25 Things American Expats in Australia Inevitably Think

expat issues

25 Things American Expats in Australia ThinkMy fourth expat anniversary is coming right up, and as a precursor, I’ve been jotting down some of the things I thought when I first moved here, as well as the common themes that come up in the many conversations I’ve had with my American expat friends.

Here are some of the reactions that almost every American expat in Australia I’ve met has had. I hope some of them give my fellow Yanks Down Under, and also my Aussie friends, a bit of fun. For me, most of these thoughts are a distant memory now. Most of them … I’ll leave you to wonder which is which!

1. I don’t KNOW?! I just want a cup of coffee!

coffee menu


2. They call them … prawns? Wait a minute, that means … there’s no “throw a shrimp on the barbie…”

3. A roundabout? OK. Don’t panic…

4. Arvo?

5. I’ll just order a Fosters. That’s Australian for beer, right?

6. They have Target!!!! Oh … never mind.

target logo

7. I wonder what that is in Farenheit/miles/gallons.

8. It costs HOW MUCH?!?

9. That’s PER WEEK?!?

10. Where’s the slot to pay at the pump?

11. Is that a … nude beach?

12. Where’s the closet?

13. Where’s the air conditioner?

14. It is FREEZING in this apartment.

15. That’s not bacon.

16. Where are all the good cereals?



17. I thought I was a size 12.

18. Haych. … Zed. …

19. How can this store be closing? It’s only 5p.m.

20. I wonder if anyone just saw me get in on the passenger side.

21. Why is there barbecue sauce on my burger?

22. Why is there arugula on my pizza?

23. …it’s called rocket?

24. How do I go about getting some ice in this glass?

25. We’re drinking. At work!

Americans in Australia, tell me yours.
And, if you’re an Australian living in America, how about the other way around?

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86 thoughts on “25 Things American Expats in Australia Inevitably Think

      1. Eddie Pensier

        For that matter, “Why is there anything mixed into my hamburger patty besides beef and salt? Why is it full of spices, breadcrumbs, herbs, and other extraneous crap? And why is it cooked to the consistency of shoe leather instead of medium-rare like I asked for?”

        I’ve despaired of finding a good hamburger anywhere in this country outside of my own kitchen. 🙁

    1. Cristin Post author

      Had some Aussies once ask me about PB&J. Turned out they thought we ate Jell-O on our sandwiches. No wonder they thought it was gross!

        1. Bob

          You see, that is where America got it wrong….
          Day/Month/Year makes a lot more sense… small, bigger biggest!
          Month/Day/Year…… Big/small/biggest….. wtf!

          But then again,it makes sense to those who don’t use the metric system, which makes a hell of a lot of sense to the rest of the world!

      1. Patty McCracken

        Why do you all my dog ‘blue’ when he is red.

        Rice ‘Bubbles’ ???

        Yes…I know I’m half left – not all right!

        ‘Drop Bears’ you say??? Yes I’ve been warned about them. (a million times) Kind of like the ‘jack-a-lopes’ in NM

        Do you think I could get real mayo rather than butter on this sandwich?

        Hot Chips with that ‘pet’??? (I’m not you pet and you serve potato chips hot?)

        ‘Bring a plate’ (Am I suppose to put anything on the plate?)

        Can’t remember do I switch the light switch up for ‘on’ or ‘down’? Is it inside the room or outside?

        Oh great you brought the salad…oh…uh…it’s a fruit salad – we can serve that for dessert.

        togs??? runners??? jacki Howe???

        Let’s go ‘boil the Billy’ and ‘ava cuppa and a yarn!

        1. Cristin Post author

          Someone in my family, who would not like me to name them, was just telling me about a study recently conducted about this Australian animal called “drop bears.” Said family member was very serious about this new animal.

  1. Lauren

    I’m my house we have this thing called “American ice”. If my boyfriend is pouring me something to drink he will ask, “do you want normal ice or American ice”. If I answer American he knows to fill the glass to the top with ice.

    1. Cristin Post author

      Right after I wrote this, I realized I’d left Mexican food off the list. MAJOR oversight!

    1. Cristin Post author

      I like the dates now because my daughter was born 31/1/13, which is cool. The American way, less cool. Purely selfish!

      1. Chris

        My son and my mom have the “same” birthday dates. Son on November 8 (8/11) in Australia, and my mom August 11 (8/11).

        1. Phil

          It’s like 3 boxes of different sizes. In Australia we put the small box (days) into the medium box (months) and then put the medium box into the large box (years)
          Other places are putting the medium box into the small box…somehow.

