Sunday, July 23, 2017

5 Things That Remind Me That I am a Foreigner

One of my favorite things about staying at hostels is that everyone staying there has a similar story to me- they’re young, they’re trying to save money, and they’re looking for adventure. Back in Sydney, I was talking to a guy from Alaska who had been living in Australia for about a year. When we were discussing our purposes in Australia, he told me about his previous journeys to South America and his intentions to go to Italy next. This man had an undoubtable sense of wanderlust and tons of experience travelling. He explained that he believes there to be Two Pillars of Travel which are experiences that one seeks that are different from life at home, and he identified them as Nature and Culture. We both agreed that the beauty of nature in Australia is undeniable. I’ve seen incredible sunset after incredible sunset and picturesque view after picturesque view.
The view from Mt. Ngungun is just one example of the beauty I've experienced in nature in Australia

In that conversation, however, we also agreed that the culture is not so different from that of the United States. Because both the United States and Australia were colonized by the British, we have the same language, same city structure, etc. These similarities have made it very easy for me to settle into my new lifestyle in Brisbane. However, there have been several occasions where I have been reminded that I am not exactly an Aussie…

5 things that remind me that I am a foreigner

5. Metric System - I have absolutely no idea how long a meter is, or how much a kilogram weighs, or how to decide what to wear based on the temperature in Celsius. My difficulties with the Metric system became very obvious the first time I tried to order some cold cuts from the deli in Woolworth’s. As I stared at the display with the deli clerk waiting for me to place my order, I tried frantically to figure out how many kilograms of turkey I wanted and what the price would be. Embarrassed that I couldn’t easily remember that 1 kilograms is close to 2 pounds, I retreated into the pasta aisle as I calculated the measurement and the price. Once I figured that out, I was able to return to the counter and place my order.

4. Traffic- I have to consciously remind myself everyday that cars drive on the left side of the road rather than the right. As a result, I never know which way to look when crossing the street. There have also been several occasions where I have looked into a moving car and thought, “OH MY GOD, NO ONE IS DRIVING THAT CAR,” or “WOW, that kid looks really young to be driving.” Not to mention, driving on the left means that everyone is expected to walk on the left too. It took me a couple days of dodging pedestrians walking straight at me to realize that I was walking on the wrong side of the road.

3. Consumerism - One of the first people I met in Australia was Ann, the woman I had been corresponding with for the past couple months to set up my housing. I wanted her point of view as an ex-Pat about the biggest cultural differences between the United States and Australia. According to Ann, the number one difference between American culture and Australian culture is the sense of consumerism. My experiences over the past couple weeks have supported her claim that Australians tend to be more mindful of the environment and more conscious of their choices as consumers. For one thing, there are switches for every plug so that electricity is not being wasted. At first, I couldn’t tell when my phone was charging or not, but now I frantically turn off the plugs that are left on. They also have two buttons to flush the toilet in order to preserve water. There are recycling bins everywhere and reminders to limit showers to just 4 minutes! Coffee does not automatically come in a “takeaway” cup. The grocery stores offer far less variety than at home, but most of the produce is proudly Australian grown. I have also noticed a lot of support for Fair Trade, which makes me happy as I think back to my experiences in Haiti with Just Haiti coffee.

2. My Accent- One of the things that absolutely boggles my mind about being in Australia is that everyone thinks that I am exotic because I live so far away. (I laugh just thinking about the fact that people think Rochester, NY is an exotic place.) On one of my first nights in Brisbane, I went out with Leanne and our friend Izzy to get burgers. I will never forget when the guy taking our orders started GIGGLING at the way we said the words “burger” and “tomato.” I have had two Australians tell me that they prefer hearing American accents over Australian accents! It has been quite funny and quite encouraging to speak in front of Australians.

1. Public Transportation- Coming from Fairport, NY where there is no public transportation at all, or from Erie, PA, where the public transportation is either efficient or predictable, I never would have imagined how easy it is to get around with public transportation. It is such a blessing to have reliable and affordable public transportation. The buses and trains in Queensland have allowed me to make several day trips already to the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. There is both a bus and a train station less than a block away from my apartment, and it makes getting places so easy. I am finally starting to get comfortable with planning my own route- thanks in large part to Google Maps! The first time I tried to take the bus alone, I walked around the station for 20 minutes as I tried to find the correct platform at a time corresponded with an outgoing bus. By the time I found the right platform, the bus left and I walked around to another and the cycle continued (until I finally decided to choose a platform and wait for the correct bus). Learning how to take advantage of public transportation has been the biggest learning curve so far in Australia, but very helpful!

So far, I’ve learned a lot as I adjust to life in Australia. Tomorrow, I’ll prepare to do some real learning at ACU’s orientation!


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  2. You inspire and amaze me Melia! Have fun and keep the blogs coming! I love to read about your adventures! xoxoxo