing for cheese on toast, but if you just want a piece of toast quickly, it’s a little bit of a pain in the butt.
Americans also don’t seem to own kettles very often. Instead, folks from the USA tend to have coffee machines for their morning cup.
They’re not so keen on tea either, so I suppose they don’t need kettles. If they do drink tea, they’d rather put a tea capsule into their coffee machines and produce it that way.
All the stuff you’ve read about American food being bad for you… it’s kind of true. They seem to put corn syrup into everything here, in order to support the country’s farmers, but it’s not too great for your health.
They eat donuts for breakfast here, which while tasty, is far too much sugar for me in the morning.
In fact, they seem to have sugar with a lot of food here. It’s not good – many people suffer from diabetes and there seems to be a lot of obese people riding around in motorised wheelchairs.
Add this to the food portion sizes you get in restaurants and it’s easy to see why this country has a big problem with obesity.
But some of the food is delicious.
I was worried about the ‘fast food’ culture here but I shouldn’t have worried because there’s delicious food too.
We’ve eaten some lovely lobster rolls, delicious sushi, AMAZING steaks and a lot of hamburgers – which we order without the fries at an attempt to be healthier.
In Traverse City especially we had some amazing meals. It has been dubbed one of the top foodie cities in the USA after all.
The ironic thing is that I think we’re both losing weight because we are doing a lot of exercise.
That’s one of the best things about all this travel – not only do we get to experience the USA’s culture, but we have a lot of free time to fit in a fitness regime.