One of the questions I regularly get asked, once I've opened my mouth and my accent is noticed, is what differences do I notice between the United States and New Zealand. That's of course, after I've explained that no, I'm not from England, Australia, South Africa, Scotland or, as one person suggested, New England !!
Even though we are both English speaking countries and belong to that conglomerate of countries known as the 'Western World', there are differences. Some of them have been cause for a certain amount of confusion and hilarity.
One of the first differences I noticed, was that you drove on the opposite side of the road. This, I was already aware of, but that didn't help when trying to cross the street. I learnt very quickly, after almost being flattened a couple of times, that I needed to look in the OPPOSITE direction, before crossing. While learning that lesson, I probably gave a number of drivers a small heart attack.
Driving was also an interesting experience. I constantly got into the wrong side of the car and will still do that, if I'm not thinking. I'd end up on the wrong side of the road, much to the consternation of any passengers or oncoming drivers! I was okay as long as I was going straight ahead and didn't have to make a turn. I'd go to flick on the indicator and the window washers would come on instead. I was also used to driving a car that had the handbrake situated between the driver and front passenger seats. I'd be groping around furiously, much to the puzzlement of whoever was in the car with me. I prefer , these days, to be driven rather than drive, probably much to the relief of the driving public.
Then there were my adventures with bathrooms, plumbing and light switches.
Light switches took only a short time to figure out. They are simply reversed from what I was used to. We flick down to turn on and up to turn off. Only time it really throws me, is when the bulb is blown and then I have to consciously remember which way is which, so as to avoid a shock. Light bulbs are different as well. Here (US) they screw in. In NZ you push them into the socket and twist and they lock in. First time I tried changing a light bulb here, I couldn't figure out why twisting and pulling didn't work. Almost pulled the whole light fixture out, trying to disengage the bulb.
Until I arrived over here, I didn't realise that there were so many ways to flush a toilet, turn on taps, run a bath or turn on a shower.
First night I got here, all I wanted was a nice hot bath. Sounds simple? HAH!! There was no sign of a plug anywhere and when I turned on the taps I immediately got doused by the shower that was over the bath. Someone finally took pity on me and demonstrated how to run the bath. There was this little lever that you pulled up that sealed the plug hole and another little lever that you pushed down, that turned off the shower so that you could fill the bath. Then there were the taps that you had to pull up and twist, the ones that turned on by themselves (my first encounter with one of those was startling, to say the least) and a number of other varieties. It seems that I spent my first couple of months trying to figure out the various types of plumbing fixtures. Like clothing sizes, nothing was standard.
Same can be said for toilets. I was used to toilets that you flushed, by either pulling a chain, depressing a lever or pushing a button. There was also a standard position for these to be in. There are no standard positions for the flushing equipment here. I found myself often having to hunt for it. I also encountered my first automatic flushing toilet. In fact, it was the first toilet I ever used in the US and it was faulty. It flushed while I was still sitting on it. Now, I have a small phobia that I've never really talked about. For some unknown reason I have this mild fear that something is going to come up through the toilet bowl and get me. It may have something to do with going to sit down on the toilet, when I was a kid and discovering an eel frantically trying to get out of the bowl. Whatever the reason, I would like to apologise to all who were using the bathroom at LAX, the day that a wild eyed woman, shot out of a stall, frantically trying to pull up her jeans. Not sure what I thought was in there, but I was not going to hang around to find out!!
The subject of language differences, deserves a new post altogether.
Oh and if you want to know why I have a toilet phobia, it can be found here
Now I guess you can understand why I have this irrational fear that something is going to rear out of the toilet and bite me bum :-)
8 hours ago