• alissaward

Catching the Culture Shock on Earth Day

This Earth Day, ’m going to take a little bit of a different approach. I am so incredibly grateful for this beautiful planet that we have and the unreal views it constantly gives us. Regardless of where I am in the world, I think one of the most frequent questions I get asked is “where are you from?” which probably doesn’t seem like an unusual question while travelling. But for me, I always shorten the story “Born in Texas, raised on Vancouver Island, and currently living near Sydney.” But if I say that I’m American a certain stigma is attached to it and I couldn’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance I wouldn’t be able to. Or if I say I’m Canadian it isn’t the full truth because I wasn’t born and raised there, but that is the country where I have spent the most time. Or if I say I’m Australian people say, your accent doesn’t sound like you’re from Sydney, and that’s completely true and I can’t even begin to recall all of the slang. But I hold citizenship in all three of these countries and it at time poses many internal conflicts when trying to associate with anyone or place. But regardless of where I’m from, this beautiful world has many versions of home to me. I have a lot of opportunity in that I can call many places home that not everyone has the experience of. So this Earth Day, let’s appreciate this place for all of the beauty and joy that it brings and not necessarily categorizing people into boxes that they must fit into to call parts of the Earth their home.

So a bit about me: I was born in Texas, as mentioned, and lived there for about five years before moving to Canada. I still visited Texas and Florida a few times each year for about 10 years as I had family still out there.

So now, for an overview of the culture shock I experienced in my home country last year and in Australia thus far.

Coming to Panama City, Florida last year for a country festival, the culture shock was instant. Walking through the airports during my layovers, the “ma’am’s” were constant. I think as a Canadian we’re stereotyped to be so polite, but I was humbled by the customer service I received anywhere I went, particularly minimum wage type jobs. I think for myself I’m proud to be American, but embarrassed at times as well. As soon as I met up with my friend, he immediately knew I was experiencing this as he recognized how surprised I was by so many things, like no one has front license plates, it isn’t illegal to drive while being on your phone, the amount of people that line up for chick fil a (50+) at 10:30am on a Saturday morning, that Walmart is open 24/7 and that you can buy alcohol at them, and that u-turns are still a thing, just to name a few. The football culture is incredible, everywhere you turned someone had a hat or shirt supporting a team and a conversation was immediately started that would last at least 5 minutes. In Canada we are polite and all, we say hi to passerby’s, but I haven’t noticed that we go out of our way to start up a conversation with anyone, the essence of community just isn’t the same, or from what I noticed. We smile as someone walks by, but we also keep to ourselves.

During the weather evacuation at the festival, everyone was so accommodating, and just creating conversation with one another to pass the time, rather than pulling out phones and being antisocial as I can only imagine would have been the occurrence back on Vancouver Island.

As a dual citizen at the time of my visit, I will forever have a connection to the US and would like to live back here as an adult at some point.

Now, as a multicitizen, my time in Australia has been full of culture shock moments. People do not wear shoes. And then go into restaurants, AND get service. The whole “No shoes, no shirt, no service” is not a thing in the slightest. The country shares a lot of patriotism that the US does, but on certainly different levels. One of my favourite parts about driving here though is that when someone makes a mistake, you would instantly hear long honks on the horn in the States of Canada, but that just isn’t really what I’ve found here, everyone is so easy going, always allowing you to merge, it’s pretty relaxing honestly.

In line with the easy going.. their signage here is pretty sub-par to what I’m used. Especially on hiking trails, there really isn’t much signage to make sure you’re going the right way on staying on the right track when there are forks in the trails. Construction zones are another, I accidentally walked right through one because the directions I got from the construction worker were so vague, but I quickly figured it out and he gave me a wave when I was on the right track again. People consistently ask me to repeat what I’m saying and I have to do the same, we slur different words and with slang you don’t even think about, although it’s still English, I swear they can seem like different languages at times. The free lifestyle that people live here is so intriguing, it’s hard for my busy-bee self to slow down and enjoy this slower pace at times, but I’m learning, slowly. The funny part is there still is all the same elite jobs with business executives, but the culture is so much more laid back. I think one of my favourite aspects though is how early people in this country wake. It’s unusual for someone to not be awake by 7am, life just gets moving a lot earlier, and I love it. I’m a morning person and I love being surrounded by morning people, so getting acquainted to this aspect took no time at all, plus having a four year old brother means, Sunday sleep-ins are no longer a thing.

In this long-winded and rambling post, I think I’ve tried to capture that Earth day isn’t just about the planet, but the amazing people we share it with tom regardless of how different our worlds may seem, we all share the same planet. We need to protect it like we care about future generations and protect it like we love all of our neighbours.

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