Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Terror in the United States

That will be me, terrified. Ok, I am exaggerating but I am very nervous about visiting New York. Thankfully we will avoid LA Airport, flying from Melbourne to Hong Kong and then to Vancouver, then flying to Toronto after our tour and then flying to La Gaudia airport in New York. We depart from Newark airport to Hong Kong and then back to Melbourne. This should all be fine. While I dislike flying, I am not afraid of flying.

Canada, I feel, is a little bit like us and much of what we do there will be part of a tour, so we shouldn't strike problems there, but the New York? Lordy, they use different words. Jelly instead of jam, fender instead of mudguard. While our accents aren't broad, they are still Australian accents. Will staff in diners understand us? Will they be able to translate metric to imperial where I plan to buy a pair of shoes and a pair of jeans, cheaper than I would in Australia?

Both R and myself have our own terrors of being chased down a New York street by a waiter shaking his or her fist because we did not tip, or for not tipping the correct amount. But don't you need to check your bill, sorry check your check to see if the a service charge has been added? All very fraught. Why can't service staff be paid a proper wage and not have to rely on tips? Ok, we must tip. 10% I will do, and if service is extra good 15%. If there are issues, I will simply say, I am Australian and we don't tip, and then run very fast.

It did not work in Vietnam when to a post card seller who asked where I was from and I replied Francais, and then he started to speak to me in French, maybe in New York when a threatening black man asks me for a quarter, it might just work if I say Je suis Francais and he will give up. How much is a quarter anyway? Enough to satisfy a beggar? Yep, that is what I will do. I will have plenty of quarter coins and give one to people to fend them off. Here beggar man, here is a quarter. Here waiter, here is a quarter. A quarter always solved problems in the US as observed by me in movies. You could tip a quarter, make a phone call with a quarter, or was that a dime, and get your shoes cleaned for a quarter. I will need lots of quarters. Great, currency and tipping down pat. I am feeling more confident.

But what about the nomenclature? I don't think it is acceptable to call a nigger, nigger. Blackie? Black person. I know, Afro American, whether he or she has an afro hair style or not. Hispanic without adding spiv is ok when referring to the Spanish colony types? Oh, this is going to be so hard.

Then there is the food thing. Whether it is Melbourne, Saigon or Paris, I adore a baguette. Bagel, I not like at all. Boiled bread with a hole in the middle? Why? I have determined that we will order one meal to share between the two of us. Why are the food servings so large? We even do that here at home, share a filled baguette for lunch, with some chips on the side. No, in the US that will be French Fries on the side? Look, I am using a term like, on the side. I am picking up the lingo already.

While I don't watch American tv now, I watched plenty when I was young. I think I will understand Billy Jo, Betty Jo and Bobby Jo perfectly well, and Kate too. Mr Ed had perfect diction. I also watched the laconic Columbo and I understood him well. I rather like the Brooklyn accent, especially when spoken by a woman. I'll be fine understanding the American accent......well, until someone says to me, hey bros, 'sup.

Just must remember to not use the word thong.

Aussie thong.


Non Aussie thong.

 

44 comments:

  1. Thong used to mean sandal here as well, now called flip flops to distinguish them from butt floss...
    American portion sizes; yikes! And still people complain they aren't getting enough food for their money. Tips are state-sponsored extortion in my opinion; you pay for your meal and then you have to pay more so your server makes enough to live on? And some restaurants/bars demand a portion of the tips. Pay a living wage! Having said that, I know the going hourly rate for wait staff here is $2.30 an hour. Yes, you read that right. So, I usually tip generously unless the service is awful... it's not the server's fault the wage law was set up to screw them.
    In New York, you shouldn't have any problem with people not understanding you and most folk here will be charmed by your 'Australia-ness'. Now if you were in the Midwest, it would be a bit different; after 14 years I still have to do translation duty for the Great Scot WAY too often and they still squint, spit out their 'chaw' (a nasty wad of chewed up tobacco) and proclaim "yew ain't frum around these here parts, are yew".

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    1. $2.30 an hour?? Seriously?
      I used to wonder why tipping was so important to them, now I know.
      And some of the restaurants demanding a portion of the tips seems terribly wrong to me.