    2. Connie Etter

      The U.S. military writes their dates that way, also. Had to re-educate my husband when he got out of the Marines because people thought his birthdate was May 11, when it was November 5th! Same with time, as they used military 24-hour terminology! Culture is funny!

    1. Cristin Post author

      Was just thinking the other day that I really miss raspberry yogurt. But, the Aussies do have it right with the passionfruit pulp flavor.

      1. Juli

        I’m an Aussie and I love pumpkin pie, and whenever I’ve served it to Australians – they love it, too. Get them to taste it and they’ll change their mind, it’s the concept that throws them off the idea.

        1. Cristin Post author

          Completely agree! I’ve served it to a number of Aussies, and almost all of them loved it.

  2. Michael Shafran

    Why is there white powder on my too-big hamburger bun?
    Who the hell things red mystery mousse resembles a hot dog?
    What the hell is Turkish bread?
    Arvo? Avo?
    Why can’t I get pizza before 5pm, except from some gross Greek kebab place?
    Who put the ban on pizza by the slice?
    Jap, blue, butternut – I just want a pumpkin!
    Yes, I hate Vegemite. It only looks good when you compare it to Marmite.
    So Outback Steakhouse isn’t really from the outback?
    How the hell do you ask for hot pepper in this godforsaken country?!

      1. Susanna

        Where can we find a good bagel??? Any chance someone can send one across the border to NZ? =)

        And bacon/premium rashers???

  3. Pushkina

    Beet root? They’re called BEETS.
    How in the world does a girl wear a school uniform without black and white saddle oxfords?
    I want a brassiere that opens and closes IN THE FRONT! Don’t tell me I don’t need it: I WANT IT.
    Where is the 24 hour pharmacy? I need to get some NyKwil (sorry my letter ‘cue’ is not working), some Pamprin and unscented deodorant. (But LOVE Mersyndol and neurophen with codeine)
    And where’s the Tylenol?
    And that’s the first lot… I’ve been here almost 20 years.

    1. Cristin Post author

      So with you on the 24 hour pharmacy (I almost wrote chemist 😉 ). I do miss Walgreens!

    2. Random Aussie

      Tylenol? You’re kidding right? Guess you didn’t know that acetaminophen is the same as paracetamol huh?

      1. Pushkina

        Of course I know that paracetamol is basically Tylenol; I just miss the brand name!

        And I became really concerned when I first heard my under 6 year old daughter ask me for a rubber. Almost threw my neck out, I turned round so fast. I banned the word in our gouse: its an eraser. When she was older and we went to the States, I had to explain why she should be careful round her cousins, asking for rubbers.
        Everyte I see a scone, I think about buttermilk biscuits. And while we are on biscuits, they are really cookies.
        I gripe at hair grips. And why are there lice in every primary school class?
        ‘Cosies’ or ‘cossies’: they are bathing suits.
        One does not ‘bath’ a baby: one bathes.
        And what in the world are sand shoes?

        And most importantly, I am mom, not mum.

  4. Expat in Oz

    For heaven’s sake . . . remember to ask for a serviette, NOT a napkin for your table at a restaurant….

    1. Cristin Post author

      You know what’s funny – I got into a conversation on a mum’s group recently about this very thing. Apparently, “napkin” is considered the more “high class” way to say it, while “serviette” is more working/lower class. In four years, I’d never known it was interchangeable, and I would have thought it would be the other way around. Serviette sounds so French and fancy!

  5. Susanna

    Ozzie/Kiwi: You put what in Corona?… (Lemon)

    Maybe they don’t know what floss is for when they decided to call cotton candy ‘candy floss’?

    Don’t get your knickers into a twist about your thongs/jandals (flip flops )- there are def a ton of expressions /lingo that I’ve forgotten that would sound so odd fresh off the boat.

    1. Tracy

      It’s actually ‘fairy floss’. Don’t know where it came from, but I always imagined that the threads were fine enough for fairies to floss their teeth with 🙂

