Australia travel tips: 20 things that will surprise first-time visitors

An interesting perspective for those visiting Australia for the first time. What surprised you the most? 

http://www.traveller.com.au/australia-travel-tips-20-things-that-will-surprise-firsttime-visitors-giyfph?&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=social&eid=socialn%3Afac-14omn0093-optim-nnn%3Apaid-25062014-social_traffic-all-postprom-nnn-traveller-o&campaign_code=nocode&promote_channel=social_facebook

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Home is only days away..

As this post goes live, we will be merely days away from returning ‘home’.  Prior to our move and shortly after we arrived, we were prepared by our organisation for the initial challenges of change and cultural adjustment.  Repatriating, we have found a gaping hole. There is very little support in preparing us for the transition ‘home’.

Repatriation is difficult to understand if you’ve never experienced it. Many people perceive returning expats (repats) as being overly nostalgic, affected, resentful and difficult to relate to at times.  I mean, repats are returning ‘home’, so what’s so hard about it?   Well, for us ‘home’ is where we have lived for the past few years.  We have carved out lives here, we work here, have friends here and here is where our normal and familiar is.

wpid-wp-1421211122475.jpegResearching repatriation, I have discovered that the process of returning is extremely challenging for most. Most repats experience depression, anxiety, grief, isolation and reverse culture shock that may last for up to 12 months.  Friends and family just wish you’d stop talking about your old life and get back to normal, back to reality. But what you really need will be their support, patience and understanding.

Friends and family have changed since we moved away due to life experiences, as have we. I am acutely aware that some friendships won’t last the test of reconnecting and that has to be ok.  That’s life.  Another stressor however, is how this next phase will affect and test our relationship as we move from being a single income family with pressures of life abroad to a double income family with the additional pressures of the everyday plus transitioning back to a Western culture.  Relationship breakdowns are common within repat communities.

Having worked for only a short while during our posting, additional anxiety is emerging for me about returning to work. Have I lost my knowledge and skills and have I still ‘got it’?  Will I cope with the long hours and a job that is mentally and emotionally demanding? How will I establish a work/life balance and not burn out? Will colleagues understand if I have a mini meltdown due to stress or anxiety about settling back into Australia (reverse culture shock)?

So.  with all of this in mind, we cross our fingers and hope for a relatively smooth transition into our previous lives.  I’ll keep you posted..

@aubergine_jelly

 

The Stages of Cultural Adjustment

Anthropologist Kalervo Oberg concluded there are four stages experienced by expats when adjusting to life in a new country and culture.  Many of us are familiar with the term ‘culture shock’ however the stages are the honeymoon phase, negotiation phase (known as culture shock), adjustment phase and mastery phase.This emotional rollercoaster is one heck of a ride, so let’s explore each stop from my own perspective..

Honeymoon phase

During this phase everything is new and exciting and this feeling may last up to a two months; for me this euphoria lasted 2 weeks to the day. Expats possess a positive mindset and feel enthusiastic about creating a life and career in the host country.

Negotiation phase

Culture shock emerges and can last up to 6 months or so into the move.  This phase finds the expat attempting to reconcile what is known or normal from ‘home'(i.e., the social and cultural norms and expectations) and those of the new country.  New knowledge needs to be created regarding social sublties (e..g., subtle gestures, greetings, social interactions, facial expressions etc), making purchases at stores, ordering food at restaurants,  dealing with domestic staff, expectations for conduct of men and women – everything yon take for granted at home.

This time can mess with your mindset and may be a period of confusion, depression, grieving, stress, disorientation, anxiety, depression or frustration.  Talk to others able their experiences as well as their coping strategies, it helps. The negotiation phase lasted from 2 weeks – around 9 months into our posting for me and I found that at times I moved between the negotiation phase and adjustment phase around the 9 month mark.

