I stumbled acros this fellow's blog today, his name is Pete Calvert. He is from Australia and came to the United States last year for a conference. I was reading some of his impressions and words of advice to his fellow Aussies and while it seems he was very serious, some of his statements struck me funny, but I never realized how mind boggling our country could be to a newcomer. Here's a few:
1. June 03
The USA is a foreign Country
I've been to Europe, England, China and other parts of South East Asia, and rarely has communication been a problem, or at least has been expected and can be mitigated. Where the other party did not speak English we could either get by with foreign phrases or enough finger-pointing to work out what was meant. I am very quickly learning that American English is quite different from that spoken just about anywhere else, and cultural similarities between Australia and US are more due to concept translation between countries than any familiarly solid ground.
For example, the word chili, when used in the Australian vernacular in the position of an adjective (as in chili chips, or chili burger) would indicate that it is the regular item, but with the hot and spicy flavour of chili added to it. In the US (or at least on the menu of an unnamed eating establishment in Orlando), chili chips are chips covered in cooked mince with a slightly flavoured (but not hot and spicy) mexican sauce. The same can be said of a burger. And if you indicate that you would also like cheese, you end up with an orange something that appears to be more plastic than dairy. And don't even get me started on biscuit!
The cultural mindset as well, from the inexperienced perspective of this unseasoned travellor, lends itself to the USA (and Canada if you are lucky, Mexico if you are even luckier) being the sole representative on the list of available countries for entering credit card and address details in at least one major hotel.
First impressions are that most Americans talk all the time. I bet that chewing gum was invented to keep their jaws in top condition between conversations.
2. Many Americans now feel the need to appologise for President Bush - let them but never personally criticise the president
Do not discuss the health of the President in any way. Certain permutations of this line of discussion are a felony. Do not freak out when you discover how few white people work in fast-food restaurants. You should also have a few Spanish phrases handy for Florida. 'Tu madre es una puta' is not the right way to ask for directions to a hotel but you will manage to end up in a hospital.
3. Food can be interesting. Biscuits are kind of like scones or muffins; if you want what we call biscuits then ask for cookies. Gravy is, well, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:B...-and-gravy.jpg. Half-and-half is not good for you; it's half whole milk and half cream. Lemonade is lemon-flavoured water; if you want lemonade then ask for Sprite or 7-Up. What we call entrees they call appetisers or starters, and what we call mains they call entrees. Serving sizes are almost universally huge.
Americans are used to living by rules -- in a country that big it's the only way things work. Don't try to break a rule, even if it's common sense, because you won't get people to see things your way. That even goes as far as jaywalking -- don't do it.
Jaywalking is our national sport in Quebec. The cars HAVE to stop. In the bar district at closing time, people dance in traffic, keeping time by drumming on your car hood.
If you stand and wait for the light, folks here think you are wussy, or worse, you have "mental issues".