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Dealing with Culture Shock: Adjusting to Australian Customs and Traditions

Choosing to move to Australia as an expat is exciting. It’s a beautiful country with plenty of natural attractions, a high standard of living, an excellent culinary landscape, and a diverse population. Imagine moving to this new country and settling in right away. However, that is not always the case, as many have experienced when moving to Australia. Many expats have had to experience dealing with culture shock. 

So, what does culture shock in Australia look like?

Australian Culture Shock for Expats

No matter which country you originate from, you can expect some cultural differences when moving to Australia. Most expats claim they need at least two months to adjust to a new life in this new country. 

Learn more about the various Australian customs and traditions to minimise the effects of culture shock.

1. Wildlife – Of All Kinds

The stereotype is that Australia is home to deadly wildlife, like snakes and poisonous spiders. While it’s only partly true, you must learn to deal with various bugs, insects, and creatures that lurk around. It can be a significant adjustment for someone used to living in the city with no bugs whatsoever. But if you move to Australia, don’t be surprised if you have some insects lurking in your house or hiding in your shoes. 

It can shock expats, but it does not mean it is life-threatening.

Wildlife lurking in your Australia home

2. Tall Poppy Syndrome

The Tall Poppy Syndrome is one of the cultural values in Australia that you could get used to quickly. Australians value unity and harmony in all aspects of life. Therefore, anyone construed (even in the slightest manner) as bragging or boasting will receive a negative reaction. It will drive people away from you as a result. 

When you move to Australia, you must be aware of how you are perceived with your words and actions so they won’t name you a Tall Poppy.

3. Australians are Extremely Social

Unless you are a social butterfly, it will be a culture shock for you when moving to Australia and finding people who are chatty and friendly. Whether it’s the barista making your coffee or a random stranger you run into at a shop, they are not shy to say ‘g’day’ when crossing paths. 

People in some parts of the world don’t interact with strangers. Therefore, over-friendly Australians can be weird for some people.

4. Christmas in Summer

Australia is located in the Southern Hemisphere, so the four seasons are different there than in other parts of the world. Unless you know your geography, you might be shocked that Australians celebrate Christmas during the summer. It won’t be a shock for someone who embraces a hot and sunny Christmas, but it will be if you’re used to having a white Christmas.

5. Fair Go

This cultural value in Australia will benefit those coming into the country to seek employment and career opportunities. Australians strongly believe in ‘fair go’ or using your skills, talent, and experience to provide equal opportunity for everyone to succeed. 

On the other hand, favouritism and social hierarchy are highly frowned upon.

6. Things Close Early in Australia

While Australia is home to major cities like Melbourne and Sydney, it surprises many upon moving to this country that most shops and businesses close early. When Aussie businesses claim they open ‘late night hours,’ they usually mean up to 9 PM. It means shops open for four hours more than their usual closing times.

Therefore, it is very rare to find shops open 24 hours in Australia. Make sure you finish your shopping by the afternoon, or you’ll have to put it off until the next day.

Businesses close early in Australia.

7. Language and Slang

Even though English is the official language of Australia, confusion can occur in daily conversations due to Australians’ propensity for colloquialism and clipping words. In addition, certain words in the English vocabulary mean different things when used in the Australian context.

According to language experts, Australians like to clip words because it makes them sound more casual and friendly. Here are a few shortened words that Aussies like to insert into conversations.

  • Sunnies – sunglasses
  • Brekky – breakfast
  • Barbie – barbecue
  • Footy – Australian football
  • Mozzie – mosquito
  • Polly – police officer
  • Prezzy – a present
  • Cossie – a swimming suit
  • Bikkie – a biscuit
  • Vego – a vegetarian
  • Preggo – pregnant
  • Avo – avocado
  • Defo – definitely

Meanwhile, these are a few examples of words that mean one thing in other parts of the world but another in Australia:

  • Thongs – a pair of flip flops
  • Lollies – candies (not just lollipops)
  • Trackies – sweatpants
  • Pop – grandfather 
  • Service station – gas station

8. Drinking Tap Water

In Australia, tap water is safe to drink. It can be a culture shock for those from countries that rarely drink water straight from the tap! 

It also explains why restaurants don’t offer free water to guests. You have to bring your own water bottle or order one.

9. Swearing

While Australians are known to be friendly, they’re also known for their frequent swearing!

If this is your first time hearing someone swear in Australia, you are in for a culture shock. But once you’ve interacted with a few people, you’ll realise it’s common and nothing to be offended by. You must take their words into context to discern if they’re really insulting you or just being friendly. After all, they would only use swear words when talking to you once they have known you for some time or have talked to you before.

10. Coffee Culture

It’s not shocking that Australians love coffee. But what’s surprising is to see just how serious they are about their coffee.

To some extent, Australians (especially Melbournians) are snobbish about their coffee. They believe that coffee in Melbourne is the best and anywhere else in the world isn’t nearly as good. Another sign of the intense coffee drinking culture in the country is the large number of cafes and coffee shops. It is easy to spot one on every street.

Dealing with culture shock in Australia

Adjusting to Australian customs and traditions is necessary for anyone planning to move there. The more you know these customs and traditions, the easier it will be to settle in as an expat. The effects of culture shock are a minor inconvenience compared to the benefits of living and working in Australia.

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