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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Melbourne, Australia


Flinders Street in Melbourne, Australia

One expat who moved to Melbourne appreciates that the city is very multicultural, has beautiful parks and surrounding countryside and that Australians are very family oriented. However, she's still feeling unsettled and like Melbourne may not be the right place for her.

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

Melbourne

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

No, but I've moved around a lot.

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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?

I speak perfect English.

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

A little bit, but since my boyfriend is Australian (and lovely) I thought I would cope.

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

Huge. After a year here I am still baffled by it as I've never experienced anything like this before even though I have many moves behind me.

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 skipped the honeymoon stage, but definitely had a prolonged irritation stage. I fluctuate between thinking I am over that stage and thinking that this is just not the place for me.

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.

I definitely experienced depression, anger and a real sense of loneliness. The anger has subsided, but the depression and loneliness are still there.

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

The Australians I know have strong ties with family and friends, that's a great thing. I also like how Melbourne is a very multicultural and therefore colourful city. I love the parks here, and the surrounding countryside. Even though I've had trouble making proper friends, many Australians have still made a real effort into making sure I am invited along to things, which has helped in making me feel more welcome.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

There's a very strong and quite patriotic culture here and an obsession with watching football. I battle with the culture of 'rules and regulations', especially as a migrant who has to comply with all sorts of silly things (that cost a lot of money). It seems that these aren't really questioned, nor the amount of money that it costs to do certain things here for anyone, almost like they were a self-explanatory given. Market thinking has never come natural to me, but it's definitely strong here.

My impression is that Melbourne is very 'work and play' oriented, something that for me is a real challenge as it's just not how I approach life.

The biggest challenge has been in meeting people. To me it seems like a lot of things aren't spoken about (often? with people you don't know so well?), primarily feelings and difficulties or opinions on culture/politics. I've felt pretty rejected here as the Australians I have met so far have expressed very little interest in me as a person and my background, and instead seem to expect me to just fit into their Aussie lifestyle like my life has just begun here. The friendships I have here are still very much functional and centred around practical things like talking about jobs and what each of us is doing at the moment. I feel extremely lonely here with that, and like I have had next to no 'real' conversations in the year I've been here. The beginning was the toughest as I felt that people around me that I met here simply weren't interested in my difficulties in settling here. I felt so utterly alone and like people experienced me as a burden if I wasn't just happy and excited to be here and getting on with things from day one. It's not that I don't like people here, I think it's just a way of thinking and communicating that I can't seem to find my way into.

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

I wish I had taken the route of 'meet foreigners like you'. Now that I have, I feel much less lonely.

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