More Cultural Shock

5 Aug

Here’s some other stuff that seems to be different from Melbourne.

“Thanks!”
“Mm Hmm”
Here people will go “mm hmm” (or “uh huh” – I can’t tell) in response to “thanks”. James initially found it off-putting, but I pointed out that the common response in Australia (“no worries”) is kind of weird too. Maybe when we say it to Americans they’re like “huh?? Why do they think I’m worried?

The Mail
I haven’t done it, but I’ve heard that you can put an outgoing letter in your mailbox, and when the postie delivers your mail they take your letter and mail it for you. Also back in Melbourne if I got something that didn’t fit in my postbox, if I was lucky they’d ring the intercom and get me to come down for it and if I was unlucky they’d either leave it where anyone could steal it or they’d leave a missed parcel note so I could go to the post office and pick it up.

I don’t know if it was just the shittiness of my building back home, but over here it’s so much better! There are little mailboxes for each apartment, and there are also large, lockable mailboxes that aren’t assigned to anyone. If we get a parcel that doesn’t fit in our mailbox we get a numbered key for one of the large mailboxes. We use the key to open the large mailbox, take our parcel, and leave the key in the lock. How cool is that? I’m always so excited when I find a key waiting for me.

Oh also super large items are delivered to the front desk. They email us when we get a package and I go down and pick it up. Sometimes there are a lot of deliveries but luckily they have some carts and also a fancy hotel trolley thing.

Cinema Differences
They don’t have assigned seating when you buy movie tickets. We went to see The Amazing Spiderman with some of James’ work friends and had to sit apart because the cinema was pretty packed (10 minutes before the previews even started). The Americans agreed that our system was better. Also their popcorn and drinks are enormous. And they clap at the end of the movie. Y U CLAP? They can’t hear you! It wasn’t even that good. So weird.

Their Paper
Americans have different sized paper! They don’t have A4, they have “letter” which is slightly smaller than A4 and “legal” which is slightly larger than “letter”. Not a huge deal, but something I had never really considered.

Booze
We get carded a lot more frequently here than we did back home. In Australia I remember getting my ID checked maybe a few times at 18/19 (actually maybe once at like 22/23 when I went to Crown) but nothing after that. It’s a little disconcerting to be carded at 29! Most places are happy with our Australian driver’s licenses but some places (*cough*Whole Foods*cough*) will only accept our passports or US IDs. That was one of the main reasons we got Washington State IDs so fast – so we could buy booze without taking our passports to Whole Foods. Predictably they haven’t asked us for ID since.

The Customer Service Really is Better
In restaurants it’s a little more attentive than I’m used to but not in an annoying hovery way like I had feared. It’s not that waiters are bad in Australia; it’s more that the service here is consistently good and helpful. I don’t think it’s necessarily because of the tips, because the customer service in general seems to be better.

The first day we got to Seattle we went to the pet store to buy supplies for the cats. We got a huge scratching post, 2 litter boxes, some cat food, litter and toys and it was going to take us a couple of trips to get it home. And the guy at the pet store was like “here, you can borrow our trolley and bring it back” (though I think he might have called it a dolly). That never ever happened back in Australia.

There was also a nice guy at the bottleshop who gave James a sample of some beers from behind the bar, then made James a 6 pack representative of local beers and explained why he’d picked each one. I’m starting to expect that level of service now. The other day when the furniture guy offered to let me take home the store’s wood samples to test against my furniture I was grateful and pleased but not surprised. They’re ruined me for regular customer service!

Towel Service
Gyms provide the towels! At our gym we pick up fresh towels at the counter then drop them off in a basket when we’re done. Awesome.

Bacon
The default bacon here is terrible. It’s really skinny and half fat and incredibly unsatisfying. Apparently what I need to ask for is Canadian or back bacon.

Milk
What I’ve heard from the other Aussies is that the milk here is also really bad. They said the skim milk is like white water and it’s really difficult to find regular milk. Maybe what we call milk is called cream? Because when we go out James is always asked if he wants cream in his coffee, which he thought was repulsive until he realised it was just milk.

Bikes
It’s very common to ride bikes on the footpath (or in US-speak, “sidewalk”) here. Also there are a lot of helmetless riders, and bikes without lights, which you don’t see very often back home. At least the foothpaths are wide enough to accommodate everyone.

Buses
Melbourne had a lot more variety in public transport but Seattle seems mainly reliant on buses. They have some pretty cool features, including a bike rack in front of the bus and a platform that can be lowered for people in wheelchairs to get on the bus (and then some seats that can be flipped up to make room for them).

The Orca public transport card works really well. You just hold it up to the sensor and it will register even if you have a bunch of other stuff in your wallet – it’s much easier to use than the Myki card back home.

The buses are older and less swish than the ones back home, but they’re clean and generally seem to run on time. The late buses are awful though, because they’re always packed full of extra people, make more stops than usual (because there are more chances that someone will want to get off at each stop), and everyone’s grumpy because they had to wait ages for the bus and now they’re all up in some stranger’s armpit.

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2 Responses to “More Cultural Shock”

  1. sweetteaapothecary August 5, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    I just moved to Seattle from Los Angeles and I’m finding a lot of the same pleasant discrepancies haha.

  2. Anon January 9, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

    Try 2%. You’ll also find grassfed milk tastes like milk (brands are Organic Valley, Stoneyfield and QFC’s own brand)

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