Adjustment phase

Towards the end of my first year at post, I had developed and implemented coping strategies and this is when I began to feel comfortable and confident within my new country.  Venturing out to malls and supermarkets and catching taxis became ok – I knew some basic language and possessed a limited mental map of the city.  Things start to look promising once more.  The people, language, food and culture start to become the new normal and familiar and I found that when I visited home, I started to feel like a misfit.

Mastery phase

Within 12-18 months I had found that my host country was now ‘home’ and home became ‘Australia’.  The mastery phase was a time of high functioning  and feeling comfortable in my host country.  From this point I found that I had become a triangle (see my post I Am Now a Triangle).  I had moved from a circle country to a square country and had morphed into a shape that did not truly fit either.

Repatriation phase

I have added this phase as this is a dangerous phase.  The thought of returning home home lulls expats into a false sense of security – friends, family and colleagues ask how hard can it be? You’re returning to the familiar, to normalcy. wpid-wp-1401709243607.jpeg Hati, hati (danger)! We often reminisce about how beautiful our home town is, happy family and friends, returning to our previous workplace and colleagues and somehow we have forgotten the day to day frustrations.

The stages of cultural adjustment will kick in all over again.  Reverse culture shock emerges and can be more debilitating than when moving to the host country and familiarising with the new culture.  Changes to work culture and expectations, socio-cultural changes and unrealistic expat expectations may all be contributing factors.

My world view has been altered and returning to Australia is both exciting and anxiety inducing.  I realise that once more I will need to extend patience, understanding and tough love to myself and partner as we make another transition and support each other to thrive through the process.

 

I am now a triangle

Recently I read a rather intriguing article that sort to explain the very real difficulties of returning home after living and working in another country and finding that finding that you no longer quite fit.  The article resonated with my not simply because my thoughts now centre on our impending return home, but because I have experienced this feeling of not quite fitting in when I have visited home for family celebrations, short holidays and visiting friends.

“Think of shapes: Imagine you are a circle, living in Circle Country. Then you move to Square Society. You will never become a Square, but that culture starts to embed itself in you. When the time comes to return to your Circle Country (home), you have become a Triangle (http://naomihattaway.com/2013/09/i-am-a-triangle-and-other-thoughts-on-repatriation/).”

We have been posted to Indonesia for nearly 4 years and during this time my values, beliefs and perspectives have evolved and when I return home I feel a little well, like a misfit.  Living this duality means feeling unsettled understanding that I don’t quite belong here or there..

Friends, old colleagues and family members are interested in a highlight reel of an expat’s adventures and experiences; anything deeper than that and their eyes glaze over.  They want to hear stories of the glamorous lifestyle of an expat, particularly that of the supporting spouse.  No-one wants to hear the stories of feeling socially isolated or the difficulties experienced because “what have you got to complain about?”  And let’s face it – life’s deeper moments are shared over a glass of wine with trusted confidantes.

The support for relocating to your new life is thorough. Repatriating not so much.  We have been provided with a handbook containing a to do list leading up to departure, once we land the rest is up to us.  No formal support for re entry.  No support for returning to work (for the spouse), enrolling children into school, finding homes, cars, connecting utilities etc.  Fend for yourself and cope as best you can.

Engaging with expat groups like I am a Triangle certainly help to manage anxiety and garner support from others who have experience similar struggles, triumphs and experiences.  Technology has allowed a sense of connectedness and belonging throughout my journey as an expat and will continue to do so as I grapple with the return home.

@aubergine_jelly

Australia travel tips: 20 things that will surprise first-time visitors

Not a bad article by David Whitley, a British travel writer and regular visitor to Australia. He outlines a few tips for those visiting our beautiful land of many contrasts.

http://www.traveller.com.au/australia-travel-tips-20-things-that-will-surprise-firsttime-visitors-giyfph?&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=social&eid=socialn%3Afac-14omn0093-optim-nnn%3Apaid-25062014-social_traffic-all-postprom-nnn-traveller-o&campaign_code=nocode&promote_channel=social_facebook