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Things I Miss About the US

Living abroad for over four years now, there are things I miss about my home country: USA. I have read numerous expats’ homesick lists and decided to make my own. Aside from obvious things, such as missing family and friends, I will include the top 5 things that I miss the most about living in the US. These are not in any particular order.

1. Food

Melbourne offers fantastic international cuisines, especially of the Asian sort, which I could never have gotten in my small-town America, but that’s not what I mean. I miss the idea of sitting down in a nice restaurant and not paying a fortune (i.e. Olive Garden, Applebee’s). I miss the sports-themed restaurants that weren’t trashy, but for the whole family. I miss “easy” food (i.e. Chipotle, Panera), where you didn’t quite go to fast food but it’s still “fast”. I miss REAL Mexican food.

Of course there are specific foods I miss (like Pistachio pudding for making Watergate Salad. Yum!), but the biggest things I miss about America are free refills, complimentary bread baskets, and drinks included with meals. Oh my goodness, why can’t my drink be included with the already over-priced lunch menu? And why must I order a $15 appetizer when all I want is to munch on cheesy bread?

The food selection is great in Melbourne, but I miss the way that eating out is in the US. It satisfies me completely, without an empty wallet.

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2. Shopping

This category encompasses many things, from customer service to paying with cards. In America, you can pay for anything and everything with a card and there are no minimum spending amounts for this luxury. In Australia, almost every place (except big stores) has a minimum you must spend in order to use your debit/eftpos card. Why? I still haven’t figured this out. It actually affects the way I shop. For example, sometimes I just want to get a coffee on my way to work, but I know exactly which cafes accept card and which cafes have a minimum. I will gladly choose a café with none of those rules, even if the coffee isn’t as great. Why? Convenience. I hate carrying cash, because I spend it more.

The other thing is store hours. The city is a ghost town by 5pm every day, and even earlier on the weekends. I understand that it is nice that people don’t have to work past a certain time every day, but sometimes I really need cold medicine at midnight or a random trip to get ice cream at early hours. Even the supermarkets close at 10pm, when I use to love doing shopping between the hours of 11pm-12am. I won’t even go into my evening coffee fix. Why does no one believe that someone could want good coffee (not from McDonald’s) after work?

Customer service… Customer Service… Customer service. I really don’t think I can say much on this without going into an outright rant.

The last thing I miss about shopping is the online shopping (and mostly free shipping). I miss the availability of items and not expecting to pay more than your shopping bag’s worth in shipping. It is depressing, sometimes, to look on Amazon and know that you can’t have something, because the shipping would cost too much.

3. Banter & Stranger Talk

This is something people do not understand here. I miss the people. I miss opening the door for someone at the bank and they talk about the weather or the construction on Main Street. I miss shop clerks asking about my day while I buy groceries. I miss the general attitude of people walking down the street, smiling and giving you a compliment. I miss being able to do the same without getting that weird look that I’m crazy or about to ask for money.

I once asked a coworker how her trip to the US was and what she liked and didn’t like. I enjoy knowing how foreigners look at my home, but something she said surprised me. She told me that the one thing she really didn’t like was that complete strangers would talk to her. It freaked her out. I was shocked and told her that was one of the things I missed MOST about home. I think we were both in disbelief that the other would like/dislike something like that.

I miss the politeness, the laughing, the making of friends easily. I miss getting jokes and making jokes and sarcasm. (I don’t know if it’s just my sarcasm but some people find it rude here.) I miss the culture, the sports (American football!). I miss belonging.

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4. Reading the Newspaper

Oh, how I miss reading the newspaper! During my university years, I would read three papers every day: the local, the State, the Country. I miss being able to read ACTUAL news and relevant things happening. I miss this SO much, because I prefer it over television news. I can’t even buy the paper here, because there are basically two kinds (both on opposite political spectrums) and the big news stories are about a puppy or an old headline with a new twist. Not to mention the advertising. It covers a WHOLE page sometimes, while the news article is shifted to the side. It’s more like reading a fashion magazine than an actual newspaper.

5. American Optimism

I miss the American can-do attitude that we seem to have. I didn’t realize this was a thing until I left. People are generally more optimistic about everything: weather, sports, future, etc. We have a go-get-em way of life and we never give up on our dreams, no matter how unrealistic. I love this.

There are small things I miss on top of these major 5, but I decided to stick to the biggest things that make me homesick while living abroad. This list is just my opinion and what I miss most, which may differ from other expats. Oh and one more thing I miss: Good ol’ American patriotism.

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Posted by on November 24, 2015 in Stream of Consciousness, Travel

 

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The Coffee Cupboard Cafe

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There are not many times when I am surprised with the flavour of my coffee but, boy, this place sent my taste buds into a party. I had started a new job for the Christmas season and was doing my training in a suburb far from mine. Therefore, I needed to find my coffee fix and fast so I googled nearby cafes (as we do) and found this little gem.

The Coffee Cupboard doesn’t look like much on a street that is trying to renovate their look, but the inside is pleasantly warm and cozy, like that perfect throw on a winter’s night.

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It had enough seating for a nook and was clean and inviting. The tables were littered with coffee facts and magazines, while they politely advertised their coffee selections.

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After making small-talk with the barista (was he the owner?), I ordered their house blend in the form of my go-to coffee: the flat white. Then I sat down after the barista told me that I could pay after I finished, not before, which is what I like in a cafe, because it creates a consumer-owner relationship rather than a fast food joint ready to get everything out of you.

