After thirteen months of the immigration process, I made it! I am now living in beautiful North Carolina, USA, with my loving American husband, Jim. I am so happy to be here with him, but it would be remiss of me to not mention the culture shock before anything else. So here is a list of the things I have noticed so far.
- Rabies: On my third night here there was a rabid fox trying to attack people walking their dogs around our apartment complex, so the police came out and shot it. That absolutely terrified me. Australia is one of the few countries in the world, free of rabies — something I had assumed was the same all over the Western world. I was wrong.
- Portion sizes: It’s going to take me a while to start ordering the correct portion size at restaurants. Even an appetiser is too big for me, and the food wastage is something I’m uncomfortable with. Jim and I have taken to sharing an appetiser and a salad, and ensuring we minimise waste. The upside? Food is so cheap that it costs less than $12 for Jim and me to eat out as we share.
- Recycling: In Australia we are crazy about recycling everything. The council provides recycling bins which are picked up fortnightly so we don’t fill up our garbage dumps with products that could be recycled. Here, where I am living in North Carolina, there is no recycling. Everything goes into the one bin. I am struggling with that, so Jim is trying to find some way we can take our recyclables to have them dealt with appropriately.
- Thank you: I have been using the word ta, in place of thank you, from the time I could speak. Ta. Americans don’t use the word. They say thank you, which is a no-brainer, but I cannot stop saying ta. It’s a default constantly, and no one understands it except Jim. He often uses it to thank me, which I really appreciate.
- Accent: I know, I know; I live in the USA, but I cannot tell you how strange it is to hear an American accent everywhere. I find it especially alarming in stores over the PA system, or coming from little kids, as I just don’t expect it. I’m so used to hearing Australians speak, that to hear the deep southern twang throws me every time. When I am at home, writing away in my little office, I could be at home in Australia. But once I leave home and I am anywhere else, the accent is a constant reminder that I am a little displaced.
- Groceries: I cannot find the products I’m used to. Especially lamb. There’s no legs of lamb or cutlets in the supermarkets. And when I am homesick, I want lamb.
- MSG: It seems that there’s MSG in just about everything here, and they don’t need to declare it. It gives me a headache and nausea. In Australia, food containing MSG needs to be clearly marked so it can be avoided. MSG was largely phased out in Australia in the 1990’s, but some products contain it as an additive. I just need to be more diligent in checking for it.
- Landscape: This is not a bad thing by any means. Yes, I miss sunny Queensland, but North Carolina is absolutely stunning. The vibrant colours are gorgeous; bright green grass, pink and white blossoms, the sky is as blue as I’ve ever seen, and trees in a myriad of hues. The countryside is breathtaking. Photos just don’t do it justice. Well not with my photography.
- Weather: I was a bit frustrated after a long, humid summer in Queensland, to be heading to another summer in the south of the USA. But despite having some lovely warm days here, we’ve had quite a few cool ones. It’s been so refreshing. I also need to remind myself that here in the south, I will get to experience four seasons, rather than one boiling hot mess for nine months, and then three months of milder weather in Queensland. It’s been years since I experienced all four seasons and I’m really excited about it.
- Driving: Jim and I bought a car together. A sleek, black sedan, which I can’t drive. I am struggling with being on the wrong side of the road as a passenger, but when I hopped into the driver’s seat to consider a test drive, I was so dizzy from being on the opposite side of the car, I gave up. I have been assured it’s just a time thing, and I really hope so. I love the freedom of driving and I’ve always had a beautiful car for myself. At the moment Jim has to take me everywhere and when he’s at work, I am pretty much stuck at home. I don’t mind the down time to write and relax, but when you realise you don’t have a grater and the recipe you’re cooking requires grated ginger, well, a quick trip to Walmart would be helpful.
Really, those things are minimal. There’s so much I already love about living here. The people are friendly beyond belief, and that’s coming from someone who loves the Australian laid-back friendliness. People are so polite, and because I’m Australian and obviously, have an accent, they love to talk to me. I’m discovering so much and I’m trying to learn as much as I can about this amazing country. Jim and I have so many weekend trips planned so I will have so much to share. Can’t wait!