Travel Scoops — Who wants truth in advertising? Australians: “yes”; Americans: “maybe not so much”

Homebaked, fresh bread -- a must for Vegemite

Concentrated yeast extract: aka. Vegemite.

Steph’s note: I’d like to introduce a new feature, “Travel Scoops,” in which I will highlight travel observations, interviews, news and finds. 

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How do cage eggs, scones topped with clotted cream, toast spread with concentrated yeast extract and coffee pressed by a plunger sound for breakfast? To an American, these items sound more like a line-up rejected by the Food and Drug Administration. Many Australians, however, gladly consume these products at “brekkie.” In fact, they may even flashback to childhood while eating some of these comfort foods.

french press with plunger

A French Press.

USA: Glam it up

Americans, instead, go for “farm fresh eggs,” “scones with “Devonshire cream,” and coffee made in a “French Press.” Forget the concentrated yeast extract (Vegemite) altogether. Americans, who, occasionally, are accused of being superficial, want products to have pleasing connotations. Remember, we’re talking about a country where the government has referred to torture as “enhanced interrogation,” and sports organizations admit that athletes use “performance enhancing drugs” rather than steroids. We definitely like things enhanced — or at least glammed up a little. I once worked for a temporary agency that offered me a “paper manipulation” gig. You mean filing?

Dumb ways to Die poster

Australia: Tell it like it is.

Recently, while living in Australia for one year as an exchange teacher, I noticed Australians, on the other hand, are direct and straightforward. They don’t sugar coat anything. After all, this is a nation that labelled Vegemite, its favorite spread, as “concentrated yeast extract;” created boots called “Uggs;” named a popular discount retail outlet, “The Reject Shop;” and promoted train safety with the hugely successful public service campaign dubbed, “Dumb Ways to Die.”

You are what you market.

Essentially, the product names and the marketing messages of a specific country tell us quite a bit about that nation’s personality. In fact, marketing, in general, reflects the tastes, attitudes and values of a nation’s citizens.

For example, since Australians are typically direct and, of course, “no worries,” those character traits influence their marketing strategies. “Australians tell it like it is, and we don’t stand for bullshit,” says my Aussie friend, Amy Frazier, who is a photographer and language arts teacher. “We don’t beat around the bush.” 

toilet

Australia: Time to use the “toilet.”

Straightforward communication is just part of life in Australia where, daily, I heard newscasters announcing which streets were hosting active speed cameras. “Take it easy driving on Cheltenham Parade today. The cameras are on.” Public Service Announcements warning about flu season show snot and mucus spraying full on from convulsing noses and contorted mouths. Additionally, in public places, people ask to use the “toilet” rather than the “bathroom” or “restroom.”

USA: “Toilet” = TMI

While Americans appreciate the truth, we also cringe with too much information. When I taught high school in Adelaide, I was somewhat stunned the first time a student said: “Excuse me, Miss, I need to use the toilet.” Whoa, I don’t really need specific details. For Americans, “toilet” already is implied in “bathroom.” On the contrary, according to Scott Hill, another one of my Australian teacher friends, “When some of my kids say, ‘Can I go to the bathroom,’ I say, ‘What? Are you going to have a shower?”

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Priceless Products and Packaging: Truck Stop Treasures

Nebraska. This flatland is actually quite pretty.

Nebraska. This flatland is anything but plain.

Eastern Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Southern Minnesota, USA:  December 2014

One may think that driving through the flat land of Eastern Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and Southern Minnesota could be a mind and butt numbing prospect, I’m not going to lie. There are some stretches that certainly induce a conscious coma. However, someone dreading this drive in a minivan with the family during winter around the holidays simply isn’t looking at the positives.

Positive One: Reading! Kurt, my husband, decided to drive the entire route on Day 1, so I caught up on my reading, Marco Polo Didn’t Go There by Rolf Potts. It was quite pleasant, actually, at least for me. Additionally, I tweaked my knee after falling while skiing two days before our road trip (more to come on that in another post), so I had no choice but to stay off it while in a car.

