Culture values and morals vary widely from one place to the next. When coming to my host country, Australia, I did not take into consideration some things that we found normal would be offensive or strange to them, and vice versa. When deciding whom to interview for this assignment, I thought long about whom the right person would be. I chose my travel agent, Maxine, who manages all the flights and trips at my school. The reasoning for choosing Maxine was quite obvious in my eyes; she works with Americans, Europeans, Asians, Australians, etc. She is not bias in her views and has been exposed to a wide range of cultures and those cultures behaviors.
Maxine is originally from New Zealand, but met her husband in Australia, which is why she now lives here. Every day, she deals mostly with American students and has a good idea of how we act and behave. She has also visited the United States and has been exposed to our different culture. I personally believe that this made her an extremely good interviewee when asking about Australians values compared to Americans.
My host country’s personal and cultural viewpoints and mindsets are important to discuss simply due to the fact I am living in their “home”. On page 74 Slimbach says, “It involves living with the people, as the people, and for the people, without indulging the illusion of ever becoming the people.” I don’t believe I have to completely get rid of my own values, since I grew up with my own beliefs based off of my culture and family, but I do think it is important to open my eyes up to Australians values and their way of life. Never would I want to do something insulting unknowingly, and I don’t want to take anything the wrong way as well. By discussing these topics, I can get a better understanding of where they come from and why they behave the way they do. No longer will I pretend I didn’t hear the sales rep in the store calling for me; I’ll know they genuinely just want to talk. Next time I hear a young child say a profane curse word, I’ll know that is how everyone is here. I now also understand their laid back nature and why 70% of Australian’s don’t go to University – simply because they would rather enjoy life and do other things that are more enjoyable. Taking this time to get to know Australians mindsets and values will allow me to no longer be judgmental, but instead fully accept them for who they are.
Certain topics during my conversation with Maxine stood out to me. The first discussion pertained to materialism vs. spirituality. As an American, acquiring material wealth is a sign of success. This idea of the more things you own the wealthier you are likely stems from movie and pop stars. We all know they’re wealthy, and they also show off how much they have. Therefore, we think we must follow suit. Maxine said that in Australia, it’s not about how much you own that shows success, but it’s whether or not you own a house and bigger assets like that. She personally believes that as long as she feels financially stable, then she is successful. When walking down the streets in Australia, you rarely see any expensive cars. Actually, when I was walking to get gelato today, a beautiful BMW was driving down the street and everyone outside was just gawking at this car. It is not normal for them to show off their wealth in such a manner. Whereas in America, a BMW is a car you see every day. Australians don’t need the fancy clothes, cars, and jewelry that us Americans think we need to show our success.
Our second discussion was about independence vs. dependence. The United States as a whole, I feel, is very independent. Americans do not rely on other people to get something done. In our culture, we are told to grow up, go to college, get a job, move out, get married and have kids. Being dependent on family and other people in our life is seen as unhealthy. To grow, you have to be able to do things on your own and are responsible for your own future. When discussing this with Maxine, she completely agreed with American values. However, she said Australians do not abide by this anymore. Supposedly previous generations worked hard on their own and saved for the future and for a family. Now, newer generations are very dependent on family and have become sheltered. She believes children are not pushed from the nest anymore, which is delaying them from becoming mature and strong-minded individuals. This surprised me at first, mostly because I was biased on our American values of being independent. After discussing this with Maxine, she said it really just stems back to the low University attendance rates that cause young adolescents to rely on family longer.
The last discussion that was not too surprising, but really describes Australians as a whole was informality vs. formality. In America, informality and casual appearance signal warmth and equality. The new trend now with females is leggings with an over sized sweater or shirt. If we all wear the same thing, then we all feel as if we are equal. Australia, like us, is the same way. Socially, Australia is built on an informal attitude. There is still a class system that is evident, but they rarely mix. The majority of Australians have informal appearances, which is why they are regarded as down to earth. When out, you’ll see many people without shoes on and they will be dressed in comfortable clothing. At my university, I was actually told us “Americans are too formal.” They believe we should not call teachers by “Professor” or “Dr.”, but by their first names. If we call them by something else, we are implying that we are not equal.
When thinking about a specific part of campus life I do not participate in, it’s a little baffling considering I have a very athletic background. I do not participate in any intramural or club sports. I believe this has to do with inequality. More males are involved in these activities at Quinnipiac than females are. Therefore, it can be pretty intimidating when wanting to join a team. Boys are extremely competitive, and I would never want to be that person, let a lone that girl, who ruins a game for them. I think if I reached out to some of my guy friends and really expressed why playing with them was important to me, then I could easily resolve this issue.
I chose this picture to post since I actually could not do this interview in person; I had to go back and forth via email. Being the lucky person I am, I had to get my wisdom tooth out this week and wasn’t feeling too great! So enjoy my chipmunk cheek.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, Va: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.