Late last week, the internet went into a semi-meltdown when non-Americans discovered something baffling about people in the United States: they don’t have kettles. If they want boiling water for a cup of tea, they boil it on the stove or (THE HORROR) they microwave it.

America flag

Obviously, a blanket caveat of #NotAllAmericans needs to be applied. I know, because some Americans do, indeed, own kettles. It seems more common to have the old-fashioned stove-top kettles over there, but still, it’s a kettle, right? However, discussing this with Americans has lead to some startling discoveries (for me, anyway) about small differences between America and Australia that I had no idea about. Here’s some of what I’ve learned, in no particular order:


Buttering your bread for a sandwich? Nope. It’s not the done thing in America, because you’re either using a spread like peanut butter, jelly (jam) or something OR you’re having meat/cheese/salad and therefore you need a condiment. Most commonly it’s mayonnaise or a mayo-like product called “miracle whip”. Or maybe mustard. Unless, of course, you’re making grilled cheese. Then you butter the outside, to cook the sandwich in a fry pan. There’s a good chance that mayo or mustard have been applied to the inside, with the cheese.

Also, fairy bread is not really a thing, probably in part due to the lack of buttered-bread culture over there. There is also the high sugar content in American bread that might make the addition of sweet rainbow bits a little excessive.

Power Points.

They don’t call them power points. They call them “outlets”, which is totally fine. The bit I found shocking (pardon the pun) was that they don’t have switches on their outlets. The power is just on, constantly. So they plug stuff in to use and then unplug it.

america outlet

Nursery Water.

In stores like Wal-Mart, bottle-feeding families can buy bottled water specifically labelled as “nursery water” which they can use to make up formula. This one really threw me because surely that’s just an additional expense? What even is it? It turns out, it is distilled water with or without added fluoride. I wondered why anyone would buy it. Then I remembered that they don’t have kettles, so boiling water to cool for a bottle might not be that convenient. Fascinating, right? Apparently it isn’t expensive and sold in gallons, because America isn’t metric yet.


Speaking of Wal-Mart…

Wal-Mart is a big department store selling all manner of things. Depending on state laws, you can buy guns there. If you have a caravan or camping trailer, you are allowed to stay overnight in Wal-Mart parking lots. You could literally drive around the country, staying in a new Wal-Mart lot every day. Fascinating!

shopping in america


Biscuits ain’t biscuits.

When I think of biscuits, I think of packets of Tim Tams, Milk Arrowroots, Monte Carlos or Scotch Fingers. In America, “biscuits” can refer to something else entirely. There are apparently sweet cracker type things that people call biscuits. The other definition is often served with gravy or buttered and drizzled with honey or syrup. From what I can gather, this type of thick, soft “biscuit” is what we’d call a scone, or something very similar. What we think of as biscuits would be cookies in the United States.

america- biscuit

They look like scones to me!

Home Set Up.

Three-car garages are quite normal and common. These are used to store multiple cars and stuff but also as a venue for parties.

Apparently, big bathtubs are uncommon. Everything is super-sized in America, except those.


A typical bath in America. I think.

Washing lines are kind of unusual, too. Most people have a dryer. There are homeowner associations that sound a bit like what we might call the body corporate here. These associations often don’t allow people to have washing lines due to concerns over appearance and property value. I have heard of similar things here, when I lived in flats, but we always had a washing line in the back yard that anyone could use. In America, even people living in houses will frequently rely on a dryer year-round.

Stuff in a can.

You can get lots of stuff in a can, including macaroni and cheese. Apparently (and unsurprisingly) it’s not great. It’s also how one buys ready-made biscuit dough (for the scone type biscuits).

Canned cranberry sauce. Hmmm.


They call them a grill and usually cook meat patties to have on buns with pickles and cheese and salad. If they do have sausages, it’s often bratwurst or Italian sausage, served with peppers (capsicum) and onion. They don’t have sausage sizzles at every opportunity, like we do. No fundraising sausages like we have at Bunnings and certainly no democracy sausages.

Burgers and beer.

Tea and Coffee.

All agree that coffee is pretty different in America. From percolator style brewers to what they call a “french press”, which is what we’d call a plunger. They also used a product called a creamer in their coffee. This is a powdered milk or cream substitute and is available in loads of flavours. I’m told it’s pretty great!

Iced tea is a very common beverage and there are special jugs available to make it. It has a part where you steep tea leaves or bags in boiling water and then a jug where you pour the tea over ice and seal the lid to combine and make an instant cold drink. Another version of iced tea, especially in the South, is “sweet tea”. I looked up a recipe and found that it involves four cups of water to 12 (12!!!) teabags and a whole cup of sugar! You can even, I’m given to understand, serve it over a shot of bourbon, for the adults.

And shitloads of sugar. Also, possibly booze.

Public Bathrooms.

We all probably know about American toilets having a higher water level. I didn’t know, though, that it’s very common for bathroom stalls to have significant gaps around the doors. I even found a Buzzfeed article on it after I’d been told. You could be doing your business and glance out the gap, making accidental eye contact with a stranger!

Also, there are public toilets in some areas, like parks, that have no stall doors. Apparently this is for crime prevention. I think I’d just hang on, thanks.

Words for Vagina.

There are loads of words to mean vagina (or, technically, mons pubis, labia etc- the whole group of biologically female sexual organs). These include: hoo haa, coochie, cooter, pocketbook and more. But never fanny, because that means arse. People talk about “busting someone’s fanny” and no one bats an eye, unless there is an Aussie or English person in the room!

Seriously, though. Pocketbook? What are you reading in there?!


Have you been to America? What other small differences did you notice?


#IBOT @ Capturing Life.

Cover image originally sourced via Pixabay, gifs via Giphy.


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