  6. natalie

    First of all, I did love living in America 😉 25 things australian expats in america inevitably think 1. It’s pretty foggy today. What’s that? It’s not fog, it’s pollution, hmm 2. I just want a proper latte with that smooth, glossy top, not with a bubbly burned half litre of milk 3. Minimum wage is HOW MUCH?!?! How do you live? 4. is there anywhere i can find bread without sugar, honey, glucose and high fructose corn syrup in it(usually all in the same loaf)…like, I don’t want any sweet stuff in my bread? 5. Why aren’t American cars fitted with indicators? 6. My what big white capped teeth you have 7. The challenge of where to find Weet-bix; vegemite; Tim Tams; Twisties 8. Apparently I have to ration my toilet paper usage for fear of chronic s-bend blockage – oh, and what do you mean you don’t know what a dual flush is? 9. So if that is Entree, how friggin big is main course going to be 10. Ready to tuck into my pasta marinara – ok where’s the seafood? 11. Frustrated because the milo doesn’t float on top, and everyone knows that’s the best part. 12. So ‘dinner from scratch’ means combining multiple cans and packages of processed food to create a meal? 13. Being taken aback that someone apologises for having to walk in front of you in the grocery aisle 14. Raisins are sultanas; Cilantro is coriander; Cantaloupe is rock melon; Peppers are capsicums; candies are lollies; scones are some kind of hard cakey thing; biscuits are scones; cookies are all kinds of biscuits 17. Christmas decorating is way vulgar, but I really like it and I embrace it with my psychotic lighting/inflatable Charlie Brown Santa displays 18. I’m sure these Halloween Trick or Treaters don’t live in my neighbourhood; how did I go through 3kg of lollies in two hours? 19. What is with not using metric? 20. LOL! I am so not a size 4, but I DO LIKE it; so if she’s a size 0 does that mean she’s non-existent, and how did anyone come up with size 0? 21. Private health insurance per month is equivalent to Australian private health cover per year 22. I’m scared of Walmart – what’s in there? What’s the deal with WALMART?! 23. I beg your pardon? I can’t buy a nice bottle of wine for a friend’s birthday on Sunday before 12 noon hee hee, that’s funny…ok, you’re not joking(Texas) 24. You want to see my ID? I haven’t been asked for ID in over 20 years. I love you 25. That 5,000sqft home costs how much?!!!! I’ll buy two- make it cash.

    1. Cristin Post author

      I would not disagree with you about almost any of these!!
      Not sure about the car indicators, though?

      1. Martin

        indicators (turn signals) are clearly are not installed on american cars else people would use them when they make a turn – right?

  7. Karen

    Hahaha agree with all of the above.

    Also, why is there butter on my turkey/ham/etc. sandwich?? Gross.

  8. Anita Vetter

    It’s not 12 inches, it’s… 30 centimeters? And gas costs how much per gallon? Oops, I mean per liter. And is that spelled liter or liter? Oh, I loved living in Perth and I do miss it.

  9. Robbie Thornton

    Where’s the drive through window for this bank?

    For that matter, where are the drive up ATM’s?

    Tomato sauce is an ingredient, not a condiment.

    Seseme Street had a “cookie” monster, not a “scone” monster.

    Why do people stare or snicker when I say “I need to get my fanny in gear”?

      1. Robbie Thornton

        I’m a southern girl. I’m pretty sure that fanny is the 3rd most used word in the Southern vernacular. ie. ” I’m gonna whoop your fanny if you don’t do what I say”. “Get your fanny over here”. “Look at the fanny on that gal”, “I’m gonna sit my fanny down right here”. My husband, an Aussie native and a bit of a trickster, decided he wouldn’t tell me the actual “problem” with the word here, but would let me find out myself. For over a year I went around “fanny this and fanny that”. After I got a job, some kind coworker eventually told me the error of my ways. My husband survived my wrath afterwards, but it was a near thing.

        He thought it was funny. Like the time I was complaining about trying to figure out the metric system in relation to driving and distances, and he told me “What most American’s have trouble with is the 100 minutes in an hour.” I’m appalled to say that for a second…just a second…he had me.

  10. Audrey

    Chicken in sushi?
    Splash back – backsplash
    Where’s the frozen concentrated juice aisle? Cordial. Are kidding me?
    Making pie crust without Crisco
    Pumpkin, pumpkin everywhere but not a can/ tin of it to make a pie

  11. Tracey

    How many codes of “footy” does 1 country really need?? Seriously!! And why are there Tests in sports?? I once thought going to a baseball game was a commitment then experienced cricket…wtf?? After 15 years still do not follow how it’s played or scored! Why are all the party dips made with cream cheese & not sour cream-so not palatable. (Speaking of this what’s with corn dip. beetroot dip uhh). Can anyone really eat Weetbix? How can they call a 2 lane road a motorway/highway? Why aren’t there parking lots provided at train stations for people to utilize public transport? Aussies are happy & helpful, as long as they are not employed in anyway to provide customer service. So miss USA service! Oregono um no oregano.

    1. Paul

      Here in the Northern Territory I’ve been on many 1 lane roads and dirt roads that are designated as major highways. The Buntine Highway connecting Kalkaringi (NT) to Fitzroy Crossing (WA) is little more than a set of parallel tire (sorry, tyre) tracks in the dirt for many hours. The Tanami Track, the only road connecting Alice Springs and everything in the centre of the continent to Hall’s Creek and everything in the Kimberly (NW corner of the continent) is 1400km long and has pavement (sorry, bitumen) for less than 10% of its length.