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I flipped through a few coffee magazines as I waited for my flat white and then the barista delivered this beautiful stoneware mug to me, with a perfectly shaped heart. It was the taste, however, that gave me a punch. It was the best coffee I have had in Melbourne and this is not an exaggeration. I have never had a coffee as smooth, as sweet, and oh so perfectly brewed as this in Melbourne. It was beautiful.

I could go on and describe how wonderful this coffee was (compliments to the barista as well), but I feel you just need to go and taste it for yourself. I only wish it were closer to the city.

Without further ado, let’s get into the rating of this cafe:

  • Proximity: ☕☕☕
  • Quality: ☕☕☕☕☕
  • Price: ☕☕☕☕
  • Atmosphere: ☕☕☕☕☕
  • Service: ☕☕☕☕☕
  • Creative Connectivity: ☕☕☕☕☕

Total Rating: ☕☕☕☕ +.5

This cafe would have gotten a perfect 5/5 if it wasn’t in the suburbs and difficult to get to for people unless you are a local. I have already talked about the coffee so I will just mention that the cafe itself was a great space for writing. It had plenty of natural lighting, space, and a welcoming atmosphere. I would go here to write everyday if it were in my suburb.

Some fast facts about The Coffee Cupboard:

  • Coffee: $4 (50¢ extra for soy)
  • They don’t have a website but do have a Facebook page.
  • Their address: 37 Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds
  • I’m not the only one raving about their coffee: Reviews
  • Oh, the coffee!

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Posted by on November 14, 2015 in Australia, Cafe Culture

 

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Bean Counter Cafe

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I’ve mentioned Bean Counter Cafe before in one of my older posts and thought to rate this cafe first in my blog. Bean Counter has always been my go-to cafe for writing, because it is near where I live, it’s near public transport and shopping (aka people watching), is peaceful and has the atmosphere I look for in order to write.

So, let’s get into the rating of this cafe:

  • Proximity: ☕☕☕
  • Quality: ☕☕☕☕
  • Price: ☕☕☕☕☕
  • Atmosphere: ☕☕☕☕
  • Service: ☕☕☕☕☕
  • Creative Connectivity: ☕☕☕☕☕

Total Rating: ☕☕☕☕

I will explain my reasoning for each rating. I only gave Bean Counter 3 coffees for proximity because it is about a 12 minute train ride from the city and although it is near the local train station, it still might be difficult for some people to get to. I am always going to be harsh on the quality of coffee, because I married into a Colombian family and I haven’t had anything better than stove-top Colombian coffee. 🙂 Price of coffee around Melbourne is similar, unless it is specialty coffee or is located in the CBD. I tried to rate this cafe without bias, since it is one of my favorites in Melbourne. Therefore, I tried to rate the last three items fairly. The service at Bean Counter has always been fantastic. I’ve been going there for years and I see the owners of the establishment work the front counter many times. I find that an important part of the cafe culture. So I definitely recommend trying Bean Counter. It is one of the best cafes I have found in Melbourne for writing.

Some fast facts about Bean Counter:

  • Outdoor seating, indoor seating, courtyard
  • Coffee price: $3.70 – $5.40
  • Best muffins I’ve had around Melbourne (no joke! I eat a lot of muffins!)
  • Their Facebook
  • Really great iced coffees (with ice cream!)
  • Loyalty cards (which I always look for at cafes, since I drink so much coffee)
  • Displays and sells local art
  • Kid-friendly (with toys in the courtyard)
  • Even though it’s near the train station, the noise doesn’t disrupt the atmosphere
  • They offer a variety of coffees and hot chocolates, including single origin

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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Cafe Culture

 

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Cafe Culture

I go to a lot of cafés. This statement alone did not make me decide to start rating every one I go to. A friend, whom explores the many cafés around Melbourne with me, suggested that I start rating each cafe, since I tend to go to so many. Thus, I will incorporate this into my blog from now on. 

My rating system will be out of 5 coffees (☕☕☕☕☕) and based on:

  1. Proximity to public transport & CBD (city centre)
  2. Quality of coffee
  3. Price
  4. Atmosphere (decor, location, noise, etc)
  5. Service/Staff
  6. Creative Connectivity (how it gets the juices flowing)

Each of these six things will be out of 5 coffees and then averaged to get a total rating. Most of the cafés I review are in Melbourne, but because of my travels, I will review every cafe I go to. This is mostly for my own amusement, but I hope people will find it helpful. 

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2015 in Australia, Cafe Culture

 

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Christmas in Melbourne

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Posted by on December 25, 2012 in Australia, Holidays

 

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Puffing Billy

A railway track from 1900, a steam engine from 1954, an adventure in modern-day times.

The Puffing Billy gives you the experience of not only riding an old train, but of living in history. It is a traveling museum with authentic stations and volunteers who enjoy what they do. Riding the Puffing Billy is exhilarating for any train ride, because it gives you the chance to let your arms and legs hang over the side. So when the steam engine goes over a bridge that is only wide enough for the train itself, your heart beats faster and your mind wonders if there have been any casualties from falling off the train.

This is a ride for the young and old. It is worth the money and if you want something romantic and historic, try first class traveling, where you can dine as you take in the prehistoric views, which reminded me of Jurassic Park. It would also liven up the imagination if you ride the train while wearing 1900 clothing and pretend you are going to visit a great big new place and the normal mode of traveling is by steam engine and horse and carriage.

The Puffing Billy impresses, regardless of age, and I highly recommend it for fun, for the family, or for a date. So throw your scarf over your shoulder, hang your legs over the ledge, and enjoy the ride on the Puffing Billy!

The Official Puffing Bill Website

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2012 in Australia, Travel

 

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Pie in the Sky

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Australia

 

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