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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4 Stages of Culture Shock

Waiting for the GP/Dr to see me and I thought I’d re visit the site below to see how I am travelling (pardon the pun) on our adjustment to returning to Australia.

Having sailed smoothly through the honeymoon phase, I recognise I am now in the depths of the frustration phase. Everything is frustrating – misplacing items, finding a carpark, not having pasta in the cupboard when making spaghetti bolognaise, loved ones.. Everything and everyone. 

On top of this are life usual annoyances and these seem to compound the feeling of frustration. As well as trying to keep oneself in check as being blunt, abrupt and rude is quite easy at this stage for me. Because I’m ‘over it’s and by ‘it’ I mean everything. It’s work, being back in Australia, it’s adjusting to a different lifestyle and city and the way things are done here. My normal and familiar are back there and I need to establish a new normal and familiar here. 

I’m homesick. I’m numb. I’m trying to be resilient. I’m trying to be patient and kind, mostly to myself. And I thank my loved ones and colleagues for their understanding and support during this time. It’s bloody hard!  

https://medium.com/global-perspectives/the-4-stages-of-culture-shock-a79957726164#.6bcxh0r4n

Kopi!

“Is it too much to find a place with decent coffee?”  a friend asked on many occasions early on in our posting.

Catch ups would be scheduled at new cafes each month or so and secretly we would both hope that this cafe would be the one!  We were desperately seeking a place to call our “regular”, you know the one place we would always frequent for these much needed catch up sessions.  This went on for a good 18 months.  Where is all the good kopi?!

Over the past 12 months a few new cafes  have opened across the city here and there, and some even close to work and home.    Here are a few recommendations for sourcing a “secangkir kopi yang baik” in South Jakarta that are not Starbucks.

Blumchen Cafe, SCBD. 

A cafe situated close to Gran Lucky supermarket and to Pacif Placa Mall which is handy if you need to pick up a few groceries or treat yourself to some new threads.  The staff are friendly and the cafe offers muffins or a spot of lunch if you’re keen for food too.

Crematology, Kunungan. 

Agro Plaza is my pick as it is a lot quieter than the sister cafe in Senopati and offers more parking.  You may purchase something sweet to accompany your cuppa as well as indulge in a savoury dish for lunch. 

St Ali, Setiabudi. 

An Australian styled cafe that offers coffee to an Australian standard (very good) and a tasty breakfast and lunch menu.  Close to a small IGA type supermarket also. 

Anomali, Setiabudi.

Plenty of comfy chairs and lounges to sit on while enjoying a coffee in the place.  The staff are friendly and the cafe offers a small range of tasty treats to sample along with your order.  Close to a small IGA type supermarket. 

D’Journal, Grand Indonesia Mall. 

A busy cafe with a range of beverages including a delicious nutella shake.  The coffee is good as are the sweet offerings available to complement your coffee.  Friendly staff and a great people watching spot if you can secure a table out the front. 

There are so many cafes about the place, however these suggestions should be enough to get your started 🙂

@aubergine_jelly

The Expat Experience in Indonesia

The moment I stepped out into the distinctive night air, that is Jakarta, eyes followed me everywhere as I made my way through the bustling stream of people.  As did a gentlemen who rightly detected that I was a tad lost and trying to locate my spouse who was to meet my at the exit and which me back to our new apartment, in this new city, in our new country.  Where the bloody hell is he?  I kept asking myself as I realised that I had no phone coverage to call him.  My new ‘friend’ suggested that I use his phone to call or perhaps follow him to his taxi and he would help me.  As he moved to take my suitcase an assertive and loud ‘no’ did the trick and I was soon left to my own devices.  Just then the crowd parted and my knight finally appeared.  This was my first experience as an expat with all eyes watching me and a situation unfold around me.  It was not to be my last.

Many Western expats, particularly those who look like me with pale skin and blonde hair, will share experiences of being stared at, leered at and having people look into your shopping trolley as they go about their business.  For women, it is especially unnerving.  Here there are no personal boundaries, cultural norms are very different and there is no such thing as keeping a respectful distance.  Men drive this society and for Western women this is a hard pill to swallow and not something I have accepted even after all of these years.  So from a local perspective we look different and behave usually which is definitely worth gawking at. We must look a funny lot as we attempt to assimilate and understand this new normal when we first arrive to Indonesia.  We need to remember that we should try to adapt to our new normal, rather than try to mould the culture and people around us.

The expat experience gets more interesting though – you have suddenly become a VIP in your adopted country.  Treated like royalty almost and its something that I cannot (will not/) become accustomed to.  Raised in a social minded family, my world view is that we should treat others with respect and courtesy regardless of social standing, religious views, sexual orientation, gender and so on.  Not always the reality in a country based on patriarchal and class based society.  Here, we are waved through vehicle security checkpoints due to our diplomatic plates, offered the best tables in restaurants, extended invitations to slight after events and generally extended preferential treatment all round. 

