Australia

Expectations and Experiences

Before coming to Australia, I talked to a lot of people in my immediate surroundings in Austria. Some of them had their own experiences in Australia. They said things like Australian people are very friendly and interested in people from overseas and that they have a slang that makes it difficult to understand people. Also, the distances are quite different from Europe, but the landscape is beautiful, and the animal and plant world is amazing and completely different from our country. With this prior knowledge and these expectations, I arrived with my boyfriend and our son in Australia. Both join me for the time of my stay here. My son is going to school in Adelaide and my boyfriend looks after him. Some expectations were confirmed, others I perceived completely differently.
The first surprise when we arrived in Adelaide, was that we understood the people here quite well, although we were totally tired and not well rested after the long flight. We had no difficulties understanding the language at all, even though I expected to have some difficulties. We weren't familiar with some of the words the Australians use, but actually they speak a quite nice and understandable English. I had more difficulty understanding the Asian people at university rather than the Aussies, as they call themselves. My expectations regarding the Australian slang were not really fulfilled, as I understood the people here quite well.
Secondly, I was surprised by the students when I started with my studies at the University. Generally, as I expected the people in Australia are quite interested in people from overseas. We were asked quite often where we come from, why we are here and how long we intent to stay. People also shared the experience they have with our language, culture and landscape. But then the University started, and we had to do some groupwork where students from Australia and Overseas should work together. This was not that easy since the students from Australia where not willing to work with any foreign students at all. Most of them alredy did their Bachelor Studies in the University of South Australia together and knew each other but they were not interested in communicating to students from overseas. I really felt uncomfortable at the beginning of my studies but in the meantime, it changed to the positive. As I expected, most people in Australia are really interested in foreigners, except the Australian students, for whatever reason.
The third thing I noticed in Adelaide was the domination of the car within the city. Australian cities are huge and spread out and people really need the car to get around. A lot of streets in the city and the attached suburbs have four to eight lanes. Pedestrians and bicycle seemed to be lost in this car dominated surrounding. In fact, they don't seem to matter,  because there are hardly any crossings for pedestrians and bicycles. In the city there are some traffic light crossings but, in the suburbs, it is a risk for every pedestrian to cross the street. Distances within the city are huge but when going out of the city they are enormous. My expectations regarding the distances were confirmed but I was surprised how lost pedestrians feel in such a car dominated city.
Finally, I want to mention how beautiful the landscape in Australia is. I had some great experiences in the National Park Flinders Range which is ‘near’ Adelaide (The park is about 450km from Adelaide and it took us almost six hours to get there). Especially the reddish colors of the landscape were amazing during our stay there. We also got in touch with the animals. While driving through the landscape, we saw a lot of kangaroos and emus but also horses, cows and many sheep. We found out that Australia is the country with most sheep in the world and is the largest producer of cotton. As I expected, the landscape and the fauna and flora are amazing in Australia.
Coming to an end I want to point out that one has to be careful of what others say about other cultures. Everyone has another view on things and the experiences of one person may be totally different from the experiences of another person. Before going on an exchange, it is good to inform oneself about the host country, but it is also important to go with an open mind.
Viviane Göbel