Tag Archives: culture shock

Culture shock. Again.

Just when I think that maybe twelve years is enough to give me an exemption from culture shock, another layer of it comes.

And really, I know better.

Every few months I hear a phrase I’ve never heard, understand a pop culture reference that previously went over my head, or am baffled by something I see on an Aussie TV program and I’m struck with a tiny little bout of culture shock, which fades as quickly as it landed.

This morning it happened while singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

You guys, the motions are different here. *gasp*

What?? Seriously?

Yup, for real.

Instead of flicking their entire hands from clinched fists to fingers extended like blinking lights, they extend all ten fingers wide and make them wiggle tiny little wiggles. (Like I would make to demonstrate rain.) The movements are small and delicate… kind of like twinkling stars. 

Imagine that.

And maybe this is a little thing, but it kind of spun me out.

I realized that the songs I’ve been singing to my littles at home will be taught differently at kindy or preschool or when they’re watching Playschool on the telly. Sometimes it’s the motions that are a bit different, and sometimes the tune actually varies!

I’ve seen this before but kind-of brushed it off, thinking that the person I saw or heard must not know the song properly. But now it’s starting to sink in that they do know the song properly… just differently to me.

As silly as it sounds it’s sent me into culture shock all over again.

Different is not wrong, it’s just different” is my motto when it comes to all things culture-shock-ish, but it doesn’t mean I don’t like it my way better. (Just keepin’ it real here, friends.)

Anyway, I will continue to teach my kids the American version of things (it’s called the “trunk” of the car, not the “boot”) and their dad and everyone else around them can go all Australian on them I guess. Cuz even if my littles are Aussie, and end up doing everything the Aussie way, at least maybe they can understand a tiny bit of their American heritage too. Even if it is just the way we sing I’m a Little Teapot.

STOP.

 

Q for you: Do you experience culture shock in your own family? Maybe you and your partner aren’t from different nations but you might have very different family backgrounds or life experiences. How do you meld two worlds into one?

 

Love,
A


Sometimes I forget I’m American. But not during the olympics.

Sometimes I forget I’m American.

I’ve lived here for twelve years now and so–with a few exceptions–it’s all fairly “normal” to me. I’m always caught off guard when checkout chicks ask me how my holidays are going.

Huh?

And then I remember that I have an accent.

Oh yeah, I’m a foreigner.

There are, however, a few times that I’m keenly aware of being American.

One is during voting season. I can’t not be interested in American politics. Sometimes I wish I didn’t care… but that’s never really going to happen so I just try and keep up from a distance the best I can.

The other time is during the Olympics.

I’m not a very athletic person. I’m not super patriotic either.

But I do find it easy to get swept up in the romance and excitement and competition and pageantry of it all.

Living in Australia, of course they are televising all of the events that include Australians. This means we’ve seen a lot of rowing and swimming and dressage. (yawn)

Side note: How is a horsie dog show even in the Olympics anyway? Isn’t the Olympics for human competitions? *sigh* Crazy. 

Anyway, I’ve gotten really frustrated with the lack of coverage for Olympic events that I want to see. You know, the ones with Americans in them. (Hello women’s gymnastics with the US taking out the gold. Totally missed that. Arg!)

But there is one that I’ve gotten to see over and over – Michael Phelps. What a freak that guy is. Love or hate America, how can you not love a superhuman guy like that?

When you see an athlete perform like he does, it’s hard not to be amazed. Nationality goes out the door and it becomes about appreciation for what they guy can do. (Well, unless you’re Australian and insanely jealous – heh heh! or American and insanely proud – ha!)

Mr. Bolt, Mr. Jordan, Mr. Woods, Mr. Ruth, Mr, Federer, Ms. Komenechi (who the heck knows how to spell Nadia’s name, anyway?). These are a few athletes that belong in a league of their own.

Team USA or not, I applaud Phelps for retiring on top of the world.

Awesome.

(And don’t tell the Aussies, but shhhhhhhh, yup, I’m kinda glad he’s American.)

STOP.

Q for you: Do you get into the Olympics much? 

 

Love,
A

 

Click Clink Five | Five minutes a day, unedited.


An inconvenient errand

The streets were fairly quiet as I was driving to the grocery store at 10:45pm tonight.

It was the first time I’d had a chance all day to get to the store. We needed milk for the morning.

As I drove there I thought about what a novelty it was to be able to grocery shop at that hour.

The supermarket I go to at home closes as 9pm, or 5pm on the weekends.

All of a sudden I was excited for my little errand.

I’m. in. America. I thought to myself.

It’s the little things I miss about home. (Well, the little things and a few big things like my family and church.)

But I miss being able to grocery shop late at night when I’m free to roam the isles slow and steady and feel like the place is there just for me.

So tonight, even an inconvenient errand didn’t seem so inconvenient.

In fact, it seemed kinda fun.

Fancy that.

STOP.

 

Q for you: Before I moved to Australia I used to do my grocery shopping most Sunday nights around 10pm. I enjoyed my late-evening weekly ritual. Do you ever do your grocery shopping at night? Or is that only when you need to run in and grab a one-off for some special reason?