Some expats move in powerful circles and network with important people and soon find that they have drunk the cool aid so to speak.  They start to believe this fairytale existence and buy into this newfound self importance. Some expats grow to love this celebrity and rand become increasingly demanding and entitled which is not a good look, lets be honest.  Perhaps a reality check is needed at this point in time?  That or these expats are setting themselves up for an almighty fall when they return home and they are treated as regular people. 

How do you keep yourself grounded in the expat bubble?

Social Media and the Expat

Many moons ago, I packed a suitcase and headed for the UK, A place close to Manchester to be precise.  This was back in the early 2000s when social media was slightly more than emails – no Facebook or Skype – where staying touch with loved ones back home was reliant upon well timed phone calls and letters. 

Social media has transformed into a wonderful place where we can chat to loved ones face to face online, simply send a text message or instantly update others on where we are and what we are up to.  Further to this expats find that the world of technology offers much in the way of support before even leaving home.  We can now research and network our new home at the click of a button.  Amazing! 

For me, I researched all things “Jakarta” and “Indonesia” as soon as we knew we were relocating.  Womens organisations, expat Facebook groups, things to do, recommendations for cafes, language apps, the list goes on!  The unknown became less of an unknown and this in turn allowed me some control of the situation.  Surfing the web from the comfort of home was ‘safe’.  I didn’t need to know the language to commence researching and I was able to dip my toe into the culture and  investigate what the city had to offer before we had even left home. 

Social media supported me to connect with expats and expat groups already on the ground; experts who provided guidance and encouragement when needed and who offered to be my guide when I arrived.  Small gestures make a huge difference to newcomers.  These Women’s groups host many expat events, post relevant information on their Facebook pages and facilitate networking opportunities for members. Further to this, social media allows one to connect with expats around the globe; a very supportive bunch of people who truly understand the joys and challenges of that present as a result of this lifestyle.  These people who have selflessly shared their own personal experiences and advice with me, a perfect stranger, have proven invaluable to during my time abroad – here is my opportunity to say ‘thank you’. 

Many expat spouses take to blogging in an effort to document their thoughts, feelings and experiences abroad.  A vehicle for good mental health and wellbeing perhaps?  At times these may seem quite dark and at others quite uplifting and surprising.  My blog was created as a means to work through issues about finding myself and finding my way as a former career gal grappling with suddenly not working and not being so busy.  Using this platform has shown me that my experiences are commonplace amongst expat spouses and I realise that I’m not alone if I reach out to others.  Blogging has been quite cathartic and feedback from readers has been very positive and affirming – give it a try!

@aubergine_jelly

The Return To Work

Now that we have returned to Australia as repats, I must face the daunting realisation that I soon return to full-time employment.  After being out of the education game for 3 years, the prospect conjures mixed thoughts feelings ..particularly ‘am i up to this?’

Researching for this post, I found that there is nothing to support expat spouses to make the transition from homemaker/part-time employee to full-time career gal/guy.  The only resources I could locate were about returning to work after maternity leave.  Not terribly applicable.

Returning to work while adjusting to our new normal will be challenging.  We will be grappling with a new lifestyle, routines, relationship pressures, culture shock in addition to  transitioning back into work.  Maintaining mental health and wellbeing will be key I predict.  Below are a few of my thoughts of how to best support myself to make the leap back into the demanding and rewarding world of educational leadership while still grappling with the repatriation process.

Be organised.  This includes establishing routines at home including sleep, exercise,  household chores and so on. Professionally, meet with your boss and/or immediate colleagues (if possible) to understand your role, their role, future directions for the organisation and glean other relevant information.

Nurture health & wellbeing.  Be mindful of your work hours.  Working long hours may feel like a sound strategy to get on top of work responsibilities and tasks but this may actually be detrimental to your physical and mental health.  Maintaining a balance between work and other priorities will promote productivity.  Making time to exercise, catch up with friends or simply read for enjoyment are all ways to relax and recharge.

Say no.  Allowing yourself time to settle into life at home as well as full-time work is important.  It is okay to say no when asked to accept additional responsibilities or social invitations.   This is about knowing your limitations and how best to make a successful repatriation.  Talk to friends, family members, colleagues and your boss about how you’re coping and how they can best support you.

Say yes to professional learning.  Develop your knowledge of new initiatives and approaches, as well as increasing your self-esteem.  Remember that your skill set is not as outdated as you believe and that many of those you have developed while on eave are transferable.

There must be a myriad of effective strategies that I have not yet discovered.  How did you manage and sustain your return to work?

@aubergine_jelly