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The Little Things (and Culture Shock)

“It’s the little things that make all the difference.”

This quote is true for many things; relationships, sports, and the entire country of Australia. In many ways, Australia is America 2.0—it’s a western nation that speaks English and has some questionable politicians. Once in the city, however, it’s the little differences that really get to you.

First of all, Melbourne has a designated area within the city called the “Free Tram Zone.” It spans a wide area of central Melbourne and means that, if your trip is entirely within the Free Tram Zone, then it’s free. It’s a really cool system, especially since I currently live within the Free Tram Zone so I hardly ever pay for public transportation. But the one thing that always gets me is that the doors don’t open automatically in the public transit system here, you have to press a button sometimes for the doors to open. Why do they do this? I’m not exactly sure.

Another difference is the coffee. In the United States, you can order a black coffee with cream and sugar literally everywhere. Here, in Melbourne, that doesn’t exist. “How does that not exist?” you’re asking yourself. Well, take it from my roommate who is still hunting for simple black coffee one month since arriving—we haven’t found it yet. The closest option is a Long Black which is a shot of espresso with hot water. Or, as I put it, “Espresso Tea.” Most coffee here is espresso based so, if you like that stuff, this is great. If not, well, you’re out of luck.

Lastly, another major difference lies in the way that food is ordered here. We Americans are used to sitting down at a restaurant, ordering our food, eating it, and then asking the waiter for the check. In Australia, this isn’t common. Usually, you go up to the counter, order and pay for your food first, then sit down and wait for the waiters to bring it out for you. It’s a simple reshuffling of the steps within the same process, but it can really get to you if you’re unfamiliar with it. And, they don’t tip here. At all.

Personally, I find it fascinating how the United States and Australia are extremely similar in general terms, but the small physical differences have large psychological impacts. This is how culture shock smacks you in the face. So one word of advice to readers who want to travel elsewhere: read up and expect that things aren’t going to be the same. Even then, it can still get you but if you keep a curious mindset, it will pass quicker.


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