Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure! Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.
Meg has recently launched “Mapping Megan”, an up and coming travel blog which aims to give you the best tips and advice on travelling, volunteering, living, working and holidaying abroad. She hasn’t been everywhere, but it’s on her list!
You can follow her journey on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram also.
Today, she shares with the League of Expat Writers (LEW) her battles with Amercian visions of Australia (and visa versa).
An American vision of Australia
Upon recently relocating from Australia to America I have been overwhelmed with the amount of love Americans have for my country. America loves Australia. They love our native animals; from the cute and cuddly koalas, to the killer creatures like great white sharks and crocodiles; and all American women would leave their husbands in an instant for a chance with Hugh Jackman! However, when thinking about Australia, I’ve learnt pretty quickly that Americans generally try not to let facts get in the way! And you know what? I blame the likes of Steve Irwin and Paul Hogan (the Crocodile Hunter and Crocodile Dundee respectively).
Unfortunately these personalities have played on popular stereotypes and offered the world a distorted view of what life in Australia is actually like!
American’s seem to have a somewhat distorted vision of Australia which is hugely influenced by their pop culture. After meeting my husband originally in Africa we kept a long distance relationship going for two years. During that time he spent 12 months living with me in Australia. I think he was quite shocked when he arrived in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and found that my parents weren’t wearing safari costumes, and we weren’t living in a rundown shack in the middle of the outback! Having grown up with Steve Irwin as his absolute idol, Mike had genuinely expected he would have the chance to wrestle crocodiles and fry some good old shrimp on the barbie! Unfortunately he had to settle for a suburban/city life which was not dissimilar at all to his own in America.
Australian life is in fact very similar to life in America.
We have the same stores, the same music, the same television and the same food – although Australia has much smaller portions! We speak the same language (sometimes), worship the same celebrities and wear very similar clothing. Aside from learning how to drive on the opposite side of the road and being able to locate a store which sells fresh food, it really has been an easy adjustment. I will say though that everything in America is super size, and it’s an incredibly strange (and dangerous) concept to me that you can buy a handgun from a local department store – Australia has had incredibly strict gun control legislation since the 1990’s. The economy here is also something I am slow to wrap my head around – that being said I don’t think the US government fully understands their economy either so I’m not going to be too hard on myself! The cost of living is so much cheaper in America than in Australia. Wages here are substantially lower, however so is everything else.
Even though it’s all relative, I’m struggling with the concept that I’m now earning $8 an hour when I was on a minimum wage of $25 per hour in Australia a few months ago– that being said I’m more than happy to pay the monthly mortgage on our house here which is equivalent to what we were paying weekly while in the ACT.
Also the concept of tipping is very culturally different. It’s not done in Australia, yet a very integral part of the service industry in America. In fact, apparently it has been known in the US for the police to be called and customers locked in the restaurant by owners because they felt the service wasn’t satisfactory enough to receive a tip. In contrast employees across many companies in Australia can lose their jobs for accepting tips.This is, however, as far as I can go in terms of naming substantial cultural differences.
American’s are genuinely intrigued with Australia. I’ve had no issues making friends here – my Australian accent guarantees an instant popularity I would have killed for in high school!
While most tell me they dream of making it to Australia one day, the prospect seems as likely to them as winning the lottery jackpot. Apparently it’s much too far to actually go!
I was recently told that I “look Australian” and I still can’t figure this one out!
Although I’ll take it as a compliment because apparently all Australian women are hot, and all men are incredibly bad-ass. I read an American article recently which recommended that “if you are in a bar and you are about to throw a guy down, if he has an Australian accent and a missing tooth – wave a white flag, buy him a fosters and get the hell out of there!” Just to clarify while we’re on this point, Australians do not actually drink fosters. Still not sure where this myth came from considering it’s not even brewed in Australia…Scotland in fact!!
My Family. Notice the distinct lack of safari outfits, crocodiles, blonde hair and outback setting!
According to one American woman I met I couldn’t possibly be from Australia because I’m not blonde.
I hated to have to break it to her, but not all Australians are blonde. Oh, and not all of us surf…I’m actually quite horrible at it! Nor do we ride Kangaroo’s to work and school each day (it’s actually illegal to own one as a pet), and nor do we all live in the outback. I guarantee you half of the country probably hasn’t even stepped foot in the outback. What I did find incredible was when one of my neighbours told me that she LOVED Sydney and started talking with enthusiasm about the well known landmarks. The fact that she knew about Sydney wasn’t the incredible part (in fact the majority of America wrongly thinks Sydney is the nations capital) – it was the disclosure at the end of the conversation that her knowledge was based on having watched ‘Finding Nemo’ repeatedly with her grandson. You really do think you’ve heard it all, but then someone completely blows that notion straight out of the water! I’ve decided that the situation is this: if you’ve heard it all you probably haven’t lived in America!
So I’ve given Americans a pretty hard time for their ignorance – that isn’t to say that Australians are any better. The most frequent question I am asked from friends and family back in Australia is “is it just like the movies”?! “Have you met any celebrities” is also a pretty popular question I hear from back home. Unfortunately the answer to both is no. I’m enjoying the same western lifestyle I’m used to in Australia here in America – however I do miss my Vegemite on toast each morning, and I dearly miss my pet Kangaroo!