As American As… Ruffles Potato Chips


Today was Cultural Day at my daughter’s primary school. 10 months into our tenure here in Australia, and I am still learning…

The kids were to dress in an orange shirt to appreciate cultural diversity, or they could wear something from their culture. They could also bring in a cultural plate of food to share with their classmates.

What was I to do? My daughter doesn’t have any orange shirts, except as it dawned on us as we walked to school, she does! Halloween is next week and didn’t she just wear an orange shirt a few weeks ago with a pumpkin on it? Now THAT would be both orange and American, but no, mommy wasn’t that smart to think of that prior to the day. Ugh. She also doesn’t have an American flag t-shirts, well that fit her any more at least. Most of her cultural shirts are from England, Spain, Scotland, and yep, Australia. She is half English thanks to her daddy, but again, that light bulb never switched on. She went to school in her uniform and made the most of it by saying, “At least I’m wearing blue!”

As I stood at the school, it felt like we were at the United Nations with delegates parading in their country’s regalia. Little girls from China in full silk dresses, a girl in an       I ❤ Malta t-shirt, teen boys in football (soccer) jerseys from Macedonia and Barcelona, Indian girls in saris, and kids draped in Italian and Aussie flags. And the food? Trays of Somalian and SriLankan casseroles, exotic desserts, and ham and cheese croissants wafted by me; even our neighbors carried Lamingtons with Aussie flags on each one. I just said 2 words to myself: Parenting Fail.

What could I drum up that would be considered culturally American? Baking an apple pie was out of the question on a weeknight (and hubby out of the country), plus we needed to give thought to potential allergies in the class. It couldn’t be anything that needed to be served warm. I can’t seem to find many American items here, except on my visits to Costco. And that’s just what my daughter brought in today (and sure to be a crowd pleaser), Ruffles potato chips.

All-American Ruffles

All-American Ruffles

Aside from the obvious takeaways here and knowing better for next year’s event, it really has occurred to me as the token American immigrant, I’ve never lived in a more culturally diverse place, than here in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. Not a day goes by that I don’t overhear different languages being spoken around me or meet someone who is only first generation Australian. Our nearest neighbors are Armenian, Filipino, Maltese, Asian, and… the token Aussie.

Bye, Bye My Amazon Prime, Hello Whiskey and Rye


basket-156835_640Since arriving to Australia, I’ve had to completely overhaul my atypical (to me at least) American shopping habits.

For one, my aversion to malls. Before I came here, I may have gone to a mall once a year and that was to go to the Apple Genius Bar for warranty service on my MacBook Pro, buy a last minute gift (even that would be a stretch because I relied on most purchasing through Amazon Prime) or return an item because it was more convenient that mailing it back.

Now, I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time at the mall. The answer is simple; it’s where you purchase nearly everything you need in addition to standard clothing, shoe stores, mobile phones, banks. Butcher, baker, (still looking for a candlestick maker), produce stands, seafood market, and nuts in every possible variety and flavor. Anchor stores are big grocery stores like Coles, Woolworths (aka “Woolies”), and Aldi. Add a Target or a Big W for housewares and the standard liquor warehouse. Yep, everything in one place.

My initial visits to the grocery stores were lengthy and mentally exhausting ones. I spent my time exploring each aisle in search of some semblance or similarity of products back “home”, reading a lot of labels, stocking up on all cooking and baking staples, converting measurements and currency, and just trying new things out. Steggles brand reminds me of Perdue, Uncle Toby’s is branded on Cheerios and other General Mills-like products, but Kellogg’s is Kellogg’s. Rice Bubbles are Rice Crispies and to my family’s dismay, there are no original Cheerios here, as the original Uncle Toby’s kind here is the multigrain. So far I’ve found zero breakfast cereals that do not contain sugar as one of the first few ingredients.

What I do love here especially is the produce. It’s huge, beautiful, freshly picked and usually a good price. Pick dates are usually within a few days to appearing on store shelves which makes it last longer and retains its freshness.

I also love the variety of certain items and am amused by the British influence. Where else can you find an almost entire aisle wall of canned beans? Or chocolate? Or dairy products like eggs, creams (dessert), yogurt, milk, and cheese? One major thing missing to my daily ingestion is half and half for my coffee. Why oh why does this not exist when there are so many creams but not even mixed with a bit of milk? Hopefully I am just missing something and I can find a good substitute; it’s full fat milk for me now. And canned tuna fish, in so many flavors, it’s unreal.

Tuna variety

Tuna variety

Finding the same products we like from back in the states has obviously been an expected major feat. There is a USA food store but I don’t intend to go there, as I know we will survive without everything we used to know and love. I do enjoy that Costco has a presence here and we have already made two trips there. Membership from the US works here so we will be good until renewal time. There are some comforts from home like Ruffles chips and the standard Kirkland items we use, like extra virgin olive oil and trash bags. Do not take them for granted Americans! All other trash bags in Oz do not compare to the strength of the Kirkland brand, hands down. Unfortunately we bought many brands and learned the hard way. Trash bags do not fail me now!

Now, it only makes sense that I can get housewares delivered by the likes of Target, Harvey Norman, Myer, etc., however I was thrilled to discover that the grocery stores deliver, and this includes wine, beer and liquor! Now that I’ve done the perusal and shopping in-store, my items are saved in my online profile and I can simply reorder. It’s a welcome change from ordering online and swinging by to pick them up like I used to. Delivery of our groceries along with our gin, beer, and wine made my break up with Amazon Prime membership just a bit easier to swallow.