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  • Writer's pictureChelsea Joy Arganbright

What I Miss about the US, What I love in Australia | 25 Years Old | Melbourne, Australia

From an Aussie expat in America: "The Desire to Be Great: Americans believe in being the best and they work hard to put themselves out there, striving to live with purpose. I’m not saying Australian’s don’t do this, but the ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome‘ I think limits people’s desires to stand out from the crowd, which is where you need to be if you want to be the best. I think this syndrome hides people away and unconsciously gives them excuses as to why they can’t do it. We all came here with a purpose and we need to live it. Let your light shine!"

I do miss this. I miss the feeling of not having to hide my accomplishments, not having to suppress certain aspects of my personality or ambition because of this. I also miss the competition. I feel competition allows people to be great, to strive for more ambitious desires. I miss NOT hearing "Ah, just can't be f*cked/bothered, mate..." You don't hear that in the states. You work your butt off to get half of the luxuries you're granted here.

What I love is the fact that you can actually SURVIVE on the living wage here. I've told this story to many people here, but my maintenance man at my apartment here will take three month trips abroad with his family, just for fun every year. Maintenance men, and probably 90% of the population in the states, cannot afford to take trips like that. Also, if you take your holiday time, if you even have any, in the states- you're considered lazy or looked down upon. In Australia it's not a luxury, it's part of life. For this, I love that people can enjoy their lives here.

I miss the sense of urgency in the states. It's great to be laid back, to a point. Sometimes I feel that everything is moving in slow motion here (people walk slower, their mannerisms are even more methodical and catatonic at times, even sliding glass doors open much slower than they do back in the states!) I wonder how anything gets done.

The smaller population here is great, and you never feel claustrophobic. With a smaller population than we have in California, it feels like you can actually breathe. Also, there is less air and land pollution, which is fabulous!

From the same Aussie blogger living in the states: "I love having random strangers stop to engage me in conversation, just as a result of hearing the accent. I love having the opportunity to share stories about my country and being introduced as the token *American*. And then there is the side of me always being in a place of newness by experiencing the diversity of another culture’s life. Being a foreigner makes my life feel a little more colorful."

When I think about having to ever go back to the states, I feel my life wouldn't be as colourful. It's great that by simply bring you, you have a conversation starter. Although everyone knows I haven't had the best luck in the dating realm in this country (so far), it sure makes it easy to always have something different and interesting to talk about!

Aussies listen, and for that they remember. I love this. Many Americans ask how you're doing and don't really care, while if an Aussie asks this, you know they mean it. Random work acquaintances will remember things about me when I haven't seen them for months and only talked to them a couple times, whereas a lot of my American friends won't remember a lot of what I've told them. I would honestly say that Aussie acquaintances I've met will remember more about me, or things I've mentioned to them, far more than some past American boyfriends I've had.

I miss feeling like it's okay to be a black sheep/unique/innovative. In America, individualism is the status quo- it's emphasised throughout our historical roots and our current culture, whereas in Australia it's much more about mateship and the "collective." I understand the importance of the latter, and recognise that it makes for a stand-together kind of society, but when you're given strange looks and sideways glances for choosing to have a quiet dinner alone at a restaurant or *choosing* to do anything solo (or being called absurd for voicing an innovative idea in class), it's just difficult. As superficial as some people think America is, it's funny how much this culture is based on "fitting in" and being "socially acceptable," which I find superficial on many levels.

I love the fact people can relax. I suppose this contradicts my feelings of frustration towards the lack of urgency, but I do enjoy how the anxious/worrisome part of my personality hasn't been fed because there is such an air of relaxedness here.

I love the natural beauty. San Diego is beautiful, and Big Sur, and Santa Barbara...but you won't find any turquoise water and pristine white sand beaches like you find in Perth. Americans think this only exists in places like Tahiti...

Which leads me to...

Traveling. I love how extensively Australians travel and value it as part of their lives. It's just a given for 95% of people I've met here that they've at least traveled through Asia, or Europe, or Latin America, or all of the above. The gap year is something Americans don't have, partially because most of us can't afford it (see point above) or don't have the time to do. Most Americans don't own a passport, because of these reasons.

I miss great customer service. It's such a downer walking into a store/restaurant/etc. and the host or waitress displays that "can't be bothered" attitude mentioned above. It's because of the tips, but it's funny that when it comes down to it the Aussies on average are still getting paid more on their wage than their American counterparts, and still can't muster some friendliness.

Smiling at strangers. Americans do this, it's part of politeness. Yesterday I smiled at a girl walking by me on my street in Elwood and said good morning, she gave me THE strangest look and rushed by. I miss doing this, or giving a compliment, without feeling like I'm being "weird" (see "fitting in").

I miss the dating culture in the states, and being approached by guys who aren't afraid of women. Women take the initiative here. It's great to have empowered women, yes, but it's also great to have men who take the initiative. I miss gentleman, and a sense of courtship.

I miss not having a pay an arm and a leg for housing, and food, and coffee...actually, every single thing I can think of. If I'm on a budget in the states, there's always 99 cent fast food, and it actually fills you up. That's unheard of here. I just bought a tiny pack of 7-Eleven jerky and it was $5. Insane! Speaking of, food portions are tiny here. I miss actually feeling full when I order something at a restaurant.

Reese's pieces, and anything with peanut butter.

What I know I'll miss when I buy my car is being able to drive a few miles over the speed limit without being caught by the big "nanny." I understand the value of rules, but Aus has way too many of them, in my opinion.


