What to Expect When Australians Visit New York

I’m Australian, so obviously I have Australian friends and family. I’ve been in New York just under a year and in that time have seen 12 friends and family members here. Some had already planned to come before I moved, and others decided to come partly to see New York and partly to see me.

It took me time to get used to things here, and I know some things are different to home. I also know some things here seem really exciting and cool when you don’t live here or haven’t been before. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it was like the first time you came here but other times, you have zero patience for things you’ve already done that your friends want to do.

Here’s what to expect when an Australian comes to visit you in New York:

“Why Don’t They Just Add Tax to the Price?”
This conversation will happen everywhere, over and over and over and over, even though the answer was explained in the first conversation.

Here’s the thing, no one really knows why the sales tax isn’t included in the price you see on the shelf, on the menu, or on the board. No one knows exactly how much it’ll be when it comes time to pay. And whingeing about it every time you underestimate the cost of something will not change the fact you have to fucking pay it.

This conversation is the worst when the check comes at the end of a meal. Generally, we split the bill equally here unless someone went crazy on drinks. Restaurants, bars, and cafes don’t have an issue with taking multiple cards like they do in Australia. Try asking someone in a cafe in Sydney to split the bill equally between four people, all on different cards, and see how that goes.

But watch a group of Australians get a check here.

Australian one: “Wait, how much was that?”
Australian two: “Mine was only fiftee – oh, why is it that much?”
Person who lives here: “Yeah guys they added sales tax.”
Australians: “What? Ugh why can’t they just include the tax? In Australia you know how much things are when you order them!”
Person who lives here: “Shut up.”

“10% is an OK Tip, Right?”
No you tightarse, it’s not. I don’t care that we don’t tip in Australia and I don’t care that you think the service doesn’t warrant anything over 10%. That isn’t the point.

The person serving you doesn’t set the prices, and they don’t set their own wages. Yes, it’s indicative of a bigger problem but the fact is, waiters and bartenders get paid nothing. Help them out when you can.

Are They Meant to Pour That Much Alcohol in My Drink?
In Australia, alcohol is very expensive and very regulated. A vodka soda there will cost you around $9, and it will only contain one shot of alcohol. Here, it might cost the same and you might have had to tip someone $1 for it but my God it’s worth it.

Australians will whinge about the cost until they watch the bartender pour that drink without measuring it. They’ll then look at you like “Did they make a mistake?” then proceed to get hammered off three drinks. It’s not a mistake. It’s the best damn thing ever, and god help me when I go back to Australia.

“Let’s Go to (Insert Tourist Attraction Here)”
I’m sure people who live here have the same conversation with people places other than Australia, but this is something I have gone through multiple times.

I tend to not enjoy being in crowded places – and I do see the irony in that statement considering my current location – but there are many places in New York, Brooklyn especially, that are lively and interesting without being full of tourists. Your usual New York attractions are a completely different story:

  • Times Square is the worst fucking place on earth
  • The Empire State Building takes forever to get to the top of, and it’s also boring
  • Rockefeller Center is full of chain restaurants
  • Top of the Rock attracts every annoying tourist with a DSLR in the world
  • Central Park is OK if you don’t have allergies (which I do, so)
  • Midtown streets are boring and ugly, especially around Macy’s and Madison Square Garden
  • The Staten Island Ferry takes a long time and you can’t see the Statue of Liberty that well anyway

And so on.

The worst though is when you have a friend coming for New Year’s Eve. I’m lucky to have had great New Year’s Eve experiences. I’ve been to multiple Falls Festivals, thrown house parties – the clean up was worth it to not have to deal with public transport – and I’ve been to the event they have at Opera Bar looking out at the Sydney Harbor fireworks for free.

It’s summer in January so the weather is generally pleasant and warm. Being outside isn’t a problem, and there’s always a lot of room to move around if you’re at an event.

It’s not like that here in January.

My friend made plans to visit me for Christmas and New Year and in our first conversation about it, he tried to make me agree to go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. This continued for the five months between him booking his flights and arriving in New York.

times square

Every single person I know here made a face and said “no” when I mentioned the possibility of Times Square on NYE. Finally, on New Year’s Eve when no one wanted to pay $600 for a ticket to a crowded bar full of tourists, we went to my friend’s party.
We got to see the trainwreck that was Mariah Carey, the crowds of people wearing diapers, and the ball drop (still don’t even know what that is) on TV from the comfort of a warm bar.

Australian friends and family, keep coming to visit me. I love seeing you and I love showing you around. Just don’t ask me to go with you to Times Square. Please.

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Justine McNamara

I'm an Australian living in New York. I work in marketing but I write about music, New York, and my own personal experiences.

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