Monday, March 11, 2013

Accepting I’m the Idiot, Ameristralian, and Cultureshock: To the Left, To the Left

Coming to Australia I was prepared to immerse myself in the culture and fully experience everything knowing that I knew absolutely nothing and it was totally fine. It’s been 3 weeks in Australia now so I feel I know the culture a lot more now. There are so many differences that make this culture so special and unique and at the same time I feel that there are links in each culture that make me feel as though all of humanity is connected.

I don’t think I will ever be able to get over being told that I have an accent. It so weird to think that people think of how I speak as different when I just think it is a standard. I know I could listen to Australian’s speak all day! I am obsessed with their accents so I guess it is mutual? Changing my ethnocentric view that American English is the standard is just a small way my eyes have opened. The written language here is just as different as the spoken. Australian English might as well be a different language from American English. They use an “s” instead of a “z” in words, for example, “organisation”. Furthermore, they like to throw in a “u” randomly into most words. They write “harbour”, “labour”, and “behaviour”.

It is funny being submerged into a new place how you realize how little you truly know. My friends think I know everything here. I did so much research and read an entire book called “Australia”. I do feel like I know more about Australia than others, but there is still so much to learn!

You don’t tip here, ever! In America it is definitely a sin, but here it’s the norm. Minimum wage is $16 compared to $8, so I don’t really feel bad about not tipping in addition to the fact that this is the most expensive city ever. Measurement is different here as well; distance is in kilometers not miles, weight in kilos not pounds, temperature in Celsius not Fahrenheit, food in kilojoules not calories. This has led to the feeling of being confused on a consistent basis.  

There is no such thing as a “bathroom” it is a “toilet”. They will legitimately laugh at you if you use any other term. I guess it makes sense, but it just sounds too blunt and unladylike to say such a thing. An apartment is a “flat” and I have “flatmates” not roommates. Outlets have a different wattage so I had to get a transformer to be able to use any electronics. Switches for electricity are opposite as well. To turn on the power, you flip it down. At the beach you can’t just go for a swim wherever your little heart may please. You must swim between the 2 red and yellow flags, wherever they may be and if you don’t you will kindly be reminded to by the lifeguards. Dogs don’t require leashes and children are spoken to as adults, no baby voices for babies. There is also a lifestyle instilled from a young age of being active. The vibe is “No worries mate”, "Cheers!" and “G’day”. Even if you aren’t apologizing for something and say “Thank you”, you are likely to receive a response of “No worries”. It is a very relaxed culture. You are asked “How you going?” instead of “How are you doing?” This still throws me off.

In academic life there are a couple differences. Firstly, I don't go to college I go to "university" (more commonly referred to as "uni"). Classes are units, and years of school are numbers. I am a 3rd year, not a junior. Grading scales are not A, B, C, D, F. They are HD, D, C, P, N for High Distinction, Distinction, Credit, Pass and Fail. Also, when asked my major I say Commerce instead of Business to avoid a look of confusion. The dorms on campus are called colleges, which can definitely be confusing.
The biggest change for me is that everything is on the left. You walk on the left side in the street and cars drive on the left. It can be quite confusing when crossing the street and deciding which way to look. I definitely stepped out in front of an oncoming car, but at least I had enough time to step out of the way. Ultimately, culture shock has led me to be able to accept being an idiot and be ok with not knowing what is going on all the time. I’m just going with the flow and attempting to mold into an Ameristralian.

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