Saying ‘Goodbye’ to America: Part 1

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post on this here blog. The main reason is that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Sometimes writing helps my thinking, but recently thinking has been getting in the way of writing.

With five months to go until we leave the US and head back to Australia, I think I’m starting the process of saying goodbye to our home of the last few years. Everywhere we go now we take special notice of all the things we’ve loved about this country. On the flipside, all the things we’ve disliked have amplified recently and are driving us nuts. I thought it might be cathartic to start writing all these thoughts down.

  • I’m really going to miss where we live. We can walk to the shops, restaurants, brewery and cafes in about 5 minutes. I can ride to work in 10. We can ride to the library, bookshop, concerts in the park and most of our friends in 10 minutes. We can catch a ferry to the city and it only takes 15 minutes and is a lovely relaxing way to enjoy the evening or a sunny afternoon.
  • I’m going to miss all the fantastic events available here. Free local classes on gardening, bee-keeping, fermenting. Getting to sit in on lectures by people I found on the internet: Chris Martenson (The Crash Course) and Annie Leonard (The Story of Stuff). There is never any shortage of interesting things going on here. I worry that Australia is going to feel very ‘small’ in comparison. 
  • I’m going to miss the house we live in. It’s an older house on very little land, but it has three very mature orange trees and a dwarf apple tree. We’ve dug up the weeds surrounding the front courtyard, improved the soil with homegrown compost and now have a small but thriving vege patch. I’m going to miss that.
  • I’m going to miss morning walks along the Bay. I’ll miss seeing the ducklings grow up every year. I’ll miss the supersized seagulls which we don’t have in Australia.
  • I’ll miss the insects and birds that have now made a home in our garden. The bees, the hummingbirds, the Black Phoebe, even the caterpillars.
  • I’ll miss the people I work with. I work in an international office which means I make friends with people from all over the world. We also have some great parties. When the Spanish won the World Cup Final, we celebrate with fresh crunchy bread, salami, cheese, olive oil and Spanish Wine. For Bastille Day tomorrow, we are partaking in Croissants for breakfast. For Australia Day we have a huge BBQ with 300 of our closest friends! Canada Day: It’s Maple Syrup, Ice Wine and Moose Milk. Any Mexican holiday sees us eating tortillas and drinking tequila. And on and on it goes. With so many different countries represented here, we always have something to celebrate.
  • In general, Americans seem to be much ‘nicer’ than Australians. To your face at least, most Americans will be polite and friendly and will at least feign some interest in where you are from. I’ve become accustomed to people here commenting on your clothes, haircut etc and every now and then saying how nice you look. I don’t remember that ever happening in Australia…except maybe my wedding day and that was mandatory for all attending. 

 

  • On the other hand, I’ve found that Americans are not necessarily very genuine with their feelings. It takes a long time to get beneath the veneer. Australian’s generally are fairly honest about that sort of thing (sometimes painfully so), so I initially found it difficult to adjust to the difference in culture. I had an American friend who was clearly (to me) having a very bad day, but she painted on a smile and everyone around her chose to believe it. It’s a little weird and to be honest it makes it hard to believe people when they say anything to you. In general, ‘let’s catch up’ does not mean there will be any effort made. ‘Party starts at 6pm’ means that people will arrive between 6:30 and 7pm. Most Americans will leave soon after desert is served (usually by 10pm), while the Australians, Canadians, Spanish and Finnish will still be there at 2am. It took some time work out that this is not personal and to not be offended by it.
  • The sheer amount of waste here is heartbreaking. Lawns are watered every day (we live in the desert) and most of the time the sidewalk and street are liberally watered as well. People leave the hose running down the gutter while washing the car. The amount of trash is incompressible. The garbage bins (trash cans) in our street are easily six times the size of what we had in Australia and are often overflowing with waste. People here at work will use Styrofoam plates and plastic forks for lunch, even though I brought in real plates and cutlery for everyone to use. It does my head in.
  • I’m flabbergasted at the size of the SUV’s around here; usually with one passenger. Hummers. ‘Nuff said.
  • The bureaucracy here is unbelievable. Forms are lengthy and not intuitive. The banking system is archaic by western standards (although getting better). Telecommunications companies are frustrating to deal with. Anything that involves the Government seems to take forever and never works easily. Some days I seriously want to scream at the ineptitude. Lately, I just have to laugh and shake my head instead. Otherwise I’ll go crazy.
  • Important mail goes missing about 50% of the time. Unacceptable.

Anyway, that’s probably enough sharing for today. I’ll probably revisit this theme on occasion during the next five months.

Photo by: Der Ohlsen

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5 comments

  1. Oh, I want to live in the first part, that sounds like an awesome place! (I enjoyed my short times of living in the Deep South, and always wanted to go live in the US, like San Fran, or NY). I can see why you’ll miss that… hopefully you will find lots of exciting ‘sustainable’ things going on here in Canberra. I ahve recently joined a group I think you will like, SEE Change, and the Inner South faction are apparently into policy change and activism like that, the Inner North very active too, and seems to be more & more lectures/ talks/ forums going on… hey, Joel Salatin of Food Inc. and Fresh fame, is doing talks at a local farm here later in the year, so maybe there’ll be enough exciting stuff like that for you!

    The second stuff, yes, can see who that won’t be missed!!

    Thanks for coming back to blog for us, and for commenting on my post yesterday too…. I missed your intelligent and interesting blogging!!

  2. Best wishes for your move back to Aus. It sounds like you are well into the process of mental adjustment to this massive change. I hope it ends up being a positive experience for you.

    Kind Regards
    Belinda

  3. Yeah. Genuine feelings. Good luck with that in this country. I’m afraid that when I get around to drilling down past all of the Americanism and facades of the people I meet, there’s just a dry hole. Genuine feelings require some genuine thoughts about them. Thoughts are provided 24/7 by the ad agencies (that includes government propaganda and ‘schools’). It seems all of the wonderful things you enjoyed are California-based. The rest of America would be hard pressed to provide so many conveniences at the same time. Contrary to television, everyone can’t live in California; and when we consider the ‘genuine feelings’ issue: no one actually does. The international feel of your workplace is commercialized in Milwaukee. The summer is filled with weekly ‘fests’ from Summerfest (the music drinking party) through Oktoberfest (the drinking drinking party), all sponsored by the advertisers and breweries.

    Good luck Down Under. Don’t forget your case of spf50 sunscreen and a desalination plant 😉

    1. “Good luck Down Under. Don’t forget your case of spf50 sunscreen and a desalination plant”

      He he. I’ll probably start another post before I go back about the things I’m not looking forward to about Australia. I have fair skin and the Aussie sun does not agree with me at all!

      And yes…the lack of water in Oz is a massive issue. People seem to be finally waking up to the fact that we can’t keep adding to our population the way we have been.

  4. I agree with you about the amount of waste and size of SUVs. I’m so anti-SUV. It’s ridiculous when you get behind them on the road. Americans are friendly but too politically correct – to me that’s phony. You can be respectful, honest and not fake. I think that’s where the “issue” comes up. Good luck going back.

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