One of the biggest backlashes I heard when I told people I was going to study abroad in Tasmania was that Australia wasn’t very different from the United States. People questioned why I didn’t go to Spain, like most do or go somewhere that’s really different from the U.S. I guess to most people, Australia doesn’t seem any different because we all speak English, right? I mean… the colors on their flag are red, white and blue like ours. But here is a catch: Unlike the U.S., Australia is still ruled by the British crown!
Okay, so there are more things that set Australia aside from the U.S. other than a different type of government. I started to believe people when they said I wouldn’t experience much culture shock when arriving to Australia. I was told that the biggest thing I would have to get use to was the Australian accent. But as soon as I landed in the main land, I felt completely out of place
The only other time I’ve been out of the U.S. was when my mom took me to El Salvador when I was a baby. So I’m taking this as the first experience I’ve had with traveling to a different country. I was completely lost when I stepped out of the plane in Melbourne. Going through immigration was probably the scariest thing about the entire trip. I knew I didn’t have any illegal substances on me, but they were even asking me if I had been near any body of water in the last three months because they wanted to know if my shoes were contaminated! You know that feeling you get when there’s a police car right behind you and you feel a trickle of nervousness, even though you haven’t done anything wrong? Yeah, the feeling was similar.
Needless to say, the entire process was tedious and since I was a young female traveller, a lot of the time the airport security were slightly condescending. I didn’t know how to re-check my bags because I was transfering to a domestic flight (Melbourne to Hobart) so I asked a woman on staff for directions and she rolled her eyes and didn’t answer my question. Pretty rough
When I finally landed to Hobart, my airport pick-up driver arrived just in time. He loaded my luggage onto the car and we were on our way. I practically let out a yelp as soon as I realized we were driving on the wrong side of the road. Yeah, that’s one major thing that they forgot to mention in the study abroad session. Australians drive on the left side of the road. This has been the most difficult thing I have had to get use to, because even a month later, I still get a bit scared when I see a car turning right and I think they’re about to hit us. Also, being a passenger on what is normally the driver’s side for me is always weird. Another interesting thing about the roads here are that there are no stop signs. There are many roundabouts in what I would assume would be a four way stop, and to replace stop signs, there are yield signs. I’m pretty glad I didn’t have to get my driver’s license in this country, especially because everyone drives manual!
You know what’s absolutely awesome about this country? The pay. Minimum wage here is $18.93 AUD and that is equivalent to $13.76 in America. It’s not incredibly high but the basic necessities you find here are cheap. For example, a gallon of milk is perhaps closer to one American dollar than two. Fruits and vegetables are fresh practically everywhere and when you convert the prices to American dollars, they are significantly cheaper than back home. One thing that isn’t cheap is the makeup here in Australia. I practically had a heart attack when I saw that my favorite mascara was close to $20 AUD, which is about $14.50 USD. This mascara was only $6 back at home, so it’s not like I am using a luxury brand. Safe to say that I should probably stop using makeup altogether while I’m living here.
Due to the fact that the minimum wage here is so high, you don’t have to tip anywhere. You don’t tip your waiters, your Uber drivers, or your food delivery drivers. It’s known that if they have an excellent service, you can slip them a five, but it’s not common and they won’t be mad if you don’t.
My favorite thing about this country is that tax is included in the price you see. Meaning, if a bottle of soda costs $2, you will only pay $2. There is no additional tax that they charge at the register; what you see is what you pay. I think I’m going to miss this the most when I go back to Colorado because I’m going to spend more money than I think I am once I return.
The Australian lingo is one I need practice with. I love being good friends with my flatmate Teah because she’s a native to the country, meaning I learn a lot from her every day. She’s taught me so many words that I’m slowly incorporating into my vocabulary. I hope I don’t annoy anyone back home when I return because I actually really like some of the things I’ve picked up on. One of the first things you learn in Australia is that McDonald’s is called “Maccas” and you’ll hardly ever hear anyone else calling it by its original name. I also really like the word “bogan” which is equivalent to the word “ratchet” or “ghetto” in the U.S. I included a list of Australian words that I have learned so far at the bottom of the blog!
I don’t know if it’s an American thing or maybe I just didn’t grow up in a household where nice, fancy meals are cooked every day. My flat mates all enjoy cooking their delicious dishes all the time. There was one instance when my flatmate Niki was making an avocado with egg toast in the oven and it looked like something out of Masterchef. Meanwhile, I was preparing a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the 25th day in the row (no, I’m not kidding). She laughed at me and said, “wow, you’re so American!” I hear that all the time!
Although I’m still in a country that speaks English, it’s very much different than what I expected it to be. I believe I am experiencing culture shock because you don’t know how different the United States really is until you’ve been out of the country and see the lifestyle that everyone else has. I knew that there were some instances where I felt like I didn’t belong here but I made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to let it affect my attitude. I wanted to embrace the Australian lifestyle as much as I could so I can learn about people from another part of the world. I didn’t want to just come to Tasmania to study and explore. I wanted to immerse myself in the culture and truly get that study-abroad experience.
So if I have to go out and eat “Vegemite” on toast and start saying “mate” here and there, I’m going to do it. I’m excited to see what else I learn in my adventure!
"Sook"- scaredy cat (or weenie)
"Capsicum"- any type of pepper
"Thongs"- flip flops
"Bottle'o"- liquor store"Doonah"- blanket"Jumper"- sweater"Fair dinkum"- fair enough"Arvo"- afternoon"Defo"- definitely "Devo"- devastating"Schooner"- 79.2% of a pint of beer"Ambo"- ambulance"Avo"- avocado"Servo"- service Station"Bogan"- ratchet"Yute"- pick up truck
AUSTRALIA– UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA, 2018 FALL
Chelsea Hernandez is currently a Senior studying Journalism and Criminology. She is studying abroad in Tasmania, Australia for the Fall Quarter of 2018. Chelsea is hoping learn about a variety of cultures, not just the Tasmanian one, as many of her peers abroad are from different countries all over the world. After graduation this upcoming Spring, she hopes to gain more experience in Journalism and land an internship somewhere in Denver.