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  • Chelsea Joy Arganbright

American vs. Australian Cultural Differences | 25 Years Old | Melbourne, Australia

These aren't just from my observations, but substantiated from a number of Australian friends.


-Tall poppy syndrome. This originates from the overall middle class/egalitarian mindset. It's very much that everyone should be like everyone else, and it's looked down upon if you're too "out there" or away from the norm. This both includes oddities such as, for example, when I lived here at 15 and had blue hair and wore makeup I was seen as sort of odd, and also the idea that if you're seen as of a higher class standing/have more money you're looked at differently to a certain degree as well. This isn't all bad, of course, as say...you go to the doctor and it's not like in the states where there is a marked difference in social standing between yourself and the doctor, played out by the white coat and superiority. Here, you go to the doctor and he's probably going to be dressed just like you (no coat!) and doesn't act superior. It's fascinating, really, to be within a country that doesn't really recognize different "classes" per say. -Self deprecation. I'm huge on compliments. I love making people feel great about themselves, and I feel like there's always something good to be said about someone. HOWEVER, when I compliment someone here whether it be a guy or girl, unfailingly it's always "Oh, this old thing?/"Oh, it's nothing..."/blank stare. It's like they don't know how to take a compliment! It's due to that self-deprecation, where they feel as though to say something like we might say in the states ("Oh! Thank you!"/"Aw thanks! I bought it at ____") would be considered too self inflating. Aussies always down-play everything! Sometimes I like to do little social experiments and compliment someone and see just how awkward they become! It's quite funny. -Aussies are better listeners, Americans are more into themselves. Notice when you're speaking with an American, usually while you are speaking they will be nodding their head in "agreement" or sometimes saying "mhm" or "yeah" to acknowledge that they're listening, although all that "recognition" really isn't listening at all! It took me awhile to get used to the fact that when I'm talking, Aussies will just look at you and won't utter little notes of acknowledgement that they're listening, because, well, they're ACTUALLY listening instead of expending their energy and making you FEEL like they're listening! When I first got here, I felt like Aussies just weren't listening to me when I was talking because I was so used to the American way of nodding/"mhm"/"yeah"/"okay", but after awhile I realized that the majority of Aussies 1) remember more of what I say after I say it 2) have more feedback on what I say instead of going off on their own topic. This seems really abstract, but I hope you catch my drift. (PS-I tend to be really big on saying mhm, yeah, or my specialty-"okay" when someone is talking to me--inherited that from my mom--but am trying to work on that now that I'm aware of it!) -Aussies aren't as exaggeratory as Americans. Americans use their hands in gestures a lot more, tend to be more exclamatory, and use their hands/body language to add to their conversation. I noticed from observing my Californian professor that she uses a lot more inflection, paces, uses her hands to make a point/plays with her hair whilst conducting the lecture. This is so much more common among Americans. Observing my Australian professors, they tend to stand in the same place, aren't as inflective with their voice, and to be honest it's quite difficult for me to understand when they've finished a point and have moved onto the next because in comparison with the American, they're monotone! Using my professors are just case studies for the larger picture. After observing them, I realize how much more the way I conduct myself is like my professor Jennie in my gestures, voice, inflections, etc. Also, I'm in a tutorial section where there are 20 students in total, 2 of which are American (myself included.) The Americans are on the whole louder, more boisterous, use hand gestures. -Laughing. When Aussies laugh, it tends to be a more cynical laugh, or an ironic laugh. You can hear it in the tone. This was pointed out to me by my Aussie friend who explained that "the American laugh is a more genuine laugh, out of joy or happiness." We're also louder when we laugh! I actually like this about Americans. -Australians are less individualistic. This stems back to that idea up there^ against the Tall Poppy. More emphasis is placed on the wider community than the individual. This is great! -Egalitarianism. Oh my god, I could write an essay on this by itself! (Wait, I've already written quite an essay!) This stems back to the idea of the Australian social structure just being like a giant middle class. This goes for dating as well, which is why I've learned that I don't like the dating culture here. At all. I'm pretty old fashioned even by American standards. But my god. There is no chivalry here from 98% of men I've been on dates with. They say it's died in America, but here it's like it never existed! There is no notion of courtship. My friends here think it's strange to have a guy offer to pay on dates, which in America I would assume to be expected. I've had two guys out of many offer to be chivalrous enough to get the bill on a date. Not to bash on guys though! In the states, if you're a girl, you dress up to go on a date. Here, it's like "You get me as I am." I was on a date with a Spanish guy a few weeks back, and he was explaining to me how appalled he was that he'd been on dates with girls where they'd show up in "trackies" with their hair a mess and no makeup. I honestly don't like this, because I believe that dressing up for a date or looking presentable at least is really important because it shows respect towards the other person. It's just all apart of the laid back culture here I suppose. I've seen so many women here in business suits and heels, but their hair looks like they just got out of bed and sans makeup. If I saw that in the states, I'd think they were sick or running extremely late, but here it's the norm. -Emotions. Aussies are terrible at expressing or talking about their emotions. I'm a pretty intense person who is big on talking about feelings and how you "feel", so this is a bit of a shock for most Aussies. Talking about things like seeing a psychologist, having a psychological issue, or even small stuff like having a really bad day are usually met with that same self-deprecating behaviour.


Written 8 January, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia

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