Why aren’t Australians visiting the US?

In this article, the writer asks why aren’t Australians visiting the US. It’s by far not the only piece I’ve seen about the subject.

Let me give a few perspectives of my own. After all, I went to the US for a month a few years ago, and also, I have children who are of the backpacking age group.

I think there are three main reasons.

In the first place, and most importantly, the place is bloody expensive. This will wax and wane with the exchange rate, and the exchange rate isn’t particularly good at the moment. This overshadows all other reasons.

In the second place, it’s the sense that everyone is constantly afraid of something. The guns.

It is enormously confronting to see everyday people walking around with assault weapons.

I remember how disconcerting I found that in Italy, and those were military police at border crossings. Even street police in Australia do not usually carry guns.

The feeling that people in the US are continuously fearful also extends to other aspects of public life.

One time I saw an old woman in the street yelling at ghosts in her head. The police had cordoned off the entire street for an (their words) “incident”. A little grey haired lady with a shopping bag on wheels. A hug would probably have solved her funk.

Americans are nice and kind people, but this kindness does not extend to public life.

My daughter and I brought coffee and pastries at a shopping centre and then could find literally no public bench or a park lawn or a garden wall to sit on (or any spot that didn’t have spikes or sloped uncomfortably). So we ended up sitting on the curb next to the car (a really charming spot!). Then we got shooed on by security guards.

There are not many times that that needs to happen to you before you start to feel unwelcome and uneasy.

This goes hand in hand with the abject poverty and that so many people live in tent cities on the road verges as outcasts to be feared. Sure, we have a population of homeless people in Australia, but at least they have public spaces that they can use. They can sleep on benches in parks and under overhangs like bridges. They still get shooed on, but man! Spiked walkways? WTAF?

Thirdly, a reason for not being so keen to travel to the US is the culture of tipping.

It’s not so much about the added expense (although there is that), but the feeling that people are being tricksy about money. Basically: If you want me to pay 20% extra, just be honest about it, put it on the bill and I’ll pay it, instead of leaving me to judge or decide (or, as it may be, forget).

There is no rulebook about where and when you’re supposed to do this. Which leaves you embarrassed if you forget (which, being Australian, happens all the time), and leaves you without cash, especially if you’re travelling (and why do all these people still use cash anyway?). No one expects to be tipped in Australia. No one. It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

All this is an immense pity, because the US is an incredibly beautiful country. I never say never but I’d have to think really hard before I’d want to go there again. I’m clearly no the only one.

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