As I mentioned in a previous post, Ty and I have found ourselves in some pretty awkward situations while living in North America. You would be surprised how many differences there are in every day words for Australian and American English! Since we love to laugh and have fun, I thought I’d share a few of our more embarrassing moments with you! We certainly have had our fair share, so here is my list of how to successfully be an awkward Aussie abroad (tried and tested, by us of course).
1. While shopping for beach appropriate footwear, excitedly say to your boyfriend (now fiancé!), in close proximity to a mother and her three children, “hey let’s go look at some new thongs for you”. The mother will scowl disapprovingly and usher the children away from you as, obviously, you are very distasteful young people and a bad influence. Far too late, you’ll realise that in America, you should have said “flip flops” because you were talking about footwear, not a certain variety of underwear. A prompt exit from the shop is necessary in most cases following such embarrassment and undeniable awkwardness (you can thank me later).
2. Try to order a flat white at Starbucks, or any cafe for that matter. You’ll be met with bewilderment and blank stares. You’ll think it’s your Aussie accent so you’ll repeat yourself three to four times while trying out different variations of “flat white” with very bad imitations of something that only closely resembles an American accent – west coast, east coast, Southern and finally my personal favourite: a terrible mash of them all. Finally you’ll realise there is no such thing in America as a “flat white” and you’ll impulse-order a cappucino instead. To prevent all future embarrassment surrounding the elusive “flat white” issue, always order a latte from this moment on. (P.S. What’s the difference anyway? Any baristas out there, feel free to educate me!).
A flat white and a cappuccino
3. Ask a shop attendant if you can use the bin to throw something away. They will have no idea what you are even talking about, so stand awkwardly for a few minutes looking back and forth between each other while your holiday brain tries to make sense of the situation. Do they really not have a bin??? Ummm…awkward!! By this time you’ll have drawn so much attention to yourself, so you say “is there somewhere I can throw away my rubbish, like in a bin, like for, you know, rubbish…like a trash can maybe?” Ahh there you go! The key word you should have used is trash. Life returns to normal.
4. Hold up the line at Subway
by asking the sandwich artist (yes, that’s what they are called) for capsicum on your sandwich. Capsicum
isn’t a word here. Finally, after getting increasingly exasperated and causing mass confusion amongst all the hungry Subway goers, point like a two year old and say “the green stuff”
. You’ll soon realise that they are called peppers
here in America. Duh, get it right!
3. Ask for tomato sauce at any cafe or fast food restaurant and you’ll be met with the aforementioned blank stare. After a few moments of panic (what the heck am I gonna do without my tomato sauce?!!!) your brain remembers that you need to say ketchup. Phew. Crisis averted.
6. Hold up the line while ordering lunch as you try your hardest to figure out what the difference between a sandwich and a burger is when they look EXACTLY the same on the menu! All you want is two pieces of bread and filling sandwiched together (i.e. a sandwich, not a burger). You end up choosing something else entirely because the conversation with the server was getting mighty awkward. (P.s. I still don’t understand how the “sandwich” wasn’t a burger?!).
7. When trying to pay for something, hold up the entire line while muttering incessantly to yourself that you forgot to Google what a dime, nickle and a quarter is and now you have no idea. Ok, you quickly work out the quarter is, as the name suggests, 25 cents (the holiday brain finally came through for you). But then you ask the cashier to help you sort out your money so you can pay her, while everyone else in the line feels sorry for you and secretly wonders whether you actually managed to graduate primary school.
8. And finally, my personal favourite, overreact irrationally when the guy at the fuel station says he has filled your car up with gas. Um……Gas???!! But your car runs on petrol……You drive away slowly, completely terrified that your car will break down in two minutes, or worse, explode into a thousand million pieces. Eventually you figure out that gas means petrol and you breathe a few thousand sighs of relief.
Other awkward things to note: we are constantly told our accents are “so cool”, driving on the opposite side of the road takes some getting used to – stress levels peak at roundabouts, intersections and making turns in general, we’ve only just mastered looking in the right direction when crossing the road…how we’ve made it this far is anyone’s guess, and I still have no idea what “grits” are…!
If you are planning a trip to the States, I hope this list helps prevent some of these awkward moments for you! If not, feel free to laugh along with us, entirely at our expense 😉
What are some of your awkward moments abroad?