Americans, Aussies and Brits, Oh My!

For some reason, I went to Australia thinking that it would be more like Britain than like America. I’m not sure why I had this in my head. A rational examination of history would suggest otherwise–both Australia and America were colonized by the Brits, and the key difference is that America formally has complete independence while the Aussies still have to deal with the indignity of Elizabeth being the Queen of Australia. It just sounds wrong, doesn’t it?

Much to my surprise and delight, I found Australia to be perhaps more American than British, but certainly somewhere in between. Following on the discussion I found today on one of the other expat blogs (you’ll see my comment which inspired this post) it seems common for Brits in America or Americans in Britain to find that they are not truly at home in either place. And for this, I recommend Australia.

Things about Australia that feel American:

  • Friendly, outgoing people!
  • Wide streets, lots of cars. Stop signs!
  • Modern architecture. Detached houses. Large ground level parking lots/carparks.
  • General attitude towards the Brits as stodgy colonialist bastards. (Admittedly, some American Anglophiles don’t share this view…)

Things about Australia that remind you of the British connection:

  • Driving on the wrong side of the road
  • Roundabouts (traffic circles)
  • Little switches on the electrical outlets
  • Cricket obsession

Walking through an Australian grocery store was very confusing for this confused US/UK expat, it was a mix of the things I miss from home and the things I find in my local Brit mart. Sure there are a few uniquely Aussie products thrown into the mix (Vegemite, Barbecue Shapes and TimTams, anyone?) but just like everything else I found, the supermarket was a mixed up mash-up of American and British products, leaning towards the American side moreso than the Brit. And I guess that would be my overall impression of Oz, it’s not dead in the middle but leans more new world than old world. So perhaps it’s the perfect retirement or vacation spot for all of us confused people who inhabit the ether somewhere above the Atlantic.

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11 responses to “Americans, Aussies and Brits, Oh My!

  1. Very interesting. I had a good friend who was Australian when I lived in London. She always maintained that Australia was half way between America and England – culturally speaking.

  2. Why would you be delighted to find that Australia is more like America than Britain? And where does your nasty little strain of anti-britishness come from? I have lived in all 3 countries and and found Australia much more like Britain than America as in, for example, a good basic standard of living for everyone due to a welfare state and a decent minimum wage, no one dying for lack of medical care because Australia like GB has a nation health service, and a similar dislike of Americans for their bad manners and arrogance towards other countries. Oh, and like the Brits, we can spell properly!

  3. Sue–

    no offense meant and I am most certainly NOT “anti-British” although perhaps a literal reading (instead of the intended tongue-in-cheek aspect) of my words could perhaps give that impression.

    I was on holiday in Australia. I found that as opposed to my life living in Britain and being constantly “on guard” I was surprisingly able to relax and feel more “at home” in Australia, something which I was not expecting and which much improved the amount of R&R I obtained on the trip.

    It’s hard to compliment Australia on their medical care if you consider the mortality rates in the Aboriginal communities compared with the European descendants. To claim a high standard of living for all in Australia is to neglect the lingering racial divide, which was another aspect of my trip that I found fascinating and surprising.

  4. > America formally has complete independence while the Aussies still have to deal with the indignity of Elizabeth being the Queen of Australia.

    In what sense is Australia any less completely independent than America?

    Why ‘indignity’? It is Australia’s choice to have the same person as monarch as the UK . Several Commonwealth countries like Canada and New Zealand have the same arrangement, while others like India and South Africa choose to have presidents as their heads of state. If Australia chose to become a presidential republic, then as a power as sovereign as America, it could do so. The UK no more dictates what happens in Australia than Australia dictates what happens in the UK.

  5. hey, NFAH
    Great post for looking at Australia in a new light. You inspired me to visit Down Under. Even more than that new “Australia movie” did.

  6. > General attitude towards the Brits as stodgy colonialist bastards.

    Really? How is this supposed to work out?

    So those that currently enjoy the benefits of the British colonization of Australia complain about the colonization of Australia? They’d rather their ancestors had stayed in the home country? Doesn’t seem very coherent to me! But then I suspect it’s one of your little flights of fancy …

  7. Having just returned from a US holiday which included visits to Native American reservations, I find Notfromroundhere’s remarks about aboriginal mortality rates bizarre, to say the least. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.Incidentally, the reason the british Queen is also Queen of Australia is that we voted for her to be. In 1999 a referendum was held on Australia becoming a republic, and a majority of the electorate in all states and territories voted for retaining the monarchy. Just because the USA chooses to have dodgy politicians as head of state, dont expect everyone else to do the same.
    G’day from Oz

  8. Um, Sue, my point was indeed how SIMILAR the states and Oz were, and this includes the appalling treatment of the original inhabitants by the colonialists and generations since.

    As for the republic vote, most current observers expect an imminent repeat vote this time in favor of republic; to say that Australians “voted for” the Queen is both misleading and inaccurate. At very least the vote was to not remove the Queen, which is not the same as voting FOR having a queen. The issues associated with the previous vote werealso a bit more complicated than just “most people don’t want republic” and involved the lack of clarity of the form of government that the republic would take. With Rudd in charge now and a majority of the population supporting republicanism, it seems like just a matter of time (and establishment of a clear non-American-style-president or other head of government).

  9. > I find Notfromroundhere’s remarks about aboriginal mortality rates bizarre, to say the least. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

    Me too, Sue!

  10. > my point was indeed how SIMILAR the states and Oz were, and this includes the appalling treatment of the original inhabitants by the colonialists and generations since.

    It is strange, then, that this latter point was not mentioned in your post.

    > At very least the vote was to not remove the Queen, which is not the same as voting FOR having a queen.

    Could you explain the difference for me? How should the question in the 1999 referendum have been worded?

  11. Almost 3 years on is probably a bit late to be adding a comment to this discussion, but what the hell: geez, we Aussies can be touchy buggers, can’t we? This Australian doesn’t have any problems with the conclusions you reached in your original post; Sue Smith and Howard should just bloody well get over themselves.

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