Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sail away with me to another world.

I've been struggling as to what I should be writing about this week.  Apparently, I've hit the point in our little two-year adventure where I'm becoming more acclimatized to my surroundings.  I looked it up and it's an actual thing.  Dr. Deborah Swallow, who according to her website is the "Leading Authority On Intercultural Communication", states there are 5 stages of culture shock when moving to a new place.

  • Step One:  Honeymoon Stage  You feel excited, stimulated and curious. You still feel close to everything familiar back home.
  • Step Two:  The Distress Stage  Everything you are experiencing is no longer new and it has now started depressing you.  You feel confused, isolated or inadequate when you realize that your family and friends are not easily accessible.
  • Step Three:  Re-Integration Stage  You dislike the culture, language, food and reject it as inferior.  You may develop prejudices towards the new culture.  You are angry, frustrated and even hostile to those around you.
  • Step Four:  Autonomy Stage  First stage of acceptance.  You start to accept the differences and feel like you can begin to live with them.  You are more confident and no longer feel isolated.
  • Step Five:  Independence Stage  You are finally yourself again.  Things start to become enjoyable and you feel confident and comfortable to make decisions based on your own preferences and values.  You feel at home.

I think I've finally made it to step four and am moving towards step five.  Based on my experience, I've had every feeling discussed in the above stages.  I've yelled, "how stupid is this stupid country"with more colorful language mind you, many a times.  I've cried in the shower and thought, "what in the world are we doing here?"  I've longed for food that I don't think I even really liked when I was in the States; Cool Ranch Doritos, anyone?  Through this long, hard, drawn out process, I think I've discovered more about myself I never knew.  That is why we travel, right?  It's not to necessarily learn about other places and cultures. It's to learn about ourselves as we see through someone else's eyes.  The really crazy thing is I'm going to have to go through this entire process again when we go back because apparently America, my home, will actually cause culture shock.  I already experienced this a little when seeing the bread aisle in Walmart literally stopped me in my tracks.  Who could possibly eat that much bread?

Honestly, when I see something I find strange now I struggle to figure out if it's because it's "Aussie" strange or just plain odd.   I no longer pay attention to strange spellings.  I've found myself saying things like "it ticks all the boxes" and "have a go" and using words like cracker and ripper to explain really cool stuff.  I do not have an Aussie accent of any kind and it basically takes one word out of my mouth for people to ask, "American?"   Yes, I'm American.

I now have standard responses to this typical interaction I have on a daily basis. It usually goes something like this.

Me:  Hello.
Random Stranger Guy:  G'day!  Are you from America?
Me:  Yes.
Guy:  Ah, I could tell you see. Your accent. Whereabouts?
Me:  Tennessee.
Guy:  Oh, is that near Texas?  (or they like to tell you where they've been for example: My family went to Disneyland a while back.  It was fun.)
Me:  No, not really.  I'm originally from Oregon.  That's north of California.
Guy:  Oh yeah, it's pretty there, eh?
Me:  Yes. Very.
Guy:  Do you love it here? (Aussies love that you love Australia)
Me:  Yes, but I miss my dogs.
Guy:  Don't they have dogs here?
Me: (I just usually smile and nod at this point)
Guy:  (Laughing) Oh well.  What's going on with your government?

At this point I've usually tried to end my transaction or I pray that my bus comes, etc. It's just funny that I have this conversation over and over and over.  Oh well, in Australia the only thing worse than being laughed at is not being laughed at.

I guess that's what we would do in the States if you meet someone from another country.  I just never knew how tiring it could become.  I have quite a few acquaintances here but not any real friends. I think Aussies like to reserve judgment on making you a mate because that means it's for life.  You don't just make anyone your mate.  It takes time.  We only have two years so basically this means that just as I'm being allowed to be "mates" with people, we will be leaving.  I must say that this is quite difficult at times.  I really don't know how I would be doing if I didn't have the Internet and Facetime.
I saw this new video for the Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton duet and it actually made me cry.  I'm such a crybaby.

But I think it forces you to adapt to your surroundings.  I know there are already things I will miss when we leave like Tim Tams and Ginger Beer.  But I've really become quite fond of the laid back attitude towards things that the Aussies pride themselves on.  As Americans we tend to be so uptight.  What are swear words, really?  Aren't we the ones that give them power?  I actually hear less people swearing on a daily basis and yet, if you turn on the TV after 9:00 you can actually hear the "f" word on free TV.  Not mother "f" though.  I mean, they have to draw the line somewhere and apparently as soon as you bring mom into the equation all bets are off.   It really is funny to be watching a movie where they are readily saying the "f" word and then they bleep "mother*&^%#$".  I watched more than I wanted of a Jim Carrey movie the other day because I just kept laughing at what they were bleeping and what they weren't.

Oh well, the show must go on.  I think I'll go listen to Islands In The Stream now.

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