Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Brisbane, Australia

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What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Brisbane

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

No

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

N/A

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

It didn't really cross my mind to expect any, as I'd been living in NZ for 8 years immediately beforehand and had settled in very quickly.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

Quite significant - probably more so because I really didn't anticipate any.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

I definitely went through these:

The honeymoon stage - when we had just arrived. The sun! The blue skies! Using ferries as public transport! New foods in the supermarket! It was all very exciting and I felt like I was on holiday, for at least a few months.

The irritation stage came once I realised that things were indeed different here... and in ways I hadn't anticipated. This wasn't the UK, or NZ. People were rude - they didn't queue, they didn't hold doors open - and customer service was nonexistent. People could be scathing about immigrants. Image trumped substance. I felt I didn't belong and I didn't want to belong...

... which probably brings me to the cultural rejection stage! I think I'm still oscillating between this and the adjustment phase now, after 2 years here. I know I'm in a foreign country - and it IS a foreign country - and I do try to accept this, and not expect my values to be mainstream. But there are definitely still days when I struggle... with the lack of manners and with Aussie nationalism and competitiveness. I'm trying to view it with interested eyes rather than judgmental ones...

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

Anger, irritability, feeling like I had no place / didn't belong, feeling isolated / like an outsider and spectator (which made things worse, as I watched myself feeling like that!), increased eating, frustration that I'm not gelling here quickly (which I did in NZ)... pretty much all of the above.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

The sun, blue skies and the outdoor lifestyle. Having a pool. Growing tropical plants and fruits. Having parrots in neighbouring trees. Living in thongs.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

People's attitudes - very different to what I've been used to, and I still struggle. The majority of people in QLD have never left their state, let alone the country, yet it's regularly and loudly touted as the best country in the world. Immigrants are viewed with suspicion and there's a borderline aggressive nationalism. Image, money and coming first is everything, whatever anyone tells you about Aussie's laidback nature... Yep, I'm definitely still in the rejection of culture stage!!

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

Not that I'm aware of...

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

In the end, it's told me more about myself than anything else - what my own values are, what kind of person I am, what I need out of life. Even if you don't fit in the place you are now, at least you know what's important to you, so you can choose your next place with more awareness.

More Expat Advice about Culture Shock in Australia

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Comments about this Report

guest
Mar 29, 2011 13:00

I'm Australian and I can tell you that Queensland may be a beautiful state, but it's full of Queenslanders! You will find a more friendly and civilised society the further south you go. The weather may not be great in Melbourne, but the people are great and so much more polite!

guest
May 15, 2011 07:26

Hi, Thanks for your comments. I grew up an hour or so from Brisbane and these were the things I didn't really like about Brisbane - and I grew up in Queensland! I have since moved to NZ, Sydney and Melbourne and have found Melbourne to be much more welcoming, less status conscious and more international and welcoming to migrants (including those from other states) than Brisbane ever was. You don't have to be an expat to not feel welcome in a new city...

guest
Nov 27, 2011 20:45

I don't feel like I belong here either, for many of the reasons mentioned. ...and I was born here :/

guest
Mar 1, 2012 07:34

I have felt reesrve culture shock, too! When I came back from studying abroad in Barcelona, it made me really antsy to hear so much English being spoken around me hearing people's cell phone conversations about things like when mom is picking up the kids from soccer practice just drove me nuts! Meal times, going out times, and the preponderance of chain stores all contributed to my feeling of omg why did I leave Spain?? which is probably a huge part of why I came back!

guest
Jun 11, 2012 09:40

Are there any comments about living in Canberra? I am a single female in her 50's and quite well preserved. Lol Thank you.

guest
Oct 2, 2012 12:55

You did not make clear that you are still living in Australia, or whether you went back to Spain. I think Spain is a lovely place, but I guess it is undergoing some terrible economic times. Is that not true?

MargfromTassie
Aug 28, 2013 07:44

I am an Australian, having been born and lived in Melbourne for over 50 years. This is a big country - the size of the continental US. Our 6 states ( NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia) and 2 Territories ( the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory) are all quite different from each other and their capital cities ( Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart, Perth, Darwin and Canberra) are hundreds, even thousands of miles apart. Once a city gets too big ( over a million?), I think that they all lose something and the people become more materialistic and status conscious. This is a generalization of course. On the other hand, you don't want to live anywhere too parochial or narrow minded. Having retired a 5 years ago to the southern island state of Tasmania, I find the people here to be very friendly and unpretentious. Many retired age mainlanders are also moving here now to escape the summer heat of the northern states and to enjoy the seasons. We have a lovely temperate climate here on the north coast of Tasmania, not dissimilar to central and southern France. I have travelled extensively abroad and throughout Australia and have found two of the friendliest places of all to be New Zealand, Tasmania and South Australia. Like Queensland, they are all beautiful scenically too, but the residents are nicer and not so self preoccupied. But wherever you are in the world, people's experiences are different. If one is to eventually feel a real bond with a new place, it is always important to make an effort to join clubs, organisations etc in order to make friendships and so gain a sense of belonging....

DanteLuiz
May 27, 2014 01:16

Hi, I'm from Adelaide originally and moved to Brisbane 2 years ago. Like the city, Love the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast is too crowded for my liking...but the ONE thing wrong with this place is QUEENSLANDERS! I've been among them for the better part of two years and they have zero culture, zero manners, zero class, so many bogans it's unbelievable, even the NZ population living towards the south are bogans, rampant racism, so much white trash (especially in nearly every direction approximately 10 kms outside of Brisbane City, and they're really not so friendly. They're fanatical about their rugby and they really try and shove it, AND EVERY OTHER PART OF THEIR CULTURE down your throat. It's terrible! You get it from the people, papers, TV, everywhere...There are exceptions among the people to be sure, but that is what I've found the vast majority to be like. There's this huge naivety about Queenslanders and they're way too comfortable within their own borders, almost to the point of rejecting input from outside and being culturally primitive. Best method to get around this, find social groups and try and blend in. I've been to Sydney, Melbourne and grew up in Adelaide and have no complaints about those places (except that it's too damn cold). The one thing Adel, Melbs and Syd have in common is that they are by far and away culturally richer than Brisbane. Example: Italian buddies i know would retch at the coffee sometimes served here...but never in Syd, Melbs or Adel. Perth doesn't merit a mention, I loathe that place. Honestly, I like this place, but I much prefer the company of migrants from other states, as well as internationals. There are plenty of chances here, but whether you wish to stay or leave depends on your own tolerance levels.

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