American, With a Few Aussie Habits…


Every time I have gone overseas, I have brought back a custom that I enjoyed on my trip.  I began to use colored clothes pins when I came back from France.  I said “bonjour” to my students when they walked in the door in the mornings. I began calling the person in authority “your man” after being in Ireland.  I baked scones upon my return from Scotland.

I have adopted several Aussie habits over the years, beginning in 1981, when Jen lived with me.  That’s when I began to use Vegemite on toast.  That makes me a very unusual American.  I really like Vegemite.  If you are not familiar, it is a B vitamin spread made as a by-product from the brewing of beer.  It is very dark and salty, and the best way to eat it is spread very thinly on grainy buttered bread or toast.  It used to be impossible to get Vegemite in the U.S.  Now, my Australians bring me a tube when they come to visit, and I have a pretty good supply.  A new Aussie practice I brought home with me this time is smashed avocado spread on toast.  Toast is Jen’s signature dish.  She makes wonderful toast, even when she comes to my house, and especially in her own kitchen.  Toast with avocado and poached eggs is a typical Aussie brekky.

Ten years ago, when I went to Sydney, I encountered a language barrier on my very first morning.  Ordering coffee became an unexpected challenge.  Did I want a Long Black or a Flat White?  Uh, what?  It turns out I wanted Flat White.  On this trip, I was prepared with my order at Ruby’s Coffee Shop around the corner.  What I was not prepared for was how much I liked Flat White.  So, I found out how to make one, and when I got home, I went straight to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and bought a milk frother.  Mmmm.

My new favorite animal is a wombat.  For years, I’ve loved the book, Diary of a Wombat, gift from my Aussies.  When I was in Tasmania, I got to pet a wombat, and watch her run around, up close and personal.  Wombats are sort of teddy-bearish, and are the cutest creatures, ever.

Since I came home, a couple of people have jokingly asked me why I didn’t have an Australian accent.  I’m not good with accents.  I had to practice for hours to learn how to say “G’die mite, aye ya gone” correctly.  I also was coached on the correct pronunciation for Kookaburra.  (It’s cook-a-bar-ah.)  I have, however, used a common Australian phrase for many years.  It’s “Good onya,” and it’s an encouragement.  Since Aussies shorten just about everything (McDonald’s is Macca), good onya becomes just “onya.”  I’ve been told that when texting, they sometimes just text “ya.”

I was thinking about how I have some Australian in me the other morning when I made my Vegemite toast.  Then I thought, “Onya, Deb.”  Isn’t travel grand?  You can take the girl out of Australia, but you can’t take the Australian out of the girl.

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