The snow blizzard ghosts can be quite hypnotic.

The snow blizzard ghosts can be quite hypnotic.

Positive Two: Ground Blizzard Ghosts.  Also, when driving through Nebraska, you can enjoy the swirling of mini ground blizzards. The light snow churns up in whirls and patterns, and as a nerdy English teacher, I can’t help but think of Henry David Thoreau and a passage from Walden:

For the first week, whenever I looked out on the pond it impressed me like a tarn high up on the side of a mountain, its bottom far above the surface of other lakes, and, as the sun arose, I saw it throwing off its nightly clothing of mist, and here and there, by degrees, its soft ripples or its smooth reflecting surface was revealed, while the mists, like ghosts, were stealthily withdrawing in every direction into the woods, as at the breaking up of some nocturnal conventicle.

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Travel Oops: Just Trespassin’ Through

Our unapproved tent behind the pergola on private property near Dominguez Canon, Colorado

Our unapproved tent behind the pergola on private property near Dominguez Canyon, Colorado

July 14, 2013 — near Dominguez Canyon, CO, USA

At seven in the morning, my husband Kurt unzips our tent door from the inside. Through the open flap and the a.m. mist, we see a balding man in shorts and a ragged T-shirt approach with a dog.

“I guess you didn’t see my no trespassing sign over there,” he states matter-of-factly.

Our raft secured to the pergola.

Our raft secured to the pergola.

The owner of the private land on which we had just tented without permission, Ewell, stands just outside our “illegal” nylon shelter. Kurt and I expected a scenario like this but we still aren’t ready for it.

“We are so sorry,” I begin to apologize and Kurt gets out the tent.

“We were trying to meet up with our friends in Dominguez Canyon,” Kurt explains. “And we misjudged how long it would take and we ended up rafting in the dark and we heard rapids, and we pulled over here.”

“We have kids,” I blurt out.

Eddie and Kasey being licked by Odie.

Eddie and Kasey being licked by Odie.

Ewell surveys the scene.

“So, basically, you guys were in trouble,” he says and then comes closer to the tent.

“Let me see these kids,” he moves the unzipped flap over and his labrador bounds through, tackling my son Eddie and licking him and my daughter Kasey all over.

“That’s Odie,” Ewell says. “And he won’t hurt you.”

Leave it kids and a dog to break the ice.

And we needed to break the ice since we were completely staked out on this guy’s property, which turned out to be an orchard next to the Gunnison River.

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Signs of the Times: Hey, Audrey — Cut that Crumpet with a Chainsaw!

Audrey is good with a chainsaw and good with the troops.

Audrey is good with a chainsaw and good with the troops.

All I have to say is that Audrey must be pretty badass. After teaching To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for 10 years and having an annual “Boo Radley Day” where my students and I carve Ivory soap sculptures with plastic knives, I can only imagine what it must be like to whittle wood with a friggin’ chainsaw.

Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

Not to mention that one just doesn’t expect a chainsaw wielding woman to necessarily be named Audrey. I keep thinking Audrey Hepburn and cutting a crumpet for breakfast with a chainsaw at Tiffany’s just seems a bit off.

By the way, I’m not saying Chainsaw Audrey isn’t as elegant as Audrey Hepburn.

At any rate, Chainsaw Audrey is darn impressive with her creations.

Audrey's chainsaw offerings in Cañon City, CO

Audrey’s chainsaw offerings in Cañon City, CO

Stop by the next time you are just outside Cañon City, CO

Stop by the next time you are just outside Cañon City, CO

Signs of the Times: “Leave your fancy footwear behind — oh, and your feet, too.”

© Sue Browne 2013

© Sue Browne 2013

Yangon, Myanmar. I love this sign, and it’s actually pretty famous in terms of funny mistranslations from around the world. Good family friends visited Burma earlier this year and took this photo. I’ve since seen it in Lonely Planet’s Signspotting and other blogs. I think it goes particularly well with the photo below.

