“Thank you,” I said to the native Australian that took our picture in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Her reply, “Enjoy your holiday.” Holiday? Australia celebrates our Labor Day too? Little did I know that “vacation” is known as “holiday.” Among this instance there have been many more learning experiences for me in Australia and countless ahead. I’ve been here for a short stay of eight days. As I finally begin to adjust to the time I am on my way back to the States, leaving my fiancé and our new home behind to finish up some work for the year. I know it’s going to be tough being so far from my family, yet, I am unbelievably excited to move here in 2011.

Australia and America are similar in many ways and during my “holiday” I observed some differences:

–          Australia seems much more laid back. Besides enjoying a nice wine or adult beverage at lunch, you sure don’t hear people honking their horns nearly as much as I did in Chicago.

–          Friendly. Australia is so friendly! As I was trying to learn my way in the city, a group of runners stopped to help me out and asked where I was headed. I have to note that there were countless people running on their lunch break. I was told that many of the businesses have showers in their offices so people can exercise on their lunch break.

–          Eating out. The wine is delicious in Australia and for a friendly price. The servers don’t get tipped as they would in the States. This is good and bad in a sense. Good in that they aren’t concerned about turning tables and they want to make sure you stay as long as you want if not longer. At one restaurant on Chapel Street (Melbourne) our server would have loved if we stayed all night. I was merely falling asleep in my chair.

–          Words. We have a different way with our words. As clearly stated, “vacation” is “holiday,” yet there are many more comparisons. We both speak English but at some points I wasn’t able to follow conversation. Some other exchanges that come to mind: they don’t ever use “cookout” it’s barbie (as in BBQ), flip flops are thongs, bars are hotels (this really confused me), sidewalks are foot path, coffee is so many other things (flat white, long black, etc) and many more. Oh and everyone is either darling or mate.

–          Driving, walking shopping. It’s all opposite. They drive, walk, etc on the left, and Americans do so on the right. I was at a shopping center in Sydney and I was going up the escalator and only found myself (once again) making a fool of myself while trying to walk up an escalator that was on its way down. This left verse right is so challenging when walking down the sidewalk. So many times I steered to the right to get out of someone’s way.

–          They think we are fat and I mean this in the nicest way. While out to breakfast I was reading over the menu and they had a nice list of pancake options. Everything from blueberry pancakes to the American. Can you guess what the American was? Pancakes with bacon, cheese, fried potato and syrup. There may have been a few more ingredients but I’ve never had bacon mashed over my pancakes.

–          Fruit. Their fruit seemed to be mostly locally grown and it was a normal size. When comparing the fruit from the States the fruit here looked bite size. Yet none of the fruit I saw or ate was genetically modified.

–          Coffee. I missed my American coffee. It took me about 6 cups to learn what I should ongoing order and what I liked. Their coffee is insanely strong. And when I mean strong, I am talking like twice as strong as our espresso. I was bouncing off walls one morning after having a long black.

–          Food ingredients. From my few trips to the grocery store I learned that they market low fat foods much more than we do. Some foods seemed completely modified. I love my peanut butter and I swear all of the peanut butter I found in Melbourne was a lower fat version. The food label agreed with my taste too.

–          Metric System. I am a food label sleuth and the food labels aren’t measured in calories. They are measured in kilojoules and the servings aren’t cups or tablespoons, it’s all in grams.

–          Shopping. Besides finding my wedding dress in Australia and the fact that tax is included in the presented price, I am going to remain most of my shopping for the States. Prices for common things, let alone clothes, were much higher than I’d ever want to pay.

–          Markets. In our neighborhood there is a HUGE market that is open daily and they sell everything you’d get from a grocery store. The food is fresh, local and fabulous. I am so excited about this!

And as  I type up this post on Monday September 13 before I get on my first flight, I realize that after flying 21 hours plus 6 hours of layovers, I will lie myself to sleep in the States on Monday September 13th.