Scholarship Series: Alexa on 5 cultural differences between the US and Australia
1. Australians work hard and play hard
In the US, after class or work on weeknights I go home, relax, maybe get dinner with friends, then hang out at home and go to bed. In Australia, the culture is less about relaxation and more about fun. After work here, people go to the city, get dinner and drinks, or do some cultural exploration. Still, they are serious about their work. My coworkers stay late at work almost every day before going out to have fun. One of the biggest cultural differences between the US and Australia is the amount of sleep I get!
2. Australia is more energy conscious
Let’s start with water: there are actually two separate “flush” buttons on toilets! One is a “full flush” and one is a “half flush” which uses less water. There was a severe drought in Australia several years ago, so to conserve water toilets were made to have two flush settings. Electricity outlets have switches to turn on and off, and extension cords are set to automatically shut off after a preset period of time. My office runs solely on solar power. The trams here are electric and not gas powered. Amazing!
3. Melbourne is more culturally diverse
I am constantly surrounded by people from all over the world, and by people who have traveled all over the world. I’ve talked to people from places such as Dubai, Switzerland, and Puerto Rico. There are also restaurants with food from every country or region, and each one is unique and authentic. I’ve had Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Nepalese, Ethiopian, British, French, Italian, and, of course, Australian food! Sometimes I have to Google things from the menu to know what they are. I’ve had so much fun trying new foods here!
4. The US is more customer-service oriented
Like other countries, in Australia people who work with customers aren’t expected to be as friendly or attentive as in the US. For example, in restaurants servers come to your table, take your drink and food orders at once, and bring them to you. In the US, servers typically take your drink and food orders separately and check on the table multiple times. When the time comes to pay your bill, in the US you’d just leave money on the table. In Australia, you pay at the register instead. They also don’t split checks, so one person pays on their card and the others pay that person back in cash. Servers in Australia are paid a normal wage so you aren’t expected to tip them, unlike servers in the US who are paid about $2.30 an hour. That’s definitely one of the biggest cultural differences between the US and Australia.
5. Australians laugh a lot more
They’re constantly laughing! It’s like their threshold for laughing is lower, so they find more things funny. And they’re funnier too, without being inappropriate or offensive! They use a lot of quick, clever humor and they tell hilarious stories. This is one of my favorite things about Australians. They seem to be able to pull a funny joke or story out of any situation. Gotta love them!
All photos by Alexa Rains