© Stephanie Glaser 2013

© Stephanie Glaser 2013

McDonald’s, Colorado Springs, CO, USA. This completely cracked me up. I can’t imagine running in heels after toddlers in the first place. In fact, I only started wearing wedge sandals and heels occasionally when with my kids about one year ago (and only on completely sturdy surfaces.) Being a geeky English teacher, I also noticed that an unnecessary apostrophe appears with Moms. The poor apostrophe — it’s so misused. However, that’s a different post.  

Travel Oops: Supersize Me with Some Kim Chee, Please!

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

Wandering through Seoul Market’s seaweed section, which is just as expansive and visually overloading as the cereal aisle of any Wal-Mart, I’m overwhelmed. Seaweed comes in jars, plastic bags, foil bags, freeze-dried bags, individually wrapped snack packs and family sized jumbo bags.

Seaweed snack packs — notice how I stacked on upside down. Oops....

Seaweed snack packs — notice how I stacked on upside down. Oops….

Seaweed that looks like kelp looms large in a long baguette like bag, and then there’s red seaweed, green seaweed, roasted seaweed, rectangular seaweed and small square seaweed. Asian writing appears on every bag, and although I can’t read the characters, it’s clear from their differing shapes that they identify seaweeds from not only Korea, but probably from Japan and China, too.

Clearly I’m a complete amateur Asian market shopper even in the US. Maybe trying another aisle will be less intense. The noodle shelves are no different: udon, soba, somen, bean thread cellophane, rice, wheat, thick, curly, transparent. Really, what should I expect? Roaming through the noodle section of a standard American grocery store could be mind blowing for someone who is not familiar with Italian pasta.

© Travel Channel

© Travel Channel

I had been so confident before entering the Colorado Springs store. After all, I had seen Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” episode in Korea where he samples fermented kim chee from recently unearthed clay urns. I eat Asian food whenever I can, but I guess I’ve not seen it much in the pre-preparation phase.

“Mom, where’s the ice cream?” my son Eddie approaches me after having cased the somewhat cramped market out. He’s clearly not intimidated. Sensing my paralysis, he leaves and I hear him talk to the shop keeper behind the counter. I peek over and see the woman show him a refrigerated case. Ice cream, that’s definitely doable. I leave the noodle aisle.

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Travel Ahh…Seagulls

© Stephanie Glaser 2013

© Stephanie Glaser 2013

Goleta Beach, California, USA. Seagulls may squawking scavengers, but I love to watch them soar. My kids especially like seagulls because the birds are fun to stalk. Ultimately, I appreciate seagulls because they tell me that water, in particular the ocean, is close.

© Stephanie Glaser 2009

© Stephanie Glaser 2009

East Beach, Santa Barbara, CA, USA.

 

© Stephanie Glaser 2013

© Stephanie Glaser 2013

Goleta Beach, California, USA.

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Signs of the Times: “Sorry, Christ the Redeemer, You are not Authorized”

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

Ski Cooper, Colorado. When I first saw this sign, I immediately thought of the famous Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue in Rio de Janeiro. Really, the sign, I believe, is meant to say children or babies are not allowed. Then, I thought how would a baby even walk over there and open the door in the first place.

© Cyro A. Silva

© Cyro A. Silva

Signs of the Times: David “Creeperfield” Stares You Down in Las Vegas

© Stephanie Glaser 2013

© Stephanie Glaser 2013

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Forget Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. David Copperfield rules over Las Vegas (apparently, according to his website, he was knighted by France and the US LIbrary of Congress considers him to be a “living legend.”)

Currently he is booked at the MGM Grand, but he is everywhere in LV. At least his eyes are. If you thought the Mona Lisa’s eyes look everywhere, remember she is 30″ by 20 7/8″ and kept behind a glass case. David Copperfield is emblazoned on several sides of a very large building. He’s also on posters, billboards and cabs. So he stalks you with his unsettling stare.

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Signs of the Times: Is there something newer than silicone?

© Stephanie Glaser

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Maybe the company has come up with a new marinade for their famous hot wings. Regardless, we know there’s something saucy.