Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pound v. Gram and Other Challenges

Sharon and I always say Australia is like the love child of England and America, culturally speaking. We see the DNA of both cultures here. So, coming from the States, things are familiar, but just different enough to throw you off occasionally. One of the subtler changes I experienced is shopping for groceries.

My first solo trip to the grocery store found me at the deli counter. I ordered a 1/3 of a pound of turkey. The deli person looked at me blankly and I remembered Australia uses the metric system. I quickly tried to calculate in my head how to order metrically. My mind went through the paces: 1 kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds…let's just round that down and say a kilogram is twice as heavy, so I should cut the order in half from pounds to kilos… okay, I'm good. "I'll take 1/6 of a kilo of turkey," I said. Confusion still hung in the hair.

A native Aussie woman took pity on me. "You should order 300 grams," she said. She turned out to be right and I've been ordering 300 grams ever since, which I find amusing since the only time grams is mentioned in the U.S. is in the context of a drug bust.

The differences in measurement confounded me again when I went to buy fish. "$39.99/kg" it read. Holy crap, I thought, I can't afford to buy fish at that price. Then I remembered to convert it, which made it about $18/lb which is on par with New York City prices.

And I don't know any brands. When it came to buying peanut butter, I went for Kraft, thinking that as a multinational conglomerate their peanut butter would be suitably over-processed, indestructible, and delicious, just like good old Skippy or Jiffy back home.

This ignorance extends to clothing. 29 years of brand exposure went down the drain when I moved here. If I need a pair of slacks for work, what's a quality brand? What's just overpriced hype? You take for granted that this sort of knowledge is actually useful. Here's to learning all over again!

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