 

Love,
A

p.s. This is yesterday’s post. My internet wasn’t working when I tried to post it last night.

 

Click Clink Five | Five minutes a day, unedited.


Americans are nice

Living in Australia, one of the things I miss is the level of customer service that’s offered in America.

You just can’t compare the two, and it’s too difficult to explain without experiencing it first hand.

Australians aren’t rude, they’re just different.

Americans have “customer service” ingrained in them. Yes, I know there are exceptions, and you’ll sometimes run into a rude phone rep or server or whatever, but by and large American customer service is amazing.

Today I was in Costo and had to go to the membership desk.

“May I have a coupon book please?” I asked.

“Why yes of course you can!” said the customer service rep. But it wasn’t just her words, it was her tone, her expression, her gesture, her massive smile, and the twinkle in her eye. It was as if she had been waiting all day for someone to ask her that question so she could give them a coupon book.

She was so nice! SO nice.

I half expected her to hand me some cotton candy too.

Yes, it was just a few little words, but it made a huge impression on me. Totally made me grin all the way back to the checkout and then out the door.

Hours later I’m still thinking about it.

Maybe she was a shining example, but to me she was not just a good Costco employee, she was a really nice American.

As much as Americans are known for being loud and large and demanding and confident, they should also be known for being warm and friendly and positive and encouraging.

I love America. And Americans.

It’s good to be home.

STOP.

 

Q for you: Do you think Americans are nice? Or is it just Oregonian Americans that are so nice?

 

Love,
A

 

Click Clink Five | Five minutes a day, unedited


What I hate about Australia (besides giant bugs)

There are so many things to love about Australia:

The sun.

Gorgeous beaches.

Ridiculously cute animals like koalas and wallabies.

Cool buildings like the Opera House.

Indigenous art.

Bush dances.

BBQ culture.

Passionate sports fanatics.

Words and phrases like “mate” and “g’day” and “no worries”.

The amazing (Asian) food that you can find everywhere.

Teh fact that most people don’t take themselves too seriously and are quick to have a laugh.

Morning tea.

Afternoon tea.

I love so much about this nation. So much. (I’ve been here 12 years, duh.)

But there is one thing I hate. (And yes, I know “hate” it a very, very strong word. One I don’t use often.)

Yes, I hate the cockroaches, the ants, and the mosquitoes that I come across on a daily basis… but that’s not what I’m talking about.

What I’m talking about is this:

THE AUSTRALIAN SHOPPING TROLLY.

(Otherwise known as a shopping cart.)

I have never, ever, EVER driven one of these things that steers correctly. Tehy are not made to balance and flow like the American ones.

They simply will not go in a straight line when in less than perfect circumstances.

Going around a bend (with a full cart) is like trying to pull a semi-truck around a hair-pin turn on the side of a mountain pass. Ugh.

Trying to push a cart with 50+ pounds of groceries in it and steering it in teh right direction when there is any remote slope to the ground is virtually impossible… Comparable to crocodile wrestling. (Just try to imagine that.)

I’m convinced that the CEOs of Woolworths and Coles have never gone grocery shopping a day in their lives.

If they had we would be seeing some radical reforms in the trolly department.

A nation that’s built the Sydney harbor bridge, hosted the Olympics, and engineered countless other modern marvels…. yet they can’t figure out how to make a decent shopping cart.

(Embarrassing.)

So this, my friends, is the thing I hate about Australia.

Shopping trollies.

STOP.

 

Q for you: Have you ever tried to wrangle an Australian shopping cart?

 

Love,
A

 

Click Clink Five | Five minutes a day, unedited


Different isn’t wrong, it’s just… different.

Culture shock is a funny thing.

People often think they don’t have it. I don’t have culture shock, I like it here they say. As if “liking” has anyting to do with “shocking”. (Yes, “shocking” is a word I just came up with to shorten for culture shock. And then by explaining it I made it a thousand tiems longer anyway. Humph.)

When I was living in Greece my culture shock came by way of please and thank you.

I was 18 and working as a waitress at a restaurant on Santorini Island. Most of our customers where vacationers from Eurpoe and America and Canada and AUstralia. They wanted english-speaking staff for that reason.

But every once and a while we’d get a day with lots of Greek holiday-goers.

One day in particular I was serving Greek couple after Greek couple after Greek couple.

“Coke!” they would shout at me. “Spaghetti Bolonaise!” they would shout next. “Refill!” And on and on it went.

Never a please. Never a thank you.

maybe I woke up on the wrong side of hte bed that day, but for whatever reason by mid-shift I was ready to break down into tears.

They don’t appreciate me. They’re so rude. They’re condescending and belittling.

They haaaaaaate me.

(Why do they hate me so much?)

And then I realized… it’s cultural.

As an American it’s considered rude to throw out your orders to the server. You request. You use pleasantries. You make eye contact.

But as a Greek these people weren’t being rude in teh slightest.

They were just being Greek. THeir role was to tell me what they wanted. My role was to follow directions adn deliver. End of story.

They didn’t hate me. They weren’t being rude. (Well, most of hte time anyway.)

