Same Same But Very Different
by Guest Author
As many native English speakers have discovered on moving to Australia, a shared language does not mean a shared culture.
Many South Africans, Americans and Britons who migrate to Australia expect to settle in quickly and easily and will have been unpleasantly surprised by just how difficult it was to feel at home here. For South Africans particularly, coming from a country where the climate, lifestyle and even landscape are very similar, it doesnt seem unreasonable to expect that Australia will just be a safer version of back home.
Part of the problem arises from those very expectations, as we mistakenly assume that when the language is the same as our own, the core cultural values of that country will also be the same. Anyone who was not an English speaker would expect life to be difficult and would manage their expectations accordingly. They would be prepared to spend time watching and listening in order to learn how things are done here.
English speakers tend to assume they already know it all and are surprised when its not that straightforward. Although you speak the same language, however, somehow what you are saying often gets misconstrued and your jokes fall a bit flat. What was acceptably direct at home may be regarded here as arrogant, a readiness to take control may be seen as being pushy and gradually you realise that its actually not the same at all.
Struggling to find their place here, many South Africans often choose to network with other South Africans and so have earned a reputation for being clique-y. This is however precisely the best strategy for your happiness and thats what matters most. For while on the surface Australians are open and friendly, it can take a while for them to actually move beyond superficial pleasantries.
They live for long periods in the suburbs they were born in and already have many old friends and are not actively recruiting new ones, so you can and should take the pressure off yourself by joining an expat support group which will be full of people looking for friends.
Finally, dont take the knock backs too personally, it really isnt all about you! Change your mindset and view Australia as a foreign country for a while, in order to truly observe whats going on and dont make any assumptions. Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut, dont join in the game until you understand the rules and youll be right mate!
Patti McCarthy is a life coach and NLP practitioner who offers an expatriate coaching support service.
For more information go to www.believeyoucan.com.aurelocation. Look out for her articles about core Australian cultural values in future issues of Sabona.