All The Australian Culture Shocks In One Day
Culture shock is experienced when a person who enters into a new country is confronted by things completely new and alien to their own norms and practices. When one also lives overseas for an extended period of time, culture shock can be experienced on return to their homeland.
Returning from China to Australia after extended bouts overseas, the phenomenon of culture shock becomes quite fresh.
Having spent 6 months in China, on this return trip to Australia on March 26, 2018, I share those first-hand experiences of culture shock.
Australians More Representative On Airplane
I arrived by airplane to Sydney international airport terminal.
As I alighted from the airplane today and walked amongst the passengers to customs, one key difference from previous travel was how there was more of a representation of Australians.
Coming off the airplane, I began to see more and more mixed couples.
I saw one local Australian teenage boy with a Chinese girl walking out of the terminal. He is around 20 years old wearing a black cap backwards. His girlfriend is attractive, wearing tight, black pants.
This to me is a good culture shock. I know Australia is an open, racially diverse, and accepting country. I know once I walk outside the airport and onto Sydney streets, a majority of people will be in mixed relationships. It is normal in Australian society.
In traditional China, being in a mixed-couple relationship would be a novelty, and very uncommon to see. As a Chinese who comes to Australia for the first time, it must be confronting.
Australian Politeness With No Substance.
Once customs did a final passport check, I exited towards the baggage check. One of the female customs officers with a very soft, babyish voice, asked, “Can you give me your departure card? Maybe you should go over there and get a departure card.”
I was thinking, “That is such a baby voice.”
Instantly it reminded me how soft Australian people are. Australian people are not pushovers, but if you just came from a war-torn country where famine, survival, and struggle is part of your daily life, and then this pillow full of fluffy feathers talks to you, you would also think that these Australian people are soft.
Australian society does have some pockets of hardship, so Australian people do not walk around with privilege. They are down-to-earth people. I would say Australians are like dough. They are really soft and malleable, and if life were to bake them, they would rather become a sponge cake than gritty bread. Life in Australia is just not that tough.
Chinese Fashion Is Not Represented
I also noticed differences in fashion.
In China, everyone from teens to middle-aged women dress in sexy, boisterous fashion.
As the passengers streamed to the baggage claim area, Chinese fashion – visible in day-to-day life on the streets- was not represented.
No passengers were dressed in the cute, short tasseled skirts and customary outfits that you would see from the local Chinese community in Guangzhou.
There is only one tall, Chinese girl who wore a red-white checkered short skirt.
Also two ostentatious girls (装逼) dressed in black leather skirts, designer clothes, and with their iPhone at-the-ready to take a selfie photo at the Sydney airport baggage claims area, but they were the exception.
Rude Chinese Behavior
Everything feels more laid back in Australia.
However, in the baggage collection area, an old Chinese male pushed in front of me to wait for his luggage. It was a remnant of rude, Chinese behavior stowed away to Australia.
I looked around, to notice Australian people are so laid back, while this Chinese male is in a rush to get out of the airport doors.
I then began to wonder, how much of a culture shock would he experience with those manners, once he exited the airport doors into Australian society?
Unless this Chinese male specifically has Chinese friends waiting to pick him up, to chaperone him to their Chinese-speaking house, and speak Chinese with him on the way, and if they never interact with the rest of society, then they are okay.
On the other hand, if he were to walk out of Sydney airport into Australia with no Chinese network ready to hide within, then he is going to get hit by a culture shock of a different society.
Good luck to him.
Australian Pick-Up Culture
As I looked around the baggage collection area, I saw a few pretty girls.
I began to remember how the dating culture in Australia is more of a level-playing field between males and females.
In China for example, simply being a foreigner is an advantage. Foreigners are rare, and Chinese girls would appreciate the opportunity to be approached, simply for the thrill of being talked to by someone new. Therefore, in China, I have the advantage.
In Australia, Australians see difference all the time, so there is no advantage. A man has to rely on his approach, and so men are more inhibited, because they fear rejection more often than not.
An Australian Sense Of Humor
Once inside the final customs checks, I was asked to fill in a yellow departure slip.
A female customs officer said, “Okay sir, you need to get a departure card? Come with me.”
I announced loudly, “I love cumming with you.”
She laughed at me. “Are you Australian are you? You have to be with a sense of humor like that.”
I was pleased that she acknowledged the cultural value of a sense of humor endowed in us Australians.
Organic Australian Pick-Up Culture
This female Australian customs officer also reminded me of Australian pick-up culture.
Australians are relaxed around strangers. In fact, flirting in public is a common Australian practice.
