Travel Log 5: “Conversations” by Ben Raymond. Brisbane, Australia

After reading the prompt for this week’s activity, I was a little nervous about finding a local Aussie to interview. There were plenty of friends that I could sit down with and have a conversation, but I wasn’t sure how they would respond if I asked to use them as a subject of an assignment. Rather than going through each bullet point on the cultural contrasts list, I decided to have a more authentic and natural conversation with them as I incorporated each point into normal conversation. After I got the answers I wanted from them, I then informed them that I was using this conversation to gain insight of how we are culturally different – and also asked permission to use their responses for this class. I think it is important for me to take the time to discuss viewpoints from someone of a different culture in order to gain a worldly perspective of my own culture. Moreover, it is also important to understand that just because a culture does something differently than my own, doesn’t make it wrong. It is important to approach this conversation with an open mind to new ideas and perspectives.

The person I chose to meet with was a 3rd year marketing student named Nick, who has lived in Brisbane his entire life. Nick is quite the outgoing type, and we have instantly clicked since the beginning of the semester. Surely if anyone was going to have a strong understanding of the Australian culture, specifically in Brisbane, it was going to be him. Nick and I found ourselves getting to know each other quite well very early in the school year because we took many of the same courses and have very similar personality types. He was also generous enough to refer me to a telemarketing company that he works at, and which I am now an employee of.

My discussion with Nick lasted much longer than expected, as of course, he insisted the chat was accompanied by a few beers (legal beers). One point that we focused a lot on in particular was the modesty versus boastfulness concept. I explained to him that in America, it is expected that if you have a lot of money, you flaunt it through purchasing a large house and nice cars – it’s fairly encouraged to show off your accomplishments. As I explained this concept to him, he began to laugh. He explained to me that in Australia, there is something called tall poppy syndrome. Tall poppy syndrome is when somebody acquires status or wealth and decides to show it off for all to see. Australians fear that when someone becomes a “tall poppy” they have an easier chance of being knocked down and attacked my society. This is why even the most successful and wealthy Australians live and act like everyone else. It is culturally rude not to be modest. He said that I could very well be sitting next to a millionaire at the public train station and never know it. He said, “Australians tend to work hard and keep their heads low.” The second you become a tall poppy, your head becomes visible, and much easier for someone to knock down. This also ties in with the informality versus formality debate. Nick explained to me that it is very common for people to wear causal clothes for any occasion. I noticed this when going into my job interview. At a successful marketing firm, many of the employees were wearing jeans and a golf shirt – something that wouldn’t be acceptable at a professional American firm. The last point of comparison Nick and touched on which we had in common was direct versus indirect questioning. We both agreed that our cultures are very in-your-face when it comes to getting the answer to a question. It is more than culturally acceptable to have this behavior.

Applying this to home, there are of plenty of groups within Quinnipiac that I tend not to associate with. Personally, I would like to talk to people within the QU radio station. I feel that by doing this, I may have my perspective changed about the communications community. They always seem to be involved with so many fun events on and off campus that I could see myself enjoying if I knew more about the community.

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