Coda: Some Random Observations

These are just some quite literally random observations – thing that we noted during or after our trip that we felt were worthy of a remark or two.

It’s easy to go on trips like this, particularly to foreign countries, and expect massive differences. Yet one of our biggest take-aways wasn’t how different we are, but just the opposite – how much is the same. Yes, I realize we didn’t venture out of English speaking western civilization, but different countries in different hemisphere that take 14 hours of jet flight to get to would seem to imply more differences than there actually seemed to be.

On TV the politicians were politicians, on the roads traffic was traffic, (and bad drivers bad drivers), stores were stores, worries were worries.

People were people.

I don’t know, maybe it’s a frivolous observation, but I came away feeling closer to the people of Australia and New Zealand, not further away. The similarities far outweighed any differences.

Not that there weren’t differences :-).

  • Listening to music, be it in cars, buses, hotel rooms, whatever – we felt like we’d traveled back to the 1980’s. Or 70’s. Or even 60’s. I’m not sure I heard any current popular music. Not sure why.
  • Speaking of which, aside from a few TV series imported from the US that were one year behind (last year’s “House” was premiering as “new episodes”), which I can understand for distribution reasons, a lot of the TV we stumbled into were reruns of U.S. TV shows from the 80’s. Or the 70’s. Or even 60’s. It was kinda weird, especially for two countries that are the settings and production locations for so many TV shows and movies world wide.
  • I hope the average Aussie or Kiwi has more TV choices than their hotels. Yes, we’re used to a couple hundred channels here at home, but 3? or 8? Filled with those decades old reruns … or cricket?
  • Cabbies were friendly! Talkative! Helpful! And they spoke English! U.S. cab drivers could learn a lot.
  • In Australia the Two Dollar coin is smaller than the One Dollar coin. In New Zealand, it’s the (more sensible) reverse. Neither have paper money less than 5 dollars.
  • It’s called tomato sauce, not ketchup. It’s spicier and not as sweet as our version. And I suspect it’s there just for the Americans.
  • Sydney residents call themselves Sydney-siders.
  • One of the funniest signs we saw in New Zealand: “This product was tested on Australians!”
  • Many people think Australia is dry, but it’s only western and central Australia that is so arid. Eastern Australia has tropical and temperate rainforests and an abundance of rivers and lakes.
  • Vegemite is yucky. (We actually learned this before we left.) And yet it’s available at breakfast in Australia. I can’t for the life of me understand why.
  • Scones are much beloved by both Aussies and Kiwis. I just wish more had been available that didn’t have some kind of fruit in them.
  • The Bio-Security folks at the Queenstown airport were very friendly. For some reason, they wanted to clean the bottoms of our shoes for us, so we let them. After all, it’s not every day someone offers to scrub the sheep poo off your shoes for you. (New Zealand is serious about keeping out foreign seeds, parasites, bacteria and other things people might inadvertently bring in on their shoes.)
  • Both Aussies and Kiwis should learn to use sunblock. I’ve never seen so many tans and burns in my life.
  • I don’t understand the fascination with meat pies. They were everywhere. I guess I prefer my pies to be sweet, not savory.
  • We were both surprised at the number of chocolate shops, especially in Australia.
  • What is it that makes Aussies and Kiwis so friendly? Is it something in the air? The water? Whatever it is, the U.S. could use a good dose of it, and also a dose of the national pride we saw in both countries.
  • Something neither country has to thank us for: the McDonalds, KFCs, Subways, Burger King equivalents and other fast food outlets we saw. We apologize for exporting them to both Australia and N.Z..
  • We were surprised at the number of Aussies and Kiwis we met who had traveled to Europe and/or the U.S.. I’m sure far more of them have traveled than of us, so to speak.