More than three years ago I decided to leave Europe to go and have a career change by studying a Master degree in Australia! The initial plan was to study for a year and return to Europe after. As you can imagine, like many foreigners here, I fell in love with that country, the nature, the laid back environment (not always easy but learnt a lot) and the life I created for myself!
One has to admit, that my personal journey has not always been an easy one but it has enriched me with experience, resilience and many funny stories to tell!
Before the start of my journey, whilst still in Europe, I was quite organised for a change as this time, I read about the country I was going to (Australia), made research to find out more about the culture etc. This was important for me as I did travel a lot and loved discovering new places and cultures but this time, I knew I was going to live there for a while and was very curious of this foreign land on the other side of the world, Down Under!
As an anecdote, what stuck around until now was the interesting fact a document said about Aussies: apparently, Australians often make jokes about their friends and one should not get offended if they do it to you! To be honest, this is true! One should not take one´s self too seriously as life is beautiful and simple!
Adapting to the culture – Australian Lifestyle
My first intercultural shock was the Aussie accent! Being used to the American and British one, I was just having difficulties understanding them especially when they used slang! Since, I´ve adapted myself and find it shocking when going back to England as I´m not used to hearing that accent anymore.
The other shock as a French individual was the fashion in Australia! It is an easygoing country and people live a simple and practical life but ´oh God´, the French fashion police would stop them then and now me if they saw us/me that way… To draw the picture, being a city near the beach and being quite relaxed compared to European cities, you see men in suits wearing flip-flops or like they say here ´thongs´, and business women in a smart dress wearing sneakers!!! Let me tell you that now I don´t care anymore what people think as I discovered the comfort of wearing these shoes to go to work instead of those beautiful but now painful heels that get caught in the holes in the street or on escalators when going to take the train or in a shopping centre!
Some French friends of mine can´t believe I´m actually doing that! How could I? As I tell them… power of adaptation 😉
Friendships in Australia
So I arrived in Australia and apart from the little shocks you cannot find in books, I decided to follow the lifestyle and move into a flatshare. It was an amazing experience as I met great people and managed to have a circle of friends, which since have evolved but this is life.
As such, I found the Australian culture in terms of friendship quite similar to the Americans. It is quite easy to speak to some of them but it takes a while until it actually becomes a friendship. Not knowing this, you could easily be deceived thinking you’ve established a great friendship but then at the end, you realise it took you actually two years to find out more about the individual who then starts to introduce you to their closer circle of friends and family. I must admit that the people I have encountered are in general very independent and live their life as they feel and keep it simple, which is a good balance and a cultural shock when you are not used to that but more to closer friendships.
To summarise, in order to adapt, I simply absorbed what I read, observed the human interaction in different settings to get my own understanding, analysed and replicated what felt aligned with my own self. It worked perfectly well and this is a process my family and I have gone through for as long as I have lived, which makes it pretty integrated and unconscious by now.
Other Culture shock – at a funeral
A member of my Australian partner family unfortunately died unexpectedly. It was quite a tough experience for him in these particular circumstances.
The funeral was quickly organised and arranged by his aunts through a funeral service (all funerals are organised through here). The ceremony and cremation were done on that particular funeral home premises.
After the service, the shocking part of the story was that it was suggested by a member to go with who desired to an RSL Club (Returned and Services League); which is a place where you have a pub, a sitting area, some TVs to watch sports and a gaming room (casino and bingo room).
Coming from Europe where you usually go to church, then to a state or church cemetery and then go to a family members house or a restaurant for lunch, it was a shock to me! We did talk after the lunch with my partner and I told him about my perspective and what had shocked me. He seemed not to be that shocked as it was usual to do it the way it was done. He appreciated my concerns and did realise that indeed, different cultures and different families here in Australia did it differently but he realised that the family values and expression of emotions was quite different for him and most Australians.
For more information on any of the stories or any comments you would like to make about a similar or different experience, please feel free to leave a message J