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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Brisbane, Australia

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.

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Let the Adventure Begin! is our premium weekly relocation newsletter that guides you step-by-step through your international move. The weekly newsletter begins 8 months before your move and runs through your first 4 months abroad. For US $29.99, you'll receive an e-mail on Wednesday with tips and advice tailored to where you are in the relocation and settling-in process.

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.

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