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    2. Jac, I wasn't aware of the US calling flip flops, thongs. $2.30 an hour is absurd. What thought process ever brought about not paying people a liveable wage! Wether the Great Scot is broad or not, I bet people there really struggle with his accent. Thanks for the information.

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    3. Thought process? Here?
      This is what happens when corporations run the games; keeping people ignorant, brainwashed, and desperate is in their best interest. You really don't want to get me started on that.
      Definitely broad Scots, but you're right, they would struggle anyway. They struggle with MY accent, and I was born and raised here...

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    4. Jac, well I expect I already liked your politics, not that in the US either side seems to make much difference. I've known a few Scots over time, from those with lovely accents and perfect diction to those so broad, they were unintelligible.

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  2. Nervous ~ you have me worrying now. But you did forget a huge meteor falling from the sky or an alien invasion.

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    1. Carol, well there are earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes to worry about.

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  3. It sort of begs the question - why go? Plenty more of the planet and all that. We left the US in 2005 and have never been tempted to return even for a week. I don't dislike America or Americans - I just prefer Europe.

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    1. Craig, R has always wanted to see Niagara Falls and the US. I relented in so far as seeing New York. Not having been there yet, I can't say which I prefer, but I expect Europe and GB is more my preference.

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  4. You'll be fine Andrew. Americans love Australians. The tipping situation isn't as bad as you think (even I managed to figure out the sums in my head). And there are plenty of good food to be had (even if you're not into bagels)!

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    1. Ad Rad, I am actually looking forward to American food. I expect the American food we eat here is much cheaper there.

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  5. Goodness, you make New York sound like another planet. Our two weeks there last September was a complete delight. We travelled the subway everyday, queued to top up metro cards, queued to purchase theatre tickets, ate out a lot, made new friends at the local supermarket and became temporary regulars at a neighbouring Italian eatery.

    Don't worry about tips as the bills they give you helpfully state the equivalent tips for 10%, 15%, 20% etc. Also the terrific Metropolitan Museum has entry prices but you can pay whatever you feel like including a lower price.

    'New York, New York, the Bronx is up and the Battery is down'.....a great place!

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    1. Yes Victor, that is what I feel, NY is another planet. Thank you. I feel reassured. Working out percentages is not hard. Paying the correct one is the hard part.

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  6. Ummmm, nice thong (*~*)
    A quarter is 25 cents, i.e. a quarter of a dollar, surely you knew this? As for nomenclature, just call them all Americans.
    I think you'll be fine, no need to worry. Take lots of photos.

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    1. River, possibly I do know what a quarter but it would spoil the post from the ignorant Aussie. Yes, many photos.

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  7. We did USA in 2000, the dollar was worth 50c and it was at the end of our world trip with both my kids and the beer fairy, we started in New York stayed 24 hours we just couldn't aford to stay longer it was very expensiveThe rest of America was much easier on the money.
    All breakfasts were shared as no one eats that much when they wake up well we don't, and we ate at subway a lot
    Merle................

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    1. Merle, the way our currency is headed, it may well be that by the time we get there. We did buy some US and Canada dollars last year, so that has helped. New York is quite expensive from what we have seen. Neither of us like much to eat before 11 o'clock either.

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  8. Enjoy your trip. When you return home, you'll wonder what all the fuss was about.

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    1. Walt, the best I hope for is that I think in spite of what we hear in the media, it is a good place and the people are nice. Mind, I keep my expectations low when interacting with workers who deal with tourists all the time.

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    1. Fen, you better lose some weight if you want to fit in my suitcase.

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  10. Only once did I cock up in a major way. I asked a Los Angeles waiter for a long black (coffee) ... He was so upset with my racist speech, he called the manager to speak to me :(

    Accidental offence on my behalf, but isn't that always the way!

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    1. Hels, I am screaming....I would have done that. I did that in Newcastle in England and the worker was an Aussie guy and he was straight on to us as being Australian and he hadn't heard the term since he left here.

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    2. Have to commence again as i lost the comment. I would hate to have to tip a waiter, but i know why we have to. It's such a shame their award rate isn't higher, they are used to it. American accent is hard for me to listen to, it goes straight through me...some is good though.

