Want to know what to expect from Sydney's culture? Get a look at Anderson's first thoughts on culture shock, the attitudes that are part of local life, and how different interpersonal communication is compared to American culture.
What’s the opposite of culture shock?
Admittedly, I have never experienced a culture like Australia’s, yet I can’t bring myself to say I’ve been shocked. That implies something intimidating. I have felt far from uncomfortable in my first week in Sydney. Each interaction has further reinforced a sense of acceptance—or alternatively an absence of judgment.
This laid-back attitude seems to permeate all phases of life in Sydney, but it’s really the minute details that make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. For instance, I went to one Chinese restaurant shortly after arriving. To my surprise, the customers were expected to serve themselves water. This blew my mind. Back home, there is a strict dichotomy separating the server and patron. The customer is expected to sit; the server is expected to serve. This notion is generally rejected in Sydney. The staff will set out pitchers of water and customer is given the liberty to take as they please. I found this oddly refreshing and somewhat dignifying. Why couldn’t I get my own water? What was stopping me? Nothing really, other than the consent of the restaurant.
Therein lies the roots of the laid-back, casual approach to life in Australia. Each interaction is so humanizing. I have been treated with nothing but respect at every turn. How could I not reciprocate?
Perhaps the starkest contrast I encountered in my first week was my first day at BIS Oxford Economics. I was cautiously optimistic about the internship but I dreaded the monotony and pointlessness of American corporate culture. Watching Office Space dozens of times in high school may have skewed my expectation of the white-collar workplace.
Life milestone alert—be assigned my own cubicle.
My first day completely absolved all my worries. The two analysts supervising me were not only very helpful and patient—they were real. I never felt uncomfortable voicing my concerns. I never felt judged for saying I didn’t know something. By the second hour I already felt welcomed and valued. I was never made to feel like a commodity; they understand that learning and growth is rarely a linear path. With a clear mind and a healthy workplace, I can learn quickly and realize my potential.
Much to my relief, there seems to be a lack of a superiority complex in Australian culture. There is no pressure to be seen as a better person than one another. As a result, few are judgmental and two-faced. It almost makes too much sense. Bettering yourself is not a zero sum game—you don’t have to detract from other’s accomplishments to validate your own.
On Wednesdays, my office goes and plays soccer in a nearby park—because why not?
A wise man named Damian Lillard once said, “Be happy for a brother and never count another man’s bread.” That is a lesson that Australian culture teaches by example. Continue living your own life. Too many people don’t. Life is too beautiful to be preoccupied with comparing yourself to others.
When I say life is beautiful, I quite literally mean it.
I could never stress.
I have barely scratched the surface of Sydney and it has left me in awe. The weather is just like a perfect Arizona winter. The beaches are somehow both lively and tranquil. And the sushi, oh my goodness. What a first impression Sydney has left on me.
Anderson's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.