    1. Cristin Post author

      Oh yeah, I’d never noticed that, but a European expat friend pointed that out to me the other day. I’d be way too scared to do that!

  12. Paul

    One I haven’t seen in this list though I have heard from many recent arrivals from America: “are these guys porn obsessed or what??? That XXXX sign is at every store, every bar, every bus stop….”

  13. Mayleng

    So ground floor is first floor, right? When our family was in a restaurant up in the mountains in Malaysia my kids asked the waitress for napkins and she corrected them ‘you mean servettes’ 🙂 Should have known better I am Malaysian married to an American and I struggle with the differences when I moved to the States. Love the challenges in life though. Lived in Perth too. Best wine in Aussieland!

  14. Gunda Mattys

    Every time I try to turn on my blinkers I turn in the windshield wiper. Oh, and they are indicators and it is a windscreen. Petrol not gasoline. Bench not counter, and what is a bench called then. Mate applies to both genders. Cot not crib, bubs, dummy and nappy. Sprite is lemonade and everyone is shocked that real lemonade is so good and only has two ingredients. Macca’s. Tea, not dinner. Chocolate and peanut butter don’t go well together. Oh, and Ta.

    1. Cristin Post author

      I still really struggle with adapting the baby item names. I just cannot say “nappy.”

  15. cmholm

    When I gave way to the kids riding by on the sidewalk, they said “thank you”. Are they just trying to freak me out?

  16. virginie

    got to read this discussion by accident and I just LOVE it:) I’m French having lived in Perth for 8 years after having lived in all continents except…America:) i’ve got heaps of American friends – mainly Californians and Texans but I had never thought abt so many language differences:) I used to work in the UK so I had not noticed any major differences with Aussie language, except for some typical Aussie slangs…or I’m so used to them now that I overlook the differences? Anyway it’s really funny for me:) I had never thought that you guys – Americans had differents words for “sand shoes” ” trolley” “Turkish bread” “sultanas” “coriander” and ” rockmelon”:) oh how funny! I just knew that any native English speaker wouldn’t understand “bogan” but apart from that I had no idea!!! How funny! Please keep writing for me to learn a bit more about American slangs:) Robbie Thornton: what does this “fanny” mean????? Never heard my American friends saying such word:) Loving this thread:)

    1. Kathryn

      Fanny means bottom or tushy. “Sit on your fanny”. What does it mean in AU?
      San shoes? Trolley? Turkish bread? What are those? What does the XXX mean on store windows?

      1. Cristin Post author

        “Fanny” in Aussie parlance is, shall we say, another part of the anatomy located nearby the American version, but just on ladies. And it’s a rather crude way of referring to it.
        Sand shoes are a sneaker, like Converse or Keds.
        Trolley is a shopping cart.
        Turkish bread is just a type of bread – a flat, soft loaf. I actually think it may be called Turkish bread in the States, too, just not as common there? I could be wrong.
        XXX is a type of beer.

  17. Tracey

    Who can stomach Bubble & Squeak?? Really – talk about “dog ‘s breakfast”!! It sounds like a pet toy

  18. Cliff

    I know it’s two L’s. But it’s still a torTEEya. It just is, that’s why. And KARN is not English for Carne. MEAT is English for carne

  19. Ian

    Ok, ok … I feel compelled to write on behalf of Aussies who have spent time in the US.

    What the hell is grits – and why does it taste like gravel?

    Why is the toilet full of water already?

    Is there any brand of beer other than Buds?

    What? Ransom the kids just to pay for a visit to the doctor!!

    Can I buy any food without layers of complimentary cheese?

    Is it necessary to tip everyone from train buskers to that Naked Cowboy?

    Isn’t that the 20th Starbucks we’ve passed on this block alone?

    Why do all the cab drivers and waiters look Columbian?

    The traffic signal says ‘Don’t Walk’ yet …… wtf?

  20. ian Roberts


    XXX in store windows probably means clothes for extra, extra large people – and ….. eh I’ve spent enough time in the States to suggest that we don’t go there….

    XXXX (4-X ) is a type of beer, prominently found in Queensland (where it’s said many can’t spell beer)

    I have an American friend from South Carolina who sometimes talks about “shagging competitions”! I gather that it is some type of dance – but I also suggest you don’t go there.

  21. Diane

    Love these, never been to Australia but as an American in France, a lot of them can work for things that I’ve thought about France. Crazy sometimes. Cool post, great job!

  22. Gwen

    I’m going to do my own version and link back to yours! Thanks so much. BTW I pretty much thought most of those but backwards ;-). Love that we’ve found each other!

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