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How to spot an American abroad

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FEBRUARY 23, 2017

Being abroad is an amazing way to immerse yourself in a new culture and experience a way of living that’s different and exciting. Since arriving in Australia and living near the university I’ll be attending, I’ve began to notice that it’s quite easy to tell who is local and who is just visiting — namely, from America. There are some key traits that are pretty unique to Americans that, while in the United States are unnoticeable, make it all too obvious to tell who’s come from across the ocean.

Talking loudly

Americans, for no apparent reason, speak really (and I mean really) loudly compared to Australians. Whether they’re on the phone, on the bus or just speaking to a friend, their voice carries quite far and it’s pretty easy to hear the conversation they’re having. It’s even something I’m prone to do, and it takes my sister telling me to lower my voice to realize how unconsciously loudly I was speaking.

The ‘Merican accent

Along with speaking loudly, the American accent itself is a real giveaway. Americans, especially in comparison to Australians — who are known for being “lazy” with the language — enunciate their words like their lives depend on it. I still can’t (and don’t think I’ll ever be able to) roll my R’s, but it makes spotting someone too easy when they say they’re from “Califorrrrnia.”

Pearly whites

Ah yes, Americans really do take pride in having gleaming white teeth. While this isn’t necessarily a way to tell an American apart from a local, I can be sure that almost any American I come across will have a perfect set of choppers.

What’s that in Fahrenheit?

I still can’t wrap my head around degrees Fahrenheit (the extent of my understanding is that 80 degrees Fahrenheit is a “nice sunny day”). Americans have everything provided for them in the United States, which is definitely not a bad thing by any means, but it also means that they take their American-centric views with them around the world. This usually results in questions such as, “How many miles until the next gas station?” This trivia question would leave any Australian puzzled. It’s a petrol station here.

Tipping habit hobby

My friends in Australia have asked me the question, “Why do Americans love to tip?” This seems bizarre to me because nobody really enjoys parting with their money. What Australians don’t realize is that — and it took me a really long time to understand this as well — tipping is just part of the American culture, so much so that it’s rude not to tip. Americans have to realize, however, that they shouldn’t be tipping in countries that don’t practice this as part of their culture. While it seems strange to an American to not leave a few dollars after a meal, they should understand that Australians earn a far higher hourly wage than anywhere in the United States. Oh, and by the way, tax is already included in the price.

Football equals Soccer?

America as a whole loves football. That’s a given. It’s always funny to me, though, when they come to another country and can’t wrap their head around soccer being called football. It’s even trickier in Australia because “soccer” and “football” are used interchangeably, but “watching the footy” can mean either rugby or Australian football (which is a sport in itself, best described as a mix between American football and rugby). Oh, and don’t forget about cricket either.

The North Face, UGG & Under Armour

Americans are addicted to these brands and it’s usually enough to identify them in Australia with a look of a label. Trust me, I’ve definitely seen more Americans wearing UGG boots than Australians and it’s an Australian brand.

Ice, ice baby

This was not one I really  noticed while living in the United States, but Americans, for some reason or another, really love ice in their drinks. My flight to Sydney was full of Aussies (well, considering it was an Australian airline) and I assumed the people sitting next to me were, too. Later on when the cabin crew came around with drinks, the person next to me asked for a cup of soda and a cup of ice. Just ice. When the man filled the cup about three quarters of the way up, the lady gave it back and asked him to fill it to the top. With this already being a weird scenario, the lady confirmed her “American-ness” when she turned to the person she was with and said, “We Americans love ice.” She said it, not me.

So far, it’s been fun to play “spot the American” while I’m out and about. While they may be loud and boisterous, Americans are always friendly and never hesitate to start up a conversation with anyone anywhere. Plus, hearing someone order an Americano is an instant connection to home — even if it’s just for a minute.

Jenisha Sabaratnam writes the weekly Travel column on her study abroad experiences in Australia. Contact Jenisha Sabaratnam at [email protected].

MARCH 10, 2017