They were just being Greek. They were different. And different isn’t wrong, it’s just… different.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said htat over the last 15 years, most of whichI’ve lived abroad.

Different isn’t wrong, it’s just different.

STOP.

 

Q for you: Have you ever experienced culture shock? How did you handle it?

 

Love,
A

p.s. went over time today!

 

Click Clink Five is a blog by Adriel Booker. | Five minutes a day, unedited. | 2012 All rights reserved. | Adriel also writes on parenting and motherhood at The Mommyhood Memos.


For the love of holiday M&Ms

I get homesick at holidays.

I know what you’re thinking – of ocurse you miss your family when you want to celebrate with them most.

Um yeah. That’s true. I miss family…

But actually, I’m talking about another kind of homesick.

M&Ms.

It’s Valentines Day tomorrow.

All I want is some little conversation hearts and some pink and red and white peanut M&Ms.

Is that too much to ask?

At Christmas I want red and green ones.

At Easter I want some nice pastel ones.

I’d even buy green ones for St Patricks Day, just becuase I could.

(Do they sell red, white, and blue ones for 4th of July? Probably.)

I know it probably sounds crazy, but I miss holiday candies.

Yup, I know – it’s all just part of their marketing ploys to empty our pockets.

Yup, I know – it’s all consumerism and a litle ridiculous.

But… I kinda like it. I like conversation hearts and pink M&Ms.

I strolled the isles of Target adn Big W (Australia’s version of Walmart) and Woolies (Safeway) today in search of Valentiens candy.

Guess what I found?

A few heart-shaped chocolates and…

Easter eggs.

Apparently Australia thinks Valentines is an American hoax to make you buy yet aother greeting card. maybe…

But I think Valentines Day is an American way of reminding you to tell the people you love that… you love them.

So happy Valentines Day to my lovies. You’ll just have to take my kisses… since red and pink hersheys ones are nowhere to be found.

STOP.

Q for you: Do you get into Valentines Day? Or do you think it’s ridiculous?

Love,
A

Click Clink Five is a blog by Adriel Booker. | Five minutes a day, unedited. | 2012 All rights reserved. | Adriel also writes on parenting and motherhood at The Mommyhood Memos.


Come on sausage

It was about ten years ago.

I hadn’t been in Austrlaia that long, but long enough that I didn’t feel like I was experienceing “culture shock” anymore.

Until one lovely Saturday afternoon……

I was downtown shopping and just in front of me on an escalator traveling up was a mother and her young son. He looked around 2 or 3 years old.

“Come on sausage” she said to the little guy as she tugged his hand to walk onto teh platform.

I was mortified. SAUSAGE? Are you kidding me?

Child abuse! Emotional child abuse!

How could this woman call her son SAUSAGE??!!! Surely he would be scarred for life. Probably end up in counselin.g

I shook my head in dismay and wished I could somehow “fix” the situation and tell the little guy that he was just perfect as-is. Definitely not fat!

To me, calling someone “sausage” was akin to calling them “porker”. Or “bacon”.

totally rude.

Totally demeaning.

And then, a few days later I heard it again.

This time it was my boss’s (lovely, Christian) wife talking to her child.

And it hit me: that was not a mother talking down to her child, that was an Australian pet name!

I couldn’t believe it!

Really? Sausage?

(Hello culture shock!)

Since then I’ve heard it a thousand times.

Just as my own mom used to call me “pumpkin” (kind of weird now that I think about it, but also totally common in America), so this term – sausage – is a common term of endearment in Australia.

So there you go (Branson).

Have you hugged your little sausage today?

STOP.

 

Q for you: What’s your favorite term of endearment?

 

Love,
A

 

Click Clink Five is a blog by Adriel Booker. | Five minutes a day, unedited. | 2012 All rights reserved. | Adriel also writes on parenting and motherhood at The Mommyhood Memos.

 


The swearing Malaysian pastor

I had only been in Malaysia a few hours before I found myself in church.

The pastor spoke English in a thick Chinese-Malaysian accent.

I sat a few rows back from the front, straining to listen and understand what he was saying.

The message was about sin, and how it ruins lives.

He began to use an illustration about stepping in dog doo-doo and how that was like sin – messy, smelly, leaving a trace wherever it was tracked.

Except he didn’t use the word “doo-doo”… or even crap or poop. He used the word $hit. He used it over and over and over again.

He seriously used it at least twenty time.s

At first I thought no, surely that’s not what he’s saying. But then, as giggles from the rest of the non-Malaysians began to errupt from my row, I realized he was indeed using a swear word in his message.

I learned something new that day.

Apparently what is a swear word in one culture is not in another.

(Hello and welcome to Malaysia.)

Needless to say I will never, ever forget his illustration abotu sin.

STOP.

 

Q for you: Living in Australia I’m faced with this often – words that are considered rude in America aren’t here and vice-versa, but none make me chuckle like the swearing Malaysian pastor. What defines a swear word to you?

 

Love,
A

 

Click Clink Five is a blog by Adriel Booker. | Five minutes a day, unedited. | 2012 All rights reserved. | Adriel also writes on parenting and motherhood at The Mommyhood Memos