Men smile, men wink, men whistle, men leer, men compliment women and approach them all the time. Approaching the opposite sex happens very organically in Australia.
You could be shoulder-to-shoulder beside the person you like and casually say, “G’day.” Then, as if you are not even present next to the person, discuss the weather.
An Australian would not become startled by the mere presence of a stranger beside them. They are not going to run away from you in a hurry.
After 5-10 minutes of sussing each other out, finally you will both realize you have been talking for a while.
That is the Australian way.
China does not have a pick-up culture per-se.
You could meet your partner in high school, university, within a group of friends, through relatives, as work colleagues, from doing a social activity together, or a formal introduction, but there is not enough trust in Chinese society to talk with a stranger in a library or coffee shop.
Freedoms Not Available In China
Once I had exited customs, I downloaded Facebook and contacted friends.
One of the great things about being in Australia is that once you get onto the internet, EVERYTHING is super-fast because nothing gets blocked!
I hate Internet censorship in China.
You are not free to watch the news and choose what is right or wrong in the world.
You are not free to express a negative opinion about the government.
You are not free to use social media sites such as Facebook and Google, being restricted to state-controlled WeChat and Weibo instead.
You are not free to be an adult and watch porn.
You are not free to watch uncensored movies, as scenes deemed offensive to the harmony of Chinese society are often censored.
You are not even free to roam around on the streets if you wanted to.
There are just lots of things that you can’t do.
That is what is annoying about China.
Polite Australian Strangers
I bought a coffee for $4.50 AUD (25 RMB) saying “Please” and “Thank you” to the staff.
When I came to the elevator, one polite Australian stranger smiled as he held the door open for me. I said, “Thank you.”
When the elevator reached the ground floor, the doors opened up to a girl who beamed a smile at me as she patiently waited to enter. I instantly smiled back.
I became reacquainted with the culture of polite Australian strangers who hold doors open and smile.
It is such a wonderful country.
To someone who comes to Australia for the first time, it must be refreshing.
Expensive Transit Costs
Once I arrived to the train station entrance, I remembered the pain associated with the train system.
In China, WeChat QR codes are integrated into the ticket machine payment system, so you can use electronic wallets to pay, or use cash instead. Otherwise, you can use a train card, similar to an Opal card.
To leave the international airport terminal in Australia, commuters are forced to use an Opal card to pay the exorbitant $17 AUD (85 RMB) fare.
I then had to wait 17 minutes for the next train home. Trains in Sydney run every thirty minutes. In China, there is one train every 2 minutes.
Blue Skies Australia
A friend in town picked me up in his car.
There are blue skies overhead. There are no clouds. It is a very beautiful day. I can finally breathe the air in Australia.
I said, “It is good to be back in Australia. In China, every single day there are clouds. There is no one day where I have had blue-sky sunshine. Now, every day in Australia I am going to experience fresh air and blue skies. It is a nice change.”
Diversity In People
Another distinction I discovered was in the many different attractive women here.
As we drove, I saw blonde Australians with blue eyes, Indians, tanned Asians, Middle Eastern females, and all kinds of races living together in the same suburb. I was bombarded by diversity all around me.
In China I grew accustomed to only seeing Chinese females everywhere.
I said, “Look at all these different people around here. I have seen three girls from three different countries so far. If you are a single male, the diversity is great. But in Australia, it is one girl every five kilometers. In China, it is one girl next to each other, everywhere!”
Bustling China vs Boring Australia
I then discussed density.
I said, “Man. Look how much space we have here. There are no houses, nothing, just blue skies in Australia.”
“But in China, it is just a shop, a shop, a shop, a shop, shops all right next to each other.”
Distance And Convenience
Life back in Australia is really laid-back.
Residential houses are separated from commercial zones by several kilometers.
A car is essential. Without a car, it takes 45 minutes to walk from home to some place in society where people congregate.
In China, you just walk out of your apartment and there are already hundreds of people swarming around in a major city.
Open Slather Lifestyle In Australia
Australia is good for downtime. You can wind yourself up, you can build yourself up, and you can pretty much do whatever you want in this country. It is open slather. You can be what you want to be.
But like I said to my friend, “I would not want to live here for a long time. China is a much better place to be.”
The author of Diary Of A Mad Chaos from 1996 to 2018, The Lost Years book, Wubao In China (猎艳奇缘) book series, and Foreigner (华人) an exploration of race relations in Australia. Fluent in Chinese Mandarin, Macedonian, and English, the author currently resides in China, Guangzhou where he continues to make comparative analysis of the cultural differences between Eastern and Western societies.