Posted by: dsduffy | December 26, 2010

Observations from the Northern Hemisphere

Flags. They are everywhere.  And while being in the car crisscrossing the State of New Jersey with my two boys who pointed out every single one them, it dawned on me that there are not nearly as many flags displayed in Australia. “There’s an American Flag out my side Cameron! Look! There’s two!” Then we would pass a gas station (petrol station) and there would be ten, twelve, even fourteen (yes, they both counted each and every one) it was just amazing to see all the flags and explain to the boys why there are so many flags-a-flyin’. Because we are proud of our country, we are a patriotic bunch. And even once driving on one of the monotonous roads it brought a tear to my eye to see the stars and stripes, with that proud feeling inside.

I know I have brought this up before but the grocery stores, oh my goodness the selection! I stopped in my tracks in front of the salad dressing selection and just looked. Shelf upon shelf of options.I didn’t even look at the types, just the sheer amount of bottles, it blows my mind. And the “real” Target. I could peruse the aisles for hours, for real. I had to pull myself away from the makeup section after already spending an undisclosed amount of money the week before, because I need one more mascara (they are double the price in AU.)

Things are just big here. The cars, trucks, coffees, plates of food. Everything seemed to be super-sized (and no, I didn’t go to McDonald’s.) I felt tiny in my four-door sedan surrounded by SUV’s and minivans, Hummers and Excursions. And when I ordered a “tall” coffee at Starbucks (tall = small) it was about the same size as a large in Australia terms.

The Christmas spirit is alive and well here in the US. The lights strung upon houses, the blow-up snowmen and snowglobes set up on front lawns, reindeer antlers clipped onto car windows. Every store window decorated and employees wearing Santa hats or jingle bell necklaces. Coupled with the cold brisk air, it really just feels like Christmas here. People really get into the spirit here and it is definitely contagious.

My good friend had a great analogy about living in two countries: it’s like switching channels on the television. You really like the shows on each channel but they are so different. And that’s exactly how I feel.

Oh, and did I mention we are expecting a foot of snow the day before we are due to fly back to Australia? Yea, this should be interesting.



  1. I know what you mean about the selection here. After returning back to the states I spent a great deal of time overwhelmed by the BBQ Sauce selection at the grocery store. The section was about 15-20 bottles across and 6 shelves high. Granted all most all of them have high fructose corn syrup in them (an unfortunate American thing) but I couldn’t believe the selection after having about three choices at Coles grocery store in Australia. It seemed to us most things where twice as much in Australia? I very much do like your friends analogy about switching channels. That is how I feel too!!!

  2. Very interesting that your boys noticed the flags. As an Australian who visited the US for the first time aged 18, that was my FIRST observation there. Flags. Freaking everywhere.

    To an Australia, flags are for government buildings and war memorials and … that’s about it. It’s a symbol of the nation and hence belongs on national/governmental things. It makes no sense to us why a gas station or a restaurant would have or need a flag. And I couldn’t believe how many there were in the US. No offence, but the impression a foreigner gets from that is not a good one. It seemed like something that would be more appropriate in a totalitarian state like North Korea or somewhat, with national symbols all around, making sure the people stay brainwashed and blindly patriotic etc. Unquestioning that their country is the best and superior to all others.

    Now that I’ve lived for a while in the US I don’t really see it that way anymore. But that’s definitely the first impression I got.

    • I think that is where Americans differ from Australians, and I am sure other countries. We are patriotic. We are proud of who we are and are not afraid to show it. Especially after 9/11. Seeing flags displayed outside peoples homes and businesses makes me feel so good. When we arrived at LAX my eye was immediately drawn to a huge flag hung up and it brought a tear to my eye. I was home. Our flag is a symbol of freedom, it’s not at all like North Korea where they hang photos of the leader, that is completely ridiculous.

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