How to CONNECT in Australia – One American’s Experience

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View from the Ferry Boat to Manly, Australia
CONNECTing in Sydney, Australia

This month, I had the amazing experience of working across the great continent of Australia.  During my tour, I was privileged to facilitate training classes on the fundamentals of project management in Sydney,NSW; Adelaide, SA; Darwin, NT; & Perth, WA. It was a great two weeks and a great exercise in experiencing another culture.

Since the theme of this blog is “CONNECTion”, here’s a quick guide to similarities and differences between Australia and the United States, as viewed by one recent visitor from the “other side of the world”.

Similarities:

  • English is the primary language. Though, as you will see below, common phrases are very different.
  • Both countries enjoy a high, developed standard of living
  • If you “round” the numbers, the continent of Australia is comparable in size to the continental United States (“lower 48”)
  • Current government leadership (Prime Minister / Australia; President/ United States) are both dealing with low popularity ratings (at this writing)
  • Given the size of each country, the diversity of it’s people and lifestyles vary somewhat by region
  • It seems that a resident of either country should expect to fairly easily adapt to life in the other country- with a few notable adjustments

Funny to note, however, is that given the number of similarities, there are enough notable differences to remind a visitor to Australia that they are in fact, somewhere a long way from home:

  • In my experience, the Australian people seemed extremely polite – perhaps influenced by the perceived formality and proper use of the English language than typified in the United States.
  • While I’m sure there are some in Australia who feel “excluded” from the mainstream, a feeling of angst seemed to be missing from the majority of the population of those I came to know. (Though, in parts of the country, there was  a notable population of displaced / struggling indigenous people (aborigines). There is an amazing similarity to experiences I’ve had with a number of indigenous North American’s, though the history of the peoples are quite different.
  • Food and drink are considerably more expensive in Australia, though, it also appears as a general rule that Australians have somewhat healthier diets than Americans.
  • Aussies were amazed at the idea of a “motor bank”, common in the U.S.  We had some good laughs about how Americans can do all of their banking from the comfort of their driver’s seat of their cars!
  • I never did try Vegemite, despite a constant subliminal undertone of some great 80’s rock by the famed Australian rock band, Men at Work. However, I did learn that kangaroo is quite tasty!
  • Here’s a quick guide to a few nuances of common terms (American / Australian):
    • Trash / Rubbish
    • Trash Can / Bin
    • Overhead Bin (on plane) / Overhead Locker
    • Shopping Cart / Trolly
    • You’re Welcome / No Worries (okay, this is a bit of a stretch, but I heard “No Worries” a lot…and I like it!)
    • Elevator / Lift
    • Restroom / Toilet
    • friend / mate
    • “significant other” / partner
    • up-tight attitude and feeling of “hurry” / more laid-back, “enjoy life” attitude for most
  • OH….and I learned the Australian people don’t generally offer gratuity to service industry folks like we do in America (something shared with me by the very last driver I had in Australia, despite tipping EACH of them!) It was worth it, though, since each was very much polite, knowledgeable, and helpful in pointing out information to make my stay in their respective cities enjoyable.  Figured it was worth the price of a cup of coffee!
  • Starbucks didn’t work out so well in Australia. (Servings to large/ not strong enough/too different)  While they are very much a coffee culture (when you order coffee in a cafe or restaurant, it’s your choice to enjoy it flat white (coffee with milk), latte or cappuccino…all for the same price), they prefer the more laid-back intimacy of an alfresco cafe.
I will share more in a few upcoming posts, but that’s a quick overview of my comparisons.  All in all, Australia is a fantastic place, and a destination more Americans should seek out.  Even if the 14+ hour flight seems a little long.  Did I mention that Quantas Airlines feeds you an actual MEAL in nearly every flight?
Keep CONNECTing!
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