Throughout orientation and the first few weeks of classes, I have begun to pick up on many cultural similarities and differences. For this assignment, I decided to interview one of the concierges in my building. Luke is a student at University as well, and was born and raised in the area. I chose to interview him because he has a lot of exposure working with different cultures through the diverse tourist population here in the gold coast.
Australian culture has many similarities to American culture—both questioning and conflict are viewed similarly. Yet there are some dramatic differences. I was particularly interested in the treatment of elders. Luke, who is around the same age as me, explained that elders are put on a pedestal. He complained that “no one cares about our opinions”, and instead older Australians make all the decisions. Having worked at a nursing home in the US, I see that many elders are disrespected and abused by family members and healthcare staff. Their successes in life do not seem to matter anymore as the elderly become more reliant on others. Here, Luke explained that older folks will sometimes just walk to the front of the queue at the grocery store and as a young person you cannot do much about it. Retired Australians are guaranteed a pension, and the amount is larger for those that made less in their working life—opposite the social security system in the United States.
The only other category that seemed to be different was that of thinking styles. Luke explained that the thinking styles vary greatly by location, but here in the gold coast they are very similar to the linear style of the United States. However, in places like Byron Bay or Melbourne, more creative thinking is highly respected and displayed prominently in public. I saw this first hand this past weekend when I was in Melbourne. In most alleys, street art is completely legal and really adds a whole new dimension to the city. At home, dark alleyways would be sketchy and considered dangerous to walk down. In Melbourne, the paintings have made these otherwise gloomy places come to life. They are more inviting, and often house some of the best restaurants and bars in the city. Our tour guide told us that the best things in Melbourne are the things that you cannot see from a distance, and this is certainly aided by the fact that they hold all kinds of art and creativity to such a high regard.
As far as the remaining interview topics, Luke observes them to be very similar to the US culture. Especially on the gold coast, people are all about having the biggest house and the nicest car. People like to brag about how much money they have and all the things they have done (though Australians can be very quick to pull someone right off their high horse). Young adults tend to move out soon after they finish their schooling, whether it is high school or university. It has become more acceptable to move back home if needed, just like at home. There is not much of a class system, although Australia is also struggling with the issue of a dissolving middle class and a widening gap between the wealthy and the poor—which has been a major issue at home recently. Things tend to be a little more formal here as far as dress code at university, but according to Luke that is very specific to Bond Uni and probably because of the large population of international students.
I have become involved in many areas of campus life at QU over my two years, from athletics to admissions and the honors program. I have not gotten involved in greek life, and while I have nothing against it or the people in it, I have never been drawn to the idea. After this experience, I think I would be more open to learning more about the culture and community upon my return to QU. I think getting involved with a different group of people on campus who I may not have otherwise met would be valuable to making me a more aware person. As J. Daniel Hess says, “by throwing light on your own values and bringing them into sharper focus, the intercultural experience offers you the opportunity to enhance, elaborate, and strengthen the value system you have inherited and developed over the course of your life” (53-54). Thus this study abroad experience as well as any new experiences I engage in at home will help me to strengthen my own value system and knowledge base.
Unfortunately I was not able to get Luke’s permission to post a picture, so instead I have included a picture of Hosier Lane in Melbourne, where the street art stretches from corner to corner of each building, and a small shop with amazing coffee operates out of a doorway onto the street. This is meant to show that Australia seems to be more open to all different types of art and is very appreciative of a variety of personal talents.
Hess, J. Daniel. Studying Abroad/learning Abroad: An Abridged Edition of The Whole World Guide to Culture Learning. Yarmouth, Me., USA: Intercultural, 1997. Print.