51st State?

Old Apr 9th, 2005, 05:41 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 669
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
51st State?

Curious to know if American visitors suffer culture shock. Do you feel at home? How about European visitors? How about you?

Is this country sufficiently different to be just itself? Or does it veer one way or the other?
alice13 is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2005, 08:23 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 266
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
From an American perspective, Australia is unique in that it is very familiar, yet strangely different at the same time. The environment, especially in Aussie cities, is something we're very comfortable with but the manner in which things happen are what confuses us. Let me explain...

Let's say you're driving down the road in your car. Obviously we're both familiar with driving around in cars but having the driver sit on the right and driving down the street on the left is odd to us. Now you're getting hungry and want to pull into Maccas for a quick burger. In the US, you would (usually) circle the building in a counterclockwise direction to pass through the drive through. In Oz, it's usually clockwise. Once again, something that is very familiar, yet different.

A few more examples:
- The mailbox to send a letter is red, not blue.
- Aussie phone numbers seem to be 6 to 10 digits in length (or however many digits the phone company decides to assign on a given day)
- Language: We both speak English but very differently!

My own personal experience is feeling very comfortable in Australia. I struggled with the "same, yet different" concept on the first trip but have got the hang of things now.

Alice, Australia is definitely different enough to "be itself." I would hate to see Australia become "Americanized." (Look at what we've done to Canada!) Distance and isolation have helped Oz develop & retain their own identity and spirit. Unfortunately in this day of satellite TV & cheap mass communications, it's become easy for one country/culture to influence the culture of another. Australia has tremendous external influences not only from America but from Asia as well. Internally, there are still the ties to the Crown and influence from the past wave of European and now Asian immigration. It will be interesting to see how Australia works all of this out and see how she identifies herself in the coming years.
JohnInMiami is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2005, 08:25 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,288
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'd second John's thoughts on this!!!
LN is offline  
Old Apr 10th, 2005, 08:12 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 133
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
As a Canadian, I did not realize the extend we have been Americanized until I was in Australia. Because of it's isolation, it has not become overwhelmed with influences from other countries.

That said, you will certainly see familiar icons... There are Starbucks etc. and when I was there in January the Australians were anxiously awaiting the premiers of Lost and Desperate Housewives.

The American presence in joined by strong British presence and (I was happy to notice) even a little Canadian.

In terms of the pace of society it is much more relaxed than life in North America or Europe... which was occasionally frustrating!
goldilox is offline  
Old Apr 10th, 2005, 09:27 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,124
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I would say, on a culture shock scale of 1 to 10 Australia is about a 3 from the American point of view. Get away from the cities and the coast and that number goes up a point or two. The American business influences, like fast food chains are obvious. The historic links to the UK are also very evident....driving on the left, foods like sausage rolls and meat pies, place names like Newcastle, Torquay and Portland, some of the slang, holidays such as Boxing Day, the Queen on the currency, sports like cricket and rugby. Aboriginal influence in the populated parts of the country seems quite limited, with the exception of place names like Woolongong, Wagga Wagga, Coonabararbran, Capalaba. With a large influx of European and Asian immigrants, particularly since WWII, there are now new influences on the cultural character of the country. All which makes for a experience that, as John says, is "very familiar, yet strangely different at the same time".

Of course from a climatic, geographic and natural biological perspective, Australia is hugely different to the USA, and to Europe. That's THE biggest draw card from my point of view.
RalphR is offline  
Old Apr 10th, 2005, 10:14 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 9,922
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I can only comment from the reverse perspective, and I'm wary about generalising about Americans, as the USA is much more diverse from one region to another than Australia. There are distinct cultural differences between Americans and Australians, and while that's true as a generalisation it can break down in individual situations - I have more in common with some Americans than with some Australians, after all.

From what friends and acquaintances have told me the differences become more apparent, not less, with greater exposure, so are most likely to be noticed by people who take up residence in the other country than short-stay visitors. However, you should also gain a greater appreciation for the reasons behind them.

With all of those provisos, Americans can find Australians somewhat irreverent, even cynical. It's been said that "Americans believe that life is serious but not hopeless, while the English believe it's hopeless but not serious". As in much else, Australians are probably closer to the English in this. A lot fewer Australians attend church than Americans, and so the place of religion in American life can come as a surprise to Australians.

Like Alan in another thread, I have a residual fondness for scurrilous jokes, preferably ones that give offense to more than group at a time. The issue of ethnicity vs social harmony is taken more seriously by Americans, I think.

Australians wear their patriotism much more lightly, despite the introduction of American customs such as singing the national anthem before a sporting match, which always strikes me as artificial and forced here. While some Australians will express admiration for Americans' more flamboyant patriotism, it's fair to say that an Australian who flies the national flag outside his or her home is suspected of eccentricity at best and harbouring semi-automatic weapons at worst. (We have strict gun-control laws, few Australians own firearms and very few go hunting.)

I'm open to argument on this one, but I also have a feeling that in social discourse Americans tend to go to greater lengths than Australians to avoid friction. Except for some personnel in the customer service business, they're unnervingly polite. I noticed that whereas Australians will get someone's attention by a simple "excuse me", in the US this is usually followed by a "sir", "ma'am" or "miss".

There's a few random observations about differences. Similarities abound also and I should mention them in another post - or someone else might want to.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Old Apr 11th, 2005, 05:11 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 669
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Well thank you. I guess my original post was too soft in many ways. Cultural differences are one thing - all that about driving on the left and meat pies. What I really want to know is whether any visitors look below the surface at the philisophy that drives the politics.

And is that changing?

alice13 is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
Aug 29th, 2008 09:03 AM
Australia & the Pacific
Jan 22nd, 2008 08:44 PM
Australia & the Pacific
Apr 17th, 2007 10:54 AM
Australia & the Pacific
Feb 22nd, 2004 09:30 PM
Australia & the Pacific
Dec 6th, 2003 10:32 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -