10 Things That Still Surprise Me…

…About the Grand ol’ U S of A. Or ‘Merrrka, if you prefer.

I’ve been here in this weird, wonderful (mostly) country for a year now. I’ve worked two different jobs, met a bunch of people, eaten a lot of food, and traveled …a smidge. Sometimes I find myself thinking I’ve got this place sussed out. But here are a few things that still elicit a ‘WHA?’ from me, even after a year.

1. Wacky linguistic shizz.

This deserves a whole other post, but these are some recent revelations:

-Americans say addicting instead of addictive and no-one even thinks it sounds silly.
-They hate ‘re’ endings- thus, center, fiber, theater.
– Sultanas simply do not exist here. Everything is a raisin!
– M(o)ustache not only doesn’t have an o in it, but (logically enough, I guess) mo is not a valid shortening. So ‘Movember’ doesn’t even make sense. Very sad.

2. America is just not one country:

Okay, so America likes to call itself a country. Which is cool and all, but pretty much rubbish, I reckon. Travel through different states (even from Southern Oregon to Southern California) and it will be fairly obvious to most that there isn’t a lot of common ground between ’em. Travel from coast to coast (which, admittedly, I haven’t!) and it’s (uh, I guess) a different world. It’s just SO BIG. I used to look down my nose a little at Americans who hasn’t travel(l)ed outside their state. Now I’m a little less quick to judge; turns out, a single US state= a normal country. The whole damn USA= a flippin’ Behemoth.

 3. Accent Ambiguity:

Okay, so I just used ‘ambiguity’ ‘cos I’m all about alliteration…But the point is, people really, truly cannot identify the kiwi accent. After a few months in the service industry, I started to count ‘…Australian?’ as a successful guess, ‘…British?’ as pretty close and ‘….South African/East Coast/Northern Irish/Swedish’ as… well, creative tries. Yep, Swedish. For reals.

4. Patriotism:

Uh, patriotism’s weird. That’s all.

5. Tipping:

I guess this doesn’t exactly surprise me anymore, but it sure does confuse me.

6. Mexican Food:

To be fair, the prevalence of Mexican food probably makes me more ‘WAHOO’ than ‘WHA?’. But still, you can get a fairly decent (by NZ standards, anyway) burrito everywhere! Drive anywhere in the US, and you’ll pass countless crappy fast food chains, cute family run-offs, food carts, and fancy shmancy places galore.  I sometimes wonder how they all stay in business. Then I think to myself ‘Oh yeah, Mexican Food is the best thing in the entire galaxy’.

7. Power outlets don’t have little on and off switches.

8. When you want to turn on a light, the switch goes UP.

9. Icecream (etc) flavo(u)rs:

Depending on how you look at it, it’s either very lucky or very unlucky that most of my time in the US was spent as a most-times vegan (or agnivore, as I like to call it. It’ll grow on you.) The icecream aisle (yep, one whole damn aisle, just for icecream) at the supermarket is plain old nuts. Pumpkin, Reece’s Pieces, Cherry, Brownie Batter, Cookie Dough, Heath Bar… No Hokey Pokey though.  So there.

10. It’s really, really beautiful:

As a Kiwi, telling someone where I’m from is inevitably followed by an enthusiastic ‘Oh, it’s so beautiful there’. Hearing this over and over kind of led me to suspect that New Zealand pretty much had the monopoly when it came to scenery. Not so much. While New Zealand is undeniably gorgeous, I think the US (Oregon especially) deserves a little credit in this area, too. Alpine meadows, rivers, waterfalls, and rugged coasts do not an ugly place make.

Mt Hood

6 responses to “10 Things That Still Surprise Me…

  1. I’m thinking that numbers 2 and 4 are related. See, it isn’t one country, and so the patriotism is the thing that’s supposed to make us all feel like one country.

    And as to accents — we don’t get to talk to enough Kiwis to be able to figure out what you’re supposed to sound like. To me, you Kiwis sound like refined Aussies. Oh. Don’t be telling any of my Aussie buddies I said that.

    • I absolutely agree- in the absence of any real commonalities, ‘patriotism’ seems to be a way of creating (or trying to create) some unity.

      And re Kiwi accents, we’re a pretty wee country, so it is definitely an uncommon accent in these parts. And to be honest, I’ve had the occasional Aussie/Kiwi confusion myself. Don’t be telling any of my Kiwi buddies I said that!

  2. Power outlets don’t have little on and off switches?!?!


    • I KNOW! How do they stop all the little electricity molecules from escaping through the outlets and going haywire?

  3. Hey, Movember may not make sense here, but you can still talk about growing a Novembeard.

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