Culture Shock in Australia: An American’s Perspective

Another feature in my Australia series. Moving to Australia for a while means I have to adjust to cultural norms. I don’t want to be the Ugly American–a tourism term for a foreigner bringing his or her cultural customs into the country he/she is visiting.

Although I do my best to not hold expectations when I travel, I still experience culture shock. In a matter of two weeks, I noticed several triggers that messed with my schema and left me thinking What just happened?

If you’re looking to see how Australia differs in culture, want to compare culture shock stories, or just want an entertaining read see my list below of my culture shock experiences.

Image result for mini coffee


When you come from America, land of the free and home of the Supersize, you tend to get used to your daily ordering options. That was my first mistake when entering Australia because after depriving myself of caffeine in honor of my flight skincare routine I naturally wanted to down a LARGE cup of joe.

Only, I didn’t expect when I ordered a large latte to receive half the normal ounces I usually drink in my working morning. My first week I continually experienced this phenomenon of ordering a large coffee and it arriving as a regular small American sized coffee.  It turns out, we Americans really do Supersize.


In Ireland, I noticed a lot of clerks, bartenders, and other working crowds used a greeting like You okay? as a way to merge hello and how can I be of service today. I didn’t find this very shocking because I have this type of greeting myself.

It’s safe to say I didn’t feel the same the first time I was greeted in an Australian store. Everyone knows of the stereotypical  Aussie greeting G’day mate!  but I wasn’t prepared for How are you going? 

I’m used to how is it going and how are you, but the two combined didn’t process well for me. After hearing it so often, I’ve adjusted and no longer stop in my tracks upon hearing this salutation.

Not in America

Contactless Payment

Why did the USA just get contactless payment when Australia has used it for years. Most people look at me with inquisitive brows when I insert my chip card into the machine. Once I explain that I don’t have the ability to tap and go I always feel like the lengthening line behind me has labeled me as the new dial-up.

Mop Buckets Rubbermaid Commercial Products WaveBrake 35-Quart Commercial Mop Wringer Bucket with Wheels

You read that heading correctly.

In the countless jobs I worked during my teenage years, I  pushed around a monstrous hefty two-piece yellow awkward contraption that involves an extensive amount of arm strength to squeeze excess water from the mop. I’ve only ever known this type of a mop bucket, which is why I was overly enthusiastic about Australian mop buckets.


I had no idea different mop bucket contraptions existed until one fortunate night. I helped a friend clean up a mess and that’s when I discovered the level of efficiency I missed throughout my young working days. Mop buckets can be compactable, user-friendly, and don’t require anything but your foot to squeeze the mop!

I was so excited about my new discovery, that I actually used it as a conversation piece at one of my networking events. The person I was discussing this discovery with actually found my description of a giant mop bucket to be rather appalling. After experiencing the magic of a small mop bucket,  I have to agree with her.


I think I must wear a sign on my back in the US which indicates I am not approachable. Evidently, that sign got lost during the flight over to Straya because I can’t believe how many times I have been approached and asked for my calling card.

It isn’t in a vulgar manner and I have not been catcalled-as that’s illegal in Brisy anyway. Often, conversations that start randomly out of a one-sided interest usually turn into a  nice conversation with a potential of swapping contact details. I just can’t believe how forward Australians are when it comes to asking a person out to Maccas. I have stories that I can tell later, but that’s for another article.

American Influence

KFC, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Krispy Kreme are all in Brisbane and spread around Australia. The one company I am shocked to find reoccurring so often, though, is Subway. I never knew it was so popular. I feel like I can’t walk five blocks without seeing a Subway. It’s almost nostalgic for me because it used to be the dinner place for on-the-road sporting events throughout my high school years. So seeing it so often makes me realize I should probably hit the gym… and that reminder occurs every five blocks.


there is an entire video on it and I am not about to create an entire dictionary of slang words Australians use. however, I will give you my favorites and ones I’ve picked up on. 

Avocado – Avo

Brisbane – Brisy

Definitely – Defo

Air conditioning – Air Con

Pregaming – Pres

Afternoon – Arvo

McDonald’s – Maccas

No dramas – No worries

Operational Hours

Everything closes SO EARLY. I get off work around 4 and only have an hour to run and get the things I need before stores start to shut down. It doesn’t pose a problem but it does mean I need to be more strategic about my shopping habits. I’ve lived in a retirement community before but I realize how spoiled Americans are with the stores closing at 9 and 10 at night.

Featured photo credit: Creekstar Allan

Be sure to comment below what your favorite culture shock moment was while traveling. I look forward to reading them. For more travel posts, subscribe below.

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About the blog

Kenzie is based in Minneapolis, MN and works as a writer, reiki practitioner, and administrative assistant. To connect with her, please use the contact page.


One response to “Culture Shock in Australia: An American’s Perspective”

  1. […] culture allowed me to immerse myself with other people from around the world. Being one of two Americans in the program allowed me to view the world through other cultures’ eyes and it was an […]


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