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    3. WA, that is quite true. That is how the US works and while we may not think it is great, it is their country. I know what you mean about American accents, but there are so many different accents and as you suggest, some are ok.

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    4. Amazing to me how people can decide that some accents are okay but others are not. Accents just happen. Nobody chooses. Otherwise, Aussies would sound like the Queen, no?

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    5. Ken, I guess it just a matter of what sounds good to our ears. There are a couple of English accents I am really not keen on. In fact during my first visit to the UK, after four weeks or so, I was getting tired of the English accent and longed to hear an Aussie one, and then I did on the radio. But then for our last visit, I barely noticed accents.

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    6. Try speaking French or Japanese. Then you really get an idea of what other accents are. I think most Americans think the Australian accent is "cute" -- same as British accents.

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  11. Haha about the thong! I'm French and appreciate you made the distinction, which was never clear for me. I am also Canadian and do not feel much of a connection for the American mainstream culture. :-)

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    1. Julie, it is quite interesting how different Canada is from the US, and not just because of the strong French influence. If I am not sure, I've always found it best to refer to North Americans as being from Canada. US folk don't get offended, but if you do it the other way around, Canadian folk do.

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  12. You come through Vancouver Canada then? That is the closest you will be to Oregon. I don't know anything about New York. I've never been there. Pay rates for low wage jobs vary state to state. I believe the federal minimum wage is just over $5 per hour, but in Oregon, the minimum an employer can pay is $9.10 per hour or something like that. It's not enough for people to pay for living (apartment, heat, lights, medical insurance, car insurance, food) so it is a point of contention that many jobs are government subsidized because the employers don't pay enough, minimum, for a person to live.

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    1. Strayer, I bow to your superior geographic knowledge. Yes, I just heard today that some states have their own minimum laws. Here the minimum is about $16 an hour, barely enough to survive on. Without the culture of tipping, good service comes from happy workers who are decently paid.

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  13. They will love your accent and fall all over you. I'll bet.

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    1. Interesting Susie. I should think in NY they would be quite used to hearing Aussie accents. Bit different away from the big smoke though.

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  14. Hire a car while you are in New York and take R for spin. You'll enjoy New York - I've been a few times and still wunna go back.

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    1. Allan, there was a time when I may have been confident to drive in the US, but it was quite some time ago. Thanks for your reassuring words.

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  15. woo hoo big apple here you come. out of La Guardia you go through the new jersey Turnpike and coming out of The Lincoln Tunnel all Manhattan spread before you and the windscreen washers leap out at the first traffic lights. You will love all the street food vendors with carts in the gutters and the Met Museum has 16 rooms of old pianos and an amazing gift shop.

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    1. Ann, a turnpike and a tunnel? Whatever can they be? Well, a turnpike anyway. I decided how we would get to our hotel, using a bus and we will be taken to a short walk from Port Authority Bus Terminal, but of course now I forget the details and will have to research again. I do like a nice piano, and a forte is not bad either.

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  16. It's a trip fraught with horrors Andrew :) you made me laugh out loud again..

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    1. Grace, I have never felt as nervous about a foreign country as I do about the US, New York in particular.

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  17. Andrew,
    I'm sure you could Google tipping in the US to get an idea of the percentage assumed to be normal. As you and others have said, remember that many workers rely on tips to get an income that allows them to live. Sad but true, I fear.
    Personally, I've never had a yen to visit the US, maybe because of the same sort of fears and doubt you have, but both of my brothers have visited and have never had a problem. I'm sure if I ever went I'd find the same, but, ...
    Please take photos of the trams (streetcars) in Toronto, New York and Hong Kong (yes, there's a system opened within sight of the SoL).
    I'm sure you'll both be fine; share dishes, get the tipping right and remember the best hamburgers are seasoned with human sweat and cigarette ash.

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    1. Chris, yes I will before we go. I did not take enough transport photos in Europe and England, the disadvantage of travelling with others. Lol about the best hamburgers.

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  18. Aussies (not just you and your commenters, but others I know) feel about the U.S. the way Americans feel about France. They are intimidated. Really, there is not much to fear. In a place like NYC, street smarts are required, as in all big cities around the world.

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    1. Ken, I understand what US people must feel about French, but with my more English background I can take their attitude about the French.

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