Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Reverse Culture Shock in Australia

I arrived in Melbourne on a day that was easily 5 million degrees celcius, which made wandering the city with my backpack a lovely adventure. I spent my first day walking through the CBD and a bit of Brunswick where I met up with my friend Juliano who was also from Ottawa and had arrived there just shortly before me.  Apparently Ottawa people flock to Melbourne because my sister’s best friend Sanna who she’d grown up with was also living in Melbourne and luckily for me I’d be staying with her until my sister arrived a few weeks later and we’d find an apartment together. I’d known Sanna for years but it wasn’t until this Australia visit that we became close and even became roommates/Jamba Rime (sorry inside jokes) time buddies. Melbourne has been ranked as the number one most liveable city in the world and I can absolutely see why. Though I’ll also quickly point out 3 of the top 5 are Canadian cities, sorry Ottawa, you did not come close to making that list though. The city was vibrant, beautiful, cafes and parks everywhere, the fantastic Aussie accent being spoken all around me, and a great feel to it. Bizarrely it was actually pretty close to  a Canadian city. Had I come straight from Canada it would have just seemed like a mild transition, however after 8 months of Asia, I was feeling very displaced returning to a westernized country. I found out later there is actually such thing as reverse culture shock. 

The following are things I found weird, or even culture shock-like when I arrived:

Sadly no more signs like this!
  • The streets, even downtown, seemed impossibly quiet after Asia where I’m pretty sure driving lessons go “Okay first put the key in and turn the car/bike on, okay now lay on the horn and don’t ever stop honking until you’re safely in park”
  • The prices here are insane, especially coming from Asia. My first shock was as I was leaving the airport the cheapest mode of transportation was the $18 one way airport transport bus
  • Cheese and wine, items that were impossible to find in Asia, were now everywhere
  • Toilets were no longer a hole in the ground and had toilet paper instead of the infamous bum gun
  • I didn’t have to carry TP around (and it no longest goes in a gross wastebasket!)
  • I could now ask for directions in English without using my awful sign language skills that would have me kicked out of a game of charades in a heartbeat
  •  People use cutlery to eat-Okay to be completely honest I missed eating with my hands
  • No more night markets and delicious street food (months later and I'm still in withdrawal)
  • Street names were absolutely ridiculous sounding (i.e. One was named Mudjimba bli bli) and even more so, the locations. Brunswick St is in Fitzroy neighbourhood, not Brunswick. Fitzroy street is in St Kilda not Fitzroy.  St Kilda St is in Brighton, and there are 6 Brighton streets across Melbourne. Ridiculous.
  • Beer was different here too. Every pub seemed to have an intense love affair with IPAs, Fosters beer doesn’t seem to exist (I’m fine with that) and most offensively was the pot of beer. A pint was not always guaranteed, a schooner was a smaller beer but the pot of beer….it was the equivalent of a double shot of beer. How in a country of drinkers can people see it as an acceptable measurement of beer?
  • The aussie dress code; girls dress normally but guys wear singlets (giant tank tops with huge armholes down to their belly buttons) and super short shorts. I’d occasionally be on a train and notice that the guys on either side of me had shorter shorts than mine.
  • Aussie slang often seems like a completely different language (*see below for an example of how insane it is)
  • Another thing that is shocking is that a word used by friends and even in the office place is cunt. Actually I've now heard the boss at work say multiple times "aw ya fuckin cunt" to various coworkers.
  • Australia hasn't figured out time zones yet. Adelaide SA, Melbourne VIC, and Brisbane QLD are geographically all in the same time zone however Adelaide is inexplicably 30 minutes off of Melbourne, and Brisbane doesn't observe daylight savings so they are often 0-1 hour off from Melbourne and 0.5-1.5 hours off from Adelaide.
  • Driving in Australia may not have the death defying quality of Asian roads but it does have the inexplicable hook turns. At these bizarre intersections you have to quickly go left in the leftmost lane and block all left lane traffic in order to turn right….
  • Fast food is different: McDonalds is not only referred to as Maccas but some of the signs have actually been changed to "Maccas". Also Burger King is called Hungry Jacks.

The best culture shock: I could now drink tap water!

The worst culture shock: I felt homesick and got a box of KD (mac and cheese) from the grocery store. Then instead of finding the bizarre but soothingly familiar packet of neon orange powdered cheese I came across a metal can full of some weird cheez whiz like substance. NOT COOL AUSTRALIA. NOT COOL!

The most disappointing shock, though not cultural: My sister who I’d moved to Australia for, so that we could be together again, bailed on me two weeks after I’d arrived so that she could stay in Ottawa for a boy. Bit of a kick in the teeth but at least I was no stranger to solo travel so moving solo can’t be that much of a difference right?

*Aussie Slang
A friend showed me this brilliant youtube video that sums up ridiculous Aussie slang words. The first two times I watched it the sentence at the end was nonsense. Now I can actually understand wtf this is: 

Australian: “After a smoko I might go down the bowlo sarvo for a schnitty and bevvy with Tom, then I’ll head back to the missus for din dins with the fam and watch some footy hopefully on the way I don’t get pulled over by coppers coz I don’t have the rego”

English: “After a smoke break I might go down to the bowling alley this afternoon for a chicken schnitzel and drink with Tom, then I’ll head back to my girlfriend/wife for dinner with the family and watch some Australian football. Hopefully on the way I don’t get pulled over by the police because I don’t have the registration”

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