Culture Down Under
People used to get really excited about going to the beach. Once upon a time, it was very much “the thing” to do. Now instead of hopping in a minivan, people are hopping on planes and going abroad. Europe is the new Florida.
Over a year ago, I started getting an itch to see the world. I wanted to live somewhere new, experience a different culture. With a little planning and a lot of spontaneity, I hopped on the bandwagon with all the cool kids. I had caught the abroad bug and was going Down Under.
That led me to three months ago when I packed my life into two medium sized duffel bags and took the giant 15-hour leap across the pond. I was bright-eyed, bushytailed, and completely and utterly nervous. I was officially moving to Australia for five months.
I’ve been “Down Under” for three months now, and I’ve yet to see a man wrestle a crocodile with his bare hands. The word “crikey” is rarely used, and beautiful blondes don’t run down the beach in slow motion. Well, not always.
Before I came to Australia I had stacks of stereotypes filtering through my head. I pictured surfer boys, stretches of sandy white beach, cuddly koalas, and a style of life that was much, much slower. And while that’s not all falsity, there’s much more to Australia than its adorable accents and picturesque people. Australia is a culture of its own.
Being an American, I was received into the culture a little bit differently than others. I quickly learned the nickname Aussies had for Americans was “sepo”, a shortened version of the phrase septic tank. However, the people-aside from calling Americans sepos-are phenomenally nice. They take the hospitality of America’s south and put it on steroids. When you walk down a street people don’t cast their eyes down. When you sit at a bus stop you always talk to the person next to you. And instead of saying “you’re welcome,” you always say, “no worries, mate.” It’s doubtful you can really upset anyone, that is unless you’re cheering for another Aussie Rules team, are a fan of George W., or decide to comment about how playing football without pads isn’t all too smart.
As a counterpart to this friendly Australian persona, life moves much, much slower. People in Australia don’t often get Starbucks on the run. They sit down. They enjoy. They take time. That being said, the slower pace can be an abrupt transition for those who are used to American culture, a culture where practically everything is packaged to go.
The lovely thing about the leisurely lifestyle though is that there is always time for holidays and Australia is a haven for beautiful places. Personally, I live in Brisbane, a city of approximately 1.7 million people. Brisbane, more fondly known as Brissie, is within a couple hours drive to Surfer’s Paradise and the Gold Coast. Two hours out is Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. Brissie’s neighbor is the Great Barrier Reef and just a short plane flight away is the cultural capital of Sydney.
For weekend trips people can drive one direction and go surfing or drive the other and go camping in the outback. You can get a tan in winter where it’s considered chilly when temperatures drop to 60 degrees F. The state’s slogan is literally, “Beautiful one day, perfect the next.” Altogether in Australia, you’re in pretty good hands.