I love that people really have hobbies here, because they have the time! I know people who do dance classes, art classes, kite surfing, and are part of clubs here. You don't find that as much in the states, because there doesn't seem to be enough time when you're working a full time and a half job, or two/three part time jobs.

Public transport. I like that it's not stigmatised here. Although I still feel like I'm in the spotlight when I'm standing at a bus stop, that's just ingrained in me. In California if you take the bus, you're considered poor. Here, it just means you're being Eco-friendly or would rather not spent the time finding that impossible parking spot in the city.

2 Years in Australia: What I Miss, and What I Definitely Don't Miss About California!

I miss Passion. Laughing enthusiastically and uncontrollably without having to check myself -in a country that values more understated shows of emotion or affection. Expression and enthusiasm! Spanish architecture (solid, beautiful architecture, in general) Calling people by their formal titles (Sir, Mr, Miss) without being stifled. In this, I miss that sense of respect that a country which values casual, equitable correspondence doesn't value. In America, respect is earned through the educational, career, or other type of attainment one goes through. In Australia, you give a person respect based on their quality as a person (although the communication always stays on the same ground.) Taco Tuesdays in San Diego, where you can get bomb fish tacos for under $3 Whole Foods and Trader Joes. Words cannot even... Being in an environment where accomplishments, uniqueness, and thinking outside the box is not only accepted but embraced and encouraged. I will never get used to the Tall Poppy complex. Ambitious people. Everything is so easy in Australia no one has the incentive to really try hard or develop passions because you have the ability to not really do anything because no matter what you have a job that *actually pays the bills* and you can actually *live* off the "living wage" in most jobs. My maintenance man took a three month vacation to Europe, that would be a joke in the states. For middle income people in America, you have to really save up to take that two week vacation once every three or four years, and usually you can just afford Hawaii. People laugh at the fact Americans don't travel, but it's because we live in a country where you don't have the means or the time to. Hard workers. I had never heard the phrase "I can't be bothered" until coming to Australia, from going that extra step to provide good customer service to attempting to advance oneself in their career. In the states you have to be bothered or else you're not going to go anywhere, and that's not an option because it's either succeed or fail. Cheap food Cheap...everything Good Mexican food. I always took this for granted until coming to Australia where people don't understand how to make good guacamole. They can't take the heat, here. Ahi Tuna Poke=chunky pieces of ahi sashimi, wasabi, sesame oil, avocado deliciousness Taking spontaneous drives up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) for however far time will permit, which means: San Diego to Orange County-->L.A-->Santa Barbara-->San Luis Obispo-->Big Sur-->Monterey-->San Francisco and back again Wearing sandals and tank tops 365 days a year because the sun is always shining and the weather is always warm Being able to drive a bit over the speed limit and not feel that a nanny state is breathing down my neck. In the states, as long as you're following the flow of traffic, you're usually fine. Being around people my age who've actually had to contend with hardship. Most of the people I know in Australia in their 30's haven't had to contend with a lot of the stuff people in their teens in the states have to deal with. Having to succumb to duress, being forced to go through challenges (ones I'll highlight down there in the "I don't miss" section) is something that 95% of the population in the states has to go through now. It sucks, and I've had some horrible stories both within my own family and others', but damn if it doesn't make you grow up. I've met a lot of grown up kids in Australia; life's been too easy. Certain spots always pop into my head, where I get a pang of "home": Santa Barbara: walking up state street, on the beach path during weekend local art events, the pier, the mall, bougainvilleas, the mission, the way the sunshine hits the Spanish tiles and the smell of the seaBig Sur: Nepenthes Restaurant, right on the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, cabins, Esalen Institute, ruggedness, a rich spiritual vibeSan Diego: Pacific Beach, North County, Balboa Park Museums, Ocean Beach and the hippies, falling asleep on the beach while my boyfriend surfs, bonfires, sailing in the bay, the little hole in the wall Mexican take away place that had *amazing* cheap foodOrange County: Bear Flag Fish Company (to get that Ahi Poke), people-watching the well-to-do, surf shops I don't miss Living in a country where people worry about things like being evicted, losing their job and having their car repossessed, not being able to be healthy because they can't afford to see a doctor/get the surgery they need/seek medical advice for their children. Being in an environment where people work to live, where if you're not a workaholic then you're not worthy. Having two or three jobs because any less and you couldn't afford to feed your family and pay the rent. If you have time to have a hobby -as an ADULT- it's wasteful because it's time that could be spent working. A country where you get two weeks of vacation, and most people don't take it because their boss guilts them to work through it or it could threaten their position. I've heard multiple people in Australia say that they are going to cut back on work as their social life has taken a toll. You say that in the states and you'd be laughed at to your face. Work comes first, anything left over for a semblance of social life is a bonus. Anxiety. A country filled with anxiety because of the aforementioned things. People grow up quicker in a country where you're forced to be an adult by 18, but it's at the risk of never having the opportunity to just "be." In America, if you have time to just "be," whether through what the Aussies call a Gap Year or simply taking time off to figure oneself out, you're not working hard enough/being lazy. In Australia, it's embraced so people have time to figure themselves out. Whether they do or not is ancillary, because at least they have the opportunity to do so. In America, you never get the chance. The legal system. Just atrocious; it's not based on morality or democracy, it's based on how good your expensive lawyer is in getting you out of your bind. Problems. I call people back in California and almost every single person has a problem that 95% of the time stems from financial difficulties, healthcare unavailability, or a lack of what in Australia would be considered a basic need. In Australia the biggest problems wouldn't even be considered problems in the states.

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