Saturday, September 29, 2012

Australia "Culture Shock"

I've been asked, "have you had a 'culture shock' moving to Australia from the States?"  This post is dedicated to answering that question.  I've also been told that you only get one time to have a first impression, so I feel I should write these things down.  Do you feel like you'd be shocked with any of the following differences to the states?

- Australia is a left-side-of-the-road driving sorta country.  Looking right and then left is something that I'm not sure I'll ever get used to (my roommate who has been here 17 years has said she still looks left first).  In general, my first rule with anything is "don't die".  If you had to guess, how many countries do you think drive on the left side?  If you have your guess already, read on.  There are seventy-five countries that do!  Craziness.

- AFL is big here...huge.  AFL stands for Australian Football League and is Australian rules football.  If you've never heard of it, click the link below, it's pretty intense.  And truly, it looks more exciting to watch than the NFL.  Also, it's called "footy".  So apparently Australians have something that sounds like they'd be talking about soccer just like the US does, but no no, it's something completely new.  By the way, soccer is called soccer here.  Which I still think is ridiculous, "football" and "footy" are much better words for that sport than soccer is. 

- Vegemite is beloved.  Feel free to read the link below.  I'll save you my description of it, we'll just say I have not "acquired the taste" for it.

- Most houses don't have air conditioning.  Being from Arizona, this is strange.  Growing up, every room had a fan and to not have A/C was unheard of.  Here...meh.  I understand there's plenty of areas in the "States" where this is also true, so I won't belabor the point; just pointing out it's odd to me.

- Most houses do not have dryers.  Again, growing up, I've always had a dryer.  We did have a clothes line when I was really young I suppose, but I've always had a dryer since I've been doing my own clothes.  Apparently, by the way, my drying rack technique is superb (so says Cath...apparently a prior roommate could never figure out how to do it).  I know drying racks are common in Germany and probably tons of places, so again, I won't belabor the point.

- People are friendly for no reason at all!  Imagine stepping back in time in the US to about the 1950's (just add iPhones) and that's the neighborhood feel that you get here.  For example (maybe a bad and longwinded example, but deal with it, haha):  A young lady went missing here in Melbourne about a week ago and it became national news.  Not only that, within 2 days there were printed out "Missing" papers on lamp posts for this one person, who was 29.  People DO NOT go missing here and when it happens, it's a huge story.  In other words, people are trusting and very genuine (in general).  The concept of "stranger danger" is very minimal here.  

PS. If you plan on coming here to take advantage of this, don't.  Mainly because it's great to have so much trust and positivity.  But, also because you WILL stand out.  Example: The tragic story of the lady above; her killer was caught 3 days later.  3 days!?  Not only was it national news for one person to be missing, but the person was caught 3 days later.  Don't come here and be a shit-bag, you will not last long.

- People walk places.  No, seriously.  We're talking people are completely cool with walking over a mile.  I know to active people this may sound ridiculous to be a thing to point out...but to the general Arizonan...this is a BIG deal.  A roommate (not Cath or Cara, long story) suggested I walk to the South Market.  Mind you, that is a 45 minute walk!  Don't get me wrong, I love it.  But tell most Americans it'll be a 45 minute walk and they'll have some lovely expletives waiting for you.  I think on average, thus far, I've walked about 4 miles a day (I was thinking of using my GPS watch to track it, but maybe that's just a wee bit too nerdy...because then it would turn into a spreadsheet...and then a Google doc...and then I'd want a graph according to seasons...and, trouble).

- Along the lines of walking, there is public transportation.  And not just a couple buses, I mean trains and trams, along with maps and platforms and if you're on the wrong platform you miss your train or... you take a 30 minute detour to fair grounds all the while there are tons of obnoxious adolescents and their apathetic parents not reigning them in and all you want to do is discipline them for the first time in their lives but you don't and you just sit there and stew about how you chose the wrong train and how you'll never get on the wrong train again...not that that ever happens.  Phew, anyway...there's trains and trams and pedestrians, oh my!

Or rather: (for trains)
And: (for trams)

- People talk funny.  I wanted to put that as eloquently as possible.  But really: the pronunciation, word choice, and vocabulary does take some getting used to, as well as the spelling of certain words (e.g. "tyre" instead of "tire").  Usually it's just small things like me calling it "dish soap" as opposed to their "dish washing liquid" or our "moving walkways" as opposed to their "travelator" (which is a great word by the way).  But sometimes there's words like "doona" that leave me saying wtf (doona is Australian for quilt/comforter, see link below), or what about a "jumper" (pronounced "jumpah") which means "sweater"?  It's great, I'm not deriding it by any stretch, but it will take some getting used to.  And truly, it's no worse than the difference between Arizona and Louisiana (you're going to "woarsh" your car? c'mon now).  I'd give you more examples of Australian words, but there's so many websites that do it well already that I'll just point you to one of them, see below.

- People eat strange things at strange places.  Case in point, I went to a Thai restaurant (which was incredible good, I love you Massaman) and the meats that I got to choose from got one item longer than usual.  Obviously (no, really), I chose the last one.  I had to!  I've never seen that on a menu before.  Granted, I'm sure it's on plenty of Bayou menus, but dammit I lived in Arizona my whole life.  Just a sheltered po' white boy, don't know nothin' 'bout no food stuffs.


  1. So not sure how to put this, but I think a lot of your "culture shock" comes more from an economic standpoint than anything else. As I child I was not well off, so walking and public transportation were standard. So even now when people talk about walking and how far it is I always laugh a little, like when you and Rob thought there was a lot if walking in Vegas. I used to walk to elementary school, about 4 miles each way.

    Not trying to cause problems, just commenting.

  2. Michael, I 100% agree. I use the phrase "culture shock" very loosely (which is why I kept putting quotes around it). It's far more tongue in cheek than I let on. The post could've easily been titled "differences here, from how I grew up". But, I do think some of these differences are relatively big if you've never been out of the states or have always had a car.

    As always, your perspective contributes and is much appreciated. Thanks!