Australia Rocks
America Rocks

Speed limits that are actually dangerous to exceed. So few cops that there are signs up "Speed limits are enforceable". The law is fine as long as it doesn't get in your way too much...like the guy fishing while leaning against the "No fishing from bridge" sign on the Lake Tambourie causeway.

A phone system where all numbers have the same number of digits. You don't see numbers like "01 35 94", "0434 5345" and my cell number "0405 719 434". The area code is 02, but don't dial the "0", it's silent.
No worries. No problems. No dramas. High-energy scenes like Manhattan. Intensity is not a concept here. Aussie's I've met who have been in NYC can't believe what the saw...people playing first-person shooters to relax.
Vast quantities of untouched nature. Serious air pollution control (in LA). Sydney has some of that brown nitrogen dixoide haze I remember from the early 60s. LA doesn't have that any more thanks to catalytic converters.
Plenty of free time and a more active lifestyle. Nobody works late, it's an abdication of responsibility to your life. Drive times are trivial.

Calories. The calorie is already a metric unit, it's the amount of heat required to raise 1g water 1 degree C. (The English equivalent unit is the BTU.) Since food energy goes mostly to creating heat, we use the (kilo)calorie.

So why does Australia measure food energy in Joules, a unit of energy used for electricity? If you care figure how many Joules per second your body burns, that's your wattage (mine is 300). But you can't sell body heat on the grid.

No American-style "communities". Every ethnicity in the US lives in a gated community with armed response--some just don't have physical gates. (I met an Aussie whose accent saved him from being beaten for entering Oakland while white.)

We're pioneering a world community. So far, it's done great damage to America, and not appreciably helped the world. But I have hope.

Defensible borders not easily crossed by guns, drugs, terrorists or mass migration of low-skill people.

Work ethic. Too many Oz employees aren't interested in your needs; they're there to tell you what they're willing to do. I've encountered this once personally (no one I work with directly, some of them are productivity stars by any standards), but I've heard stories about much "responsibility teflon".

Most risible questions

1 - Do you dress up as Pilgrims and Indians for Thanksgiving?

2 - Is customer service better in the States?

What does the American accent sound like?

1 - "Like you taught a robot to talk" (Peter, Ireland)

2 - "All Americans have twangs" (Laurie, Oz). She means that when we say "day" instead of "die", we twang.

Most Off-The-Wall View of America

We're like Germans...we dominate the world because we're so organized, but Australians are much more individualistic and free-thinking and creative.

Everyone Hates Canberra

The first few times I heard that, I assumed it was for the same reason that all Americans hate Washington--it's a symbol of the federal government, which you hate no matter which side you're on. Not so. The proffered reason was that it's inland, up on a plateau, whereas proper Australian cities are costal.

But gradually a different subtext emerged. Australia has--believe it or not--an identity crisis. There's some dispute about who's a true Aussie. Australia is about Irish rowdy (New Zealand is about English prim). Aussies spontaneously tell me the worst thing would be to be mistaken for an Englishman. As the decades flow by, though, there's less opportunity to be Paul Hogan, and if Aussies aren't Paul Hogan, then what are they?

They're not sure, and it's uncomfortable.After all, Europe has a lock on high culture, America has a lock on pop culture, and Australia has...what precisely? Attitude? Cute animals? Barroom brawls to rival Dublin or Houston?

That's the problem with Canberra. It's educated, placid, burgeois. The capital is un-Australian.

Land of Ayatollahs

An Australian member of parliment said that one should be suspicious of religious people like him, "we've done terrible harm down the centuries". Americans seem to believe that morality stems only from religion; Australians believe that religion impairs it.

[This echos a turning point in my religious thinking. I held the American view until about age 9 when I was awakened by, of all things, the religious novel "The Robe". A centurion convert says that Jesus's word is the basis of morality; his buddy retorts that honorable men kept their word centuries before Jesus. At that moment the idea that without Christianity we'd have the Hobbesian state of nature crumbled, never to return.]

I've heard many times now how aghast Aussies are about American homophobia. They just don't get it. I gave my theory about it--you have to demonize other people to rationalize you being on the right side of a heaven/hell decision. That got a blank stare--who thinks about heaven and hell? An Aussie Christian, someone explained, gets married in a church and never sets foot in one again. OK, we were founded by Puritans, some of that lingers...but even secular people find same-sex relations vastly disgusting. Again, the blank stares. What's the big deal? I'd thought of it as a biological reaction...but now I'm wondering if the American attitude isn't learned.

Met a retired cop (Bob, a scuba dawg) who did American the Aussie way. He landed in San Francisco, rented a Land Rover, and camped his way up to Seattle and across to New York. While hanging out on one of the piers, he met a gay guy who has fled the Midwest because of religious persecution. (Like all cops, this guy immediately engages everyone he meets as though there were no interpersonal barriers. Occupational hazard.) The human cost hit home, and it was the first thing he wanted to talk about.

Austrlia is a Socialist Texas

Had to suppress a chuckle when I heard Sydney yabs called "rednecks". And when I saw outlaw bikers fly Confederate flag patches. The Oz culture war is never devolved into armed conflict or acquired the take-no-prisoners brutality of ours, so they haven't developed indigenous words. (For that. There's a dismaying range of indigenous terminology for everything else. Fair dinkum.)

Bob was a right-wing capitalist until he visited the US and saw ghettoes and barrios. He couldn't stomach poor people not being taken care of. I tried arguing that taking care of passive people isn't doing them any favors, but I don't think he got it, although he needed think no further than the Aborigines, who are famed for that. (The Aborigines got screwed similar to the American Indians. The kickass Maori by contrast, forced the New Zealand colonists into making treaties and actually upholding them.)

Now Bob says that neither system works. I'd have to say I agree.