Australia Vs USA

I have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 2 years now so I thought I would list some differences that I have experienced compared with Melbourne.

Looking from the outside you could say most things are quite similar. Most of the population reside in coastal areas, our land size is similar, we have English as the primary language and a government is elected by the people.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Some of the differences that caught me by surprise are:

1. Sales Tax – each county has it’s own tax rate and can vary from neighbor to neighbor. In Australia there is a fixed rate of 10% so no matter where you go you can easily calculate the tax paid on items. Australia generally lists the total price you will pay for good and services. In the US most items are listed pre tax and you will need to add the tax in the final amount. Some smaller business actually include the tax in the listed price so that can also be a little surprise when paying for items as well.

2. Driving – I find driving in the Bay Area less stressful. There are definitely more cars and longer traffic jams but the roads have been designed for maximum traffic flow and drivers are generally courteous to each other.  In California the driving age starts at 16 so teenagers are getting experience earlier on driving to school which is normally a short distance. In Australia the normal driving age is from 18 and they have to have a plate on the car that labels them as probationary drivers. After seeing no cars being labeled here except for learner cars, I can see that the P plates do more damage than good. Having a P Plate on your car just attracts more attention from other drivers which can cause other drivers to go around because they feel they don’t want to follow an inexperienced driver. It’s the anti social behavior from other drivers that concerns me which includes tailgating and aggressive over taking.

The speed limit in the US is also not enforced as much as Australia. They understand that newer cars can go faster so they do have leniency. I have driven 70mph in a 65mph zone on a number of occasions when a police officer has driven right past me. It depends on the road and the officer but they generally have a grace of 10-15 miles in 65mph zones. I haven’t come across any fixed speed cameras but they do have red light cameras in some cities.

3. Government Services. Important services in Australia are generally run at the state level where as in America Cities have more control. Each city will have its own police department and fire department where as in Victoria it is managed at the state level. For example San Francisco Police Department and Milpitas Fire Department versus the Victoria State Police and Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

4. Switches – America doesn’t have any switches on their power outlets. To turn of devices you need to pull them from the outlet. Australia has switches on the majority of outlets which helps save energy and also is more safer when unplugging devices. Older houses also don’t have a central ceiling light in the bedrooms. These need to be installed or you need to use a floor lamp.

5. Choice – America does have more choice and sometimes it is overwhelming . Insurance is customizable, cars have a lot more trim levels to choose from, more choice in fast food, the list can go on in definitely. The reason for the choice is the size of the population. There is just a bigger market here so it can be work with more choices.

To be continued